AMN Reviews: Kirk Hammett – Portals (2022; Blackened)

Yes, that Kirk Hammett. The long-time lead guitarist of Metallica has released his first solo effort, an EP of dark progressive metal instrumentals. Apparently, it has been out for four months or so.

Anyway, Portals is a surprisingly raw and diverse offering. There are the familiar metal tropes – thunderous drumming, arpeggiated chords, massive riffs, etc. More to the point, however, are the use of orchestral arrangements, horror-movie cinematics, and a hint of Morricone. Across just four tracks, Hammett makes his statements loudly and quickly. Sure, his soloing is a bit overdone – as it always was – but it fits nicely even within the Western-styled High Plains Drifter. The combination of metal with classical music is tricky to get right (Nightwish and Triptykon do it well, Jo Quail and Behold…The Arctopus are just exquisite). Hammett’s contribution to this growing crossover genre is charming and has just about the right touch of both while retaining a live-in-the-studio sound.

Brutal honesty moment: After a short-lived infatuation as a teen, my impression of Metallica has been as a band that was once on the edge of greatness but never quite made it to the top of the mountain. Commercially yes, musically no. Much of Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets are still quite listenable, especially the instrumentals Orion and The Call of Ktulu. But Metallica totally lost me with their machismo, The Black Album, and most of their output since.

Nonetheless, Portals brings me back to a time, 35 years ago, when I thought Metallica would break some serious new ground. Is ground broken here? A little…and that’s enough. The album is an enjoyable romp that couples the right amount of nostalgia and a new direction for an elder statesman. Recommended, even if you don’t like Metallica.

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