Let us open with the admittance that guitar virtuosity has never been high on requirements for our tastes at The RR, the infernal indulgences and flamboyant intricacies no substitute to our preferences for riotous passion and inciteful riffing. That said there are a few artists which have emerged recently to show over blown excesses are not necessarily needed to create impressive and expressive guitar driven music. One such artist is UK guitarist Jay Parmar and now there is Pittsburgh musician Xander Demos. Both bring a more stable and balanced approach for these tastes and though Demos especially does walk the line of excess at times it has a restraint which leaves us enjoying it more. Of course this is just personal and easily Guitarcadia, the new album from Xander Demos, is more than a vibrant feast for guitar lovers to purr over.
Demos is an artist who seemingly likes to keep busy as not only does he have his own solo band who back him on the album, he also plays in Into The Arena, the top cover band in his home city which he formed in 2006, and has recently joined the new East Coast chapter of the Sabbath Judas Sabbath project. With his own band, Demos has shared stages with the likes of Neil Zaza, UFO, The Dio Deciples, Lizzy Borden and Kip Winger over the past year or so and with the release of Guitarcadia through Rock N Growl Records, he is set to find his name open to international awareness.
Backed by bassist Matt Williams, drummer Chris Batten (with Dean Minerva and Mike Stover appearing on some tracks),
and Adam Heuesy on keyboards, Demos ignites the air which what is impressively inventive and intelligent artistry. It may not always trigger our deepest responses but there is no denying his craft and heart which drips off every note. The album opens with Right Angles, a track with an eighties rock feel which flavours the wash of sonic skill which coats the ear from first note to last. The song reaches out to caress with scorched melodies and enticing harmonic mastery whilst the drums form a powerful frame to hold it all in place. In his bio the influences of Shawn Lane, Eric Johnson, Steve Vai, and Vinnie Moore are listed amongst the main inspirations, and their essences can easily be heard in his inventiveness on the song alone.
The following Nothing Major again reaps essences from early guitar rock especially with the keys adding their own nostalgic embrace. It is a piece of music which feels like the soundtrack to a larger than life TV show or movie, it does not quite work for us but again Demos shows he is a manipulating wizard with fingers to make any girl sigh.
Many of the tracks for us have the same result, their impressive songwriting and play obvious and easy to applaud but they do not ignite any real sparks, the likes of Chase The Sun, Metagalactic, and Lady In Red, heated pleasures at the time without firing up any real passions. With our unfortunate for him different preferences we brought in a couple of independent opinions who love guitar playing extravaganzas to give a balance, and both found the songs and album an impressive and inspiring treat.
There were some notable moments on the album though which also had us licking our lips, firstly the first of two songs out of the ten which had vocals. Under A Darkened Sky is a melodic rock gem which is still eighties based but has a classic metal energy and presence to captivate fully as well as further show the eclectic breath of the album. The second vocal track is a cover of Boys Of Summer by Don Henley. Sadly it does not work and is the only unsatisfying track on the album. Musically it is imaginative as Demos energises it into a speedy metallic surge but the vocals are weak in comparison and the production even worse, there is a lack of clarity overall whilst the layers of sound do not blend so everything sounds clumsy and unrelated.
As said it is an exception and with the further consecutive highlights of the excellent White Knuckle Driving , Guitarcadia, and Woodshed Sonata of such stature and compulsive quality is a mere blip. The first of the three is a feisty storm of incendiary melodic enterprise which dazzles consistently. It is the best song on the album though closely rivalled by the other pair, the title track a guitar player’s wet dream and the latter a piece of music which is as mischievous as it is muscular and absorbing.
Obviously Guitarcadia is not really the type of music which is best served by our personal likes but we can say if artistic invention and eye watering guitar skills lights your fires you should have a raging inferno inside over the new album from Xander Demos.
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