“When someone does a side project, it takes the power out of Metallica,” frontman James Hetfield once said. Playboy. But a lot has changed since the wayward days that gave birth to 2003. holy wrath Y some kind of monster, one of the most revealing and intimate rock documentaries ever made about a band that apparently hates each other. Back then, Metallica found themselves at a crossroads, dealing with tension between bands, attending therapy sessions and even banning guitarist Kirk Hammett from playing any of his famous virtuoso solos on his new albums. Today, though, Metallica are in the comfortable role of elder statesmen, content to repeat past glories and enjoy sprawling mixtape projects like 2021’s. Metallica blacklista jam-packed tribute to their hit 1991 album that brought together disparate artists like Moses Sumney, Miley Cyrus and Kamasi Washington.
portals, Hammett’s solo debut and the first side project by any long-running thrash band member, arrived on Record Store Day not only with the blessing of his bandmates, but also through the band’s own Blackened label. band. Recorded over the course of five years at multiple venues, the four-song instrumental EP reveals Hammett’s aspirations to be a movie composer, layering crescendo trumpets, flamenco interludes, swelling strings and, naturally, oversized riffs. and deranged shredding, in compositions that could accompany zombie westerns, gothic giallo thrillers or apocalyptic science fiction. Occasionally, his film references are explicit: “The Incantation” opens with a theme that reads like pure John Williams, and “High Plains Drifter” shares its title with a 1973 Clint Eastwood western, but Hammett suggests an “audio-cinematic” approach. What is it? It’s not tied to any specific narrative, leaving room for your imagination to wander.
While some of these songs began as background music for Hammett’s Its alive exhibition, a traveling display of memorabilia from his horror and sci-fi collection, often eschews ambiance and set design in favor of totally current rock outs. Never mind that the territory is more Thin Lizzy than Hans Zimmer; it’s exciting to hear Hammett play so unabashedly. It evokes a “larger than life” sense of wonder, the audio equivalent of the look on Hammett’s face as he gazes at his 13-foot King Kong poster on the Columbia Art Museum’s YouTube channel. The opening theme, “The Maiden and the Monster,” fades to John Carpenter-esque synths and reverse-ribbon guitar before settling in in the style of “Call of Ktulu.” The drums roll into the second half, and as the epic reaches its conclusion, it feels like a BurdenBond-era theme with Hammett’s Santana-style shrieks rising above a chugging fanfare. The Incantation” follows a similar narrative journey, its introduction evoking the magical fantasy of Hogwarts before giving way to a psychedelic sitar and cascading riffs that feel equally indebted to Danny Elfman and the progressive rattle of Mastodon.