Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
Metallica six-stringer Kirk Hammett shows off his more expansive side on this gloriously wild and inventive debut solo EP.
While there are certainly flashes of its overwhelming fretwork, the riffs are only a small part of this ambitious and atmospheric quartet, put together by Hammett alongside composer and orchestrator Edwin Outwater.
With his passion for horror films, the guitarist presents these four pieces as mini soundtracks of the films that have inspired and entertained him.
It’s certainly an enjoyable journey and one that has unexpected twists in the road, last-minute blind turns that can chill you to the bone after a comfortable cruise along a dark highway.
‘Maiden and the Monster’ is a multi-layered, fractured and ever-changing beast that grows constantly. Soft, delicate patches turn into something eerie and otherworldly like heavy, distorted guitar splinters through swollen strings.
It’s an unsettling effect and one in which Hammett revels, pushing the imagination to its limits. While never overused, this trope recurs throughout the EP, the juxtaposition working well as a sudden fear that brings a wonderful sense of dynamics to the tracks.
Falling on themes that are a little more at home, “The Jinn” is a heavier display of muscle, the tribal pounding of the opening rhythm mixing with more progressive rock elements.
With a violin that shifts from nimble to dramatic, each new chapter reveals itself as we move through the soundscape. Guitar and cello provide warmth as the drums resonate and echoes of Black Sabbath’s Hammer Horror inhabit its DNA, with the violin returning to force its way through the narrative.
After a solo reminiscent of his outing in mothership San Francisco, things border on heavy jazz experimentation, but never let things get too forgiving or oblique.
With the same title as Clint Eastwood’s ‘Spaghetti Western’, the rambunctious ‘High Plains Drifter’ captures some of the same spirit that made the Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone collaborations such a giant success.
There’s the power of something akin to the main theme of “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” but it’s channeled into a feeling that you’re tearing across a vast desert plain on the running board of a locomotive from the 1960s. 1870, all heavy steel, smoke, heat and noise.
Featuring huge crescendos, the heavy artillery is slashed by sprawling, delightfully lighter passages that once again tell their own story to great effect.
In conclusion, “The Incantation” is the grandest of them all, its use of a more orchestral feel – something that echoes some of the titans’ “Symphony & Metallica” albums.
With a dramatic rocking feel and wah wah guitar solo, the atmospheric wigout then blends seamlessly into the more classical elements to ramp up the power and flood the senses with wave after wave of this sonic tapestry.
All in all, it’s a completely intoxicating experience and one that will only escalate, not diminish, with repeated playing as hitherto patterns and musical touches are revealed.
More than just a vital curiosity for Metallica fans, ‘Portals’ reveals more of the man behind the guitar and is a fascinating entry into not only his resume but also that of modern rock music.
Master craftsman, Hammett proves that with the right inspiration and collaboration, there is no end to the musical imagination. Here is the next phase.
Listen to “High Plains Drifter”: kirkhammett.lnk.to/HighPlainsDrifter‘PORTALS’ AVAILABLE ON APRIL 23