"Painotarium: Piano Tribute to Metallica" is Scott D. Davis’ fourth solo piano recording, and this time he dives head first into the heavy side of his musical personality. The album features Davis’ own arrangements of classic Metallica tunes from their albums "Ride the Lightning" (1984) through "Load" (1996).
While the concept of a tribute album is nothing new, it’s something that can often backfire. “I knew I was on dangerous ground when I decided to tackle this album.” says Davis. “I realized that a number of ingredients would have to be just right if this was going to work.” As someone who’s been playing air guitar to Metallica’s songs for years, he let his love and respect for the original performances guide the process. He devoted himself to faultlessly following every nuance of James Hetfield’s vocal melodies, capturing the moodiness and intensity of the guitar riffs, and making sure that Kirk Hammett’s blazing fast guitar solos stay, well, blazing fast. Even so, bringing it to life on the piano still demanded a lot of creativity. “I was constantly having to change it to keep it the same. It’s like an oxymoron; stay true to the original, and still make it uniquely your own. It can be very elusive, but when you find that balance, it’s a beautiful thing.”
The intricate arrangements and dynamic passages of Metallica’s performances share much in common with classical music, which makes for surprisingly good piano music. Songs like ‘Nothing Else Matters’ and ‘Fade to Black’ already have such a beautiful, classical quality, that they seem almost meant for the piano. But Metallica is famous for being heavy and hard-hitting. According to Davis “Metallica’s genius is that the know when to get soft and melodic, so there’s contrast between loud and soft, slow and fast. Music that’s loud and fast all the time, becomes tiring. Ironically, it’s the soft sections that give their music so much power, and set Metallica apart from other metal bands.”
The initial idea for "Pianotarium" came years earlier. “I’ve been a die-hard Metallica fan since I first heard Master of Puppets when I was 16” says Davis. “It was around that time that I first started learning to play the keyboard. I remember trying to mess around with some of their songs on my little Casio keyboard, but their music was way to difficult for a beginner, plus the idea just seemed crazy.”
As a piano player who also loves heavy metal music, Davis has always felt a sense of musical schizophrenia. “I’d be on my way to one of my concerts, where the audience is coming to hear some beautiful and relaxing new age piano playing, and I’m head banging to thrash metal” Says Scott. “And I’d often ask myself ‘How many people in my audience would be horrified to know what I’m listening to right now’.”
This is not Davis’ first solo piano rock tribute album. In 2005 he released "Rockfluence," a collection of songs from his favorite rock and metal groups, which includes songs by the Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Linkin Park, and even one Metallica song. “I was testing the rock tribute waters with Rockfluence. I wanted to prove whether or not I could do it. So now, I finally felt ready to take on the mother of all hard rock tributes, a solo piano tribute to the metal gods themselves, Metallica.”