CD REVIEW: Xander - Guitarcadia
by: Cyrus Rhodes
Hair Metal, Hard Rock, Fusion, Guitar Music
Weakness: Winded Songs, Dated Sound/Mix, Repetitive Catalog, Unorthodox Vocal approach, Short Sided CD
Xander Demos is one of today’s premier shred metal guitarists. Based in Pittsburgh, PA, he currently fronts his own band, XDB and performs with national tribute act, James Rivera’s Sabbath Judas Sabbath, as well as playing in Rivera’s solo band. Xander performs in excess of 100 times a year, and he is active in recording collaborations with artists all over the world. Xander plays guitars from Suhr, McNaught and Conklin, with whom he has endorsement deals. His endorsement from these guitar companies is a testament to his impressive skills and his deep commitment to playing the best guitars in the world. This latest CD released in 2014 is entitled appropriately “Guitarcadia.”
The CD takes flight with psychedelic “Right Angles” a rocking guitar driven melody that gradually builds into a passionate rock ballad complete with hooky guitar chops with flashy solos that will make your head spin. This intro track sets the tone rather well for this guitar oriented CD like this, with its spell bounding solo guitar pyrotechnics Track 2 “Nothing Major” dishes out yet another consistent track with its steady flowing rock rhythm, well placed solo guitar/keyboard tandems and heartfelt fretwork delivered at light speed. Track 3 “Keep Reaching” serves up hypnotic lyrical content, musical movement and strong melody that sticks with you long after the song is over. Vocals on 2 tracks are well executed and remind me of David Cloverdale (Whitesnake). As the CD slowly unfolds I can hear many musical influences reminiscent of classic Ratt, Jennifer Batten, and Ethan Brosh, Steve Vai and Tony MacAlapine I can even hear a musical influence from hair rock giants like Van Halen and Dokken. That’s a pretty narrow range of styles but I get the impression Xander is an expert within this realm. I would classify this music as Hair Metal, Hard Rock, Fusion, Guitar Music with a slight aftertaste of refined Jam Band. The songs themselves are addictive, and interesting, complete with passionate and amazing solo guitar work many guitar heads will love. The musicianship of this band is pretty solid across the board. Xander is a very capable guitarist and soloist within his own right. The players themselves write and play there parts well. Besides the 4 piece standard you will also notice things like impressive solo guitar, well placed drums, keyboards, and vocal featured on 2 tracks along the way. Equally as impressive is the rhythm/solo guitar presence of Xander as he takes many risks on the freeboard CD indicating to me a strong, confident musical ability. His playing is cut from the cloth of Joe Satriani, Jennifer Batten and George Lynch. CD Possesses crystal clear high end clarity and thick low end frequency. From rocking “White Knuckle Diving” to full throttle “Woodshed Sonata” to dynamic “Chase the Sun” classic remake “Boys of Summer” by Don Henley this CD has something for just about everyone. CD ends with Track 10 "Lady in red" the prefect finale statement for a CD of this caliber. I also really like the cover art design - very professional.
All songs over 3.5 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line. At the end of the day this CD is reminiscent of music popular 20 to 30+ years go. It's fair to say Xander needs to modernize and diversify his sound, guitar tone, solo guitar style, songwriting format a bit to be a bit more mainstream and marketable. If this is the market he is shooting for then all this makes sense - so this last comment get' a hall-pass. The overall mix is a bit off kilter with solo guitar really pushed hard to the forefront. At times it's even distorted within the sonic space itself, guilty of being overly loud. The mix lacks modern day dynamic and the catalog is bit repetitive. As much as I like this style of music it's fair to say Xander needs to add more musical variety with things like Rocking Full Tilt Blues, Classical Acoustic guitar and a few songs with just guitar all by itself. I don’t really care for the drummer’s performances – very predictable and not to the level of the guitar. Out of all these songs there are only 2 vocal performances – a bit unorthodox. CD contains 10 tracks - perhaps 2-3 songs shy of a fully loaded release.
In close “Guitarcadia” by Xander proves itself in a very overcompensating way. It's a very consistent and compelling musical production from start to finish. It’s strong suit – its amazing guitar virtuoso that is Xander. Once again this CD belongs in the hands of guitar heads around the planet immediately Xander is a musical mastermind with more than enough creativity and speed to go around. The songs are extremely melodic, grooving, and hypnotic. Each song possesses a unique personality, flair, and signature groove. Last but not least Xander is an extremely capable musician from Pittsburgh with a lot of potential as this Summer unwinds..