Xander Demos – Guitarcadia
Score: 9/10 Stars
Shred metal guitarist and Pittsburgh native Xander Demos’ new album, Guitarcadia, will likely please a wide range of listeners. His unique combination of speed, fluency, and melody does more than merely recall predecessors like Malmsteen, Lynch, or Vai, among others, but brims over with innumerable nods to the genre’s longtime practitioners. However, Demos’ considerable chops never impede his basic directive as a working professional musician – moving the listener physically and emotionally.
The instrumental opener, “Right Angles”, embodies that last concept well. The soaring opening soon moves into an entertaining barrage of lead flurries crackling with energy. It is thrilling to hear how the precise, energetic drumming matches Demos and punctuates his playing. The song’s final two minutes are full of impressive musical pyrotechnics highlighted by great production work “Under A Darkened Sky” is a ferocious metal assault striking a synthesis between the melodic and aggressive. The vocals embody this approach as well with a well-rounded performance. There are a handful of surprising compositional twists, particularly one hairpin tempo shift, that linger in the memory.”Woodshed Sonata”, another instrumental, has a much harder edge than earlier tracks in this vein. Demos’ melodic talents are absent during the opening half, but the song shifts midway through into a brief, but beautifully played, midsection. The final half is an up-tempo romp propelled by a powerhouse rhythm section. In an entry for Unlikeliest Cover of the Year, Xander and his band tackle Don Henley’s post Eagles classic “Boys of Summer”. They build their version around a faithful replication of the original’s keyboard hook, but Xander stamps the song as his own with a blistering solo that even takes time to duel briefly with the bass. The vocal is top notch and respectful while never falling into imitation. The infectious energy of “Chase The Sun” helps it rank among the most likeable tunes on the album. Riffs apparently spill out of Demos, but nothing ever stays long before he is off chasing after the next idea. In the hands of other guitarists, this is a problem, but this hyperactivity and relentless movement is an identifying trait of his musical vocabulary.
Demos proves his fearlessness a final time with the album’s closer, a cover of the 80’s pop hit “Lady In Red”. Much like with his Henley cover, Demos chooses to retain the original’s memorable keyboard hook, but opts to recast the song as an instrumental for his purposes. It is a spectacular success. His guitar work imbues this track with an immediacy that the original has always lacked while still retaining the same smooth, top shelf pop craftsmanship that helped it become a hit many years ago.
Purchase Link: http://www.amazon.com/Guitarcadia-Xander-Demos/dp/B008OI0A9Q
by Jason Hillenburg. Approved by Cyrus Rhodes