Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Xander Demos ~ Guitarcadia


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Style: instrumental, heavy metal
Label: self-released
Year: 2012
Home: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Members: Xander Demos ~ guitars/vocals
Matt Williams ~ bass
Adam Heusey ~ keyboards
Chris Batton ~ drums

Additional: Dean Minerva ~ drums
Kevin Rasel, Mike Sciullo ~ vocals
Ben Bond ~ bass



Breaking out on his own with his first full-release guitarist XD, pronounced /dee mos/ like something in a horror movie not /demos/ like a band's poorly recorded cassette, has fashioned ten very solid tracks of instrumental 80's influenced guitar rock. The result feels like Joe Satriani & Eric Johnson but without some of the personality crisis quirkiness their music has, plus a bit of Dream Theater in the ambiance without the heavy droning classical inflection & never ending songs &/or solos. Having already been caught as a supporting act for UFO, Lizzy Borden, Kip Winger, Neil Zaza & Dio Disciples, in 2009 XD released his solo debut, Road To Guitarcadia, from which part of that EP has been moved over here & given some new relatives. Part of the proceeds from that album, it deserves note, went to animal charities. Guitarcadia has driving guitar lines but without the reliance on highly repetative riffing. It's straight out of the 80's school where there's a strong melody that actually can be followed ... versus some instrumental guitar albums that sound like one long solo going nowhere & getting nowhere. Keyboards tucked in the mix, occassionally coming up for a bit more air, also help tremendously to add texture to the songs, as this type of guitar album often suffers from a one-dimensional feeling. The linear approach of the guitar can often come out sounding very flat & the keyboards give Guitarcadia a pop ... so much so I'd recommend this album to other guitarists looking to create their own Guitarcadia. It's also helped that XD has not relied on electric drums or done all the guitar, vocal & bass parts himself, but brought in some friends. This not just opens the door to performing gigs, where a completely solo album doesn't as one needs either a band or to be transformed into a mystical musical octopus, but one person regardless of instrument has a particular feeling, many folks have many different feelings. Though it may not be so audibly apparent one can intuit the rich combining of the many into one. Also, guitarists seem to be under the assumption that they can move to any instrument & still be great. An amazing error. Bass & keyboard playing might be the same finger movements but its a different mindset, let alone a bassist just hears things different. Thank you XD for realizing what you do great & what others may do better. Plus, to quote Geezer Butler, once Ronnie James Dio showed up & took over lyric writing he was now free to fully focus on his main instrument. Guitarcadia's faces include members of XD's old bands Into the Arena & Stronghold, plus guys from the Chris Higbee's band & Downside, while the album was mixed & mastered by FireHouse frontman CJ Snare. Two of the standout tracks are the two vocal songs: "Under A Darkened Sky" & a cover of Don Henley's "Boys Of Summer". Both have a bit of a 80's hard rock feel with soaring vocals. "Under A Darkened Sky" has one of the most diverse arrangements on the entire album. The Henley track has found itself a bit of an controversial inclusion for XD. Reviewers have been split. I've seen one review that have called it a poor thrash moment of colliding parts that don't work, while the song isn't really built for a heavy metal interpretation. Personally, I love it. I find the fact that it's not a typical metal cover a reason to give XD bonus points. It's a challenging track given a whole new life & I think XD & company pull it off, even if it does sound more like Bonham than Don Henley. The album ends with an instrumental cover of Chris DeBurg's "Lady in Red" with an out of nowhere keyboard & drum beat. It's an interesting inclusion but ends up sounding out of place. Personally, I don't know if I would have recognized it, given that only the chorus is really memorable, in its instrumental form if I hadn't known it was there. If anything can be called a 'bonus track' this is it. My favorite instrumental track, utilizing voiceovers from Michael J. Fox & Butt-Head, is the quirkily titled "Woodshed Sonata". I like this for the same reason I like "Under A Darkened Sky" - it has a diverse arrangement with many parts versus just a guitar rolling on & on seemingly in the same key. Yes, a guitarist needs to have the chops, but in a world of chop-holding players one has to also catch potential listeners with other things. XD certainly can craft a good melody line but many of the songs suffer from not enough inner diversity. Yes, the melody is recognizable & repeats just enough to be distinctive, but the songs that work best are the ones that give the guitar a break & allow a little keyboard moment.



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