Thirty-nine years after joining Metallica, guitarist Kirk Hammett will put out his first solo release, Portals, on April 23. The all-instrumental, four-song EP will be available digitally and on CD and “ocean blue” vinyl for Record Store Day.
“This music was created with what I describe as an ‘audio-cinematic’ approach,” Hammett said in a statement. “They’re soundtracks to the movies in your mind.”
Hammett produced the EP himself, recording in Los Angeles, Paris, and Oahu. Hammett drew inspiration for the songs from horror movies, classical music, and the work of Ennio Morricone, whose “The Ecstasy of Gold” has long heralded the beginnings of Metallica concerts.
“Initially, before I even had the idea for a solo EP, I was inspired by the need to create some sort of soundtrack music to accompany the Kirk Hammett Collection for the first It’s Alive exhibition at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, 2017,” Hammett also said. “I wanted to conceive music to play on a loop in the background as people walked through the exhibit. I sat down one night with a progression, and before I knew it, all the parts were there for ‘Maiden and the Monster.’ The initial concept for Portals started with that one song. Following that, I realized I could create different soundtrack moments.”
The guitarist collaborated with classical conductor Edwin Outwater on two of the songs (“High Plains Drifter” and “The Incantation”); Outwater previously led the San Francisco Symphony at Metallica’s S&M2 performances in 2019. He played keyboards and conducted members of the L.A. Philharmonic on Portals. The release also features contributions from Metallica producers Greg Fidelman and Bob Rock on bass, as well as some four-string contributions from Emmy-winning arranger Blake Neely (The Flight Attendant). Jon Theodore, the Queens of the Stone Age drummer who also plays with Hammett in the covers-only combo the Wedding Band, joins on drums, as does drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr., best known for playing in Paul McCartney’s band.
Hammett explained the origins of “The Maiden and the Monster” in more depth in a 2017 Rolling Stone interview. “It’s something that I composed with my wife and it’s a musical horror novel,” he said. “It plays like a soundtrack. It clearly takes you through a journey that’s very typical of most monster or horror films, where it involves a creature or some sort of protagonist or antagonist who sees a woman and decides to abduct or possess her and then goes through the motions of either seducing her or outright abducting her. It goes through a little bit of an attraction-repulsion sort of thing, a love-hate thing, but then, there’s a definite period where the maiden needs help, tries to get away from the monster, and then the hero comes.”
1. “The Maiden and the Monster”
2. “The Jinn”
3. “High Plains Drifter”
4. “The Incantation”