Thirty-nine years ago on April Fool’s Day, Kirk Hammett got a call he hoped was no prank: an offer to join Metallica. The guitarist, then age 20, was still playing in Exodus, the thrash-metal band he’d co-founded as a teenager, but he’d fallen in love with Metallica since they first played the Bay Area, where he grew up. So when he realized the opportunity was no joke, he flew to New York, where the band was prepping its debut album, and within two weeks, he was shredding solos onstage alongside James Hetfield and Cliff Burton. From that point on, Metallica was his focus.
Now, nearly four decades later, Hammett is planning the release of his first solo outing, an instrumental EP titled Portals, due out this weekend on Record Store Day. Over the years, he has made the odd guest appearance on songs by Septic Death, Orbital, and Carlos Santana, but largely he has stayed loyal to Metallica. Twenty years ago, when the state of Metallica was particularly fraught — a time when then-bassist Jason Newsted said he felt like he didn’t have the freedom to work on side projects — a release like this would have seemed unimaginable. So now venturing out on his own with Portals, as well as the Wedding Band, the covers group he plays in with Metallica’s Robert Trujillo, seems almost daring.
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