For every Malmsteem, Johnson, Vai, or Moore, there's another ten upstart guitar heroes waiting to be heard. Add Pittsburgh guitarist Xander Demos to the list of the aspiring and entertaining, a 'one to watch'. Inspired by the aforementioned peers and many more, Demos is a neo-classical shred meister, offering full platter of the same on his full-length debut, Guitarcadia.
Fundamentally, if you're going to step up and present your own material to the world, you need two basic things: the essential guitar chops and solid song composition. Fortunately, Demos has both. To the former, Guitarcadia is a guitar, and a guitar players, album; it's all about Xander's licks, and he can keep pace with the best. His work on the fret board is speedy and bracing, mostly shred noodling with accents of rock and fusion akin to Moore and Vai.
To the latter, while it's still a platform for his guitar, he works hard to make that platform an integral, rather than afterthought. This skill likely comes from his duties in the Pittsburgh band Into the Arena. Best picks for pure, unadulterated, and extravagant shredding: the title cut, White Knuckle Driving, and the way over-the-top Right Angles.
While largely instrumental, Guitarcadia does contain two vocal numbers, Under a Darkened Sky and Boys of Summer, a Don Henley cover. The latter is, perhaps, the most quizzical, or problematic, cut, depending on your perspective. Frankly, Boys of Summer is one of my favorite Henley songs. The combination of melody and vocal arrangements makes this a killer 'summer' song. But Demos turns it into a speedy, guitar-driven, metal tune with his arrangement and guitar histrionics. He works from the original motif, but fret pyrotechnics distract from it. This is not necessarily a 'guitar' song, but more a performance of story and vocals; to the latter, Xander's version lacks the passion of Henley's vocals.
Essentially, Xander Demos' Guitarcadia is guitar player's album, and his platform and canvas. His skills are impressive and noteworthy, and much of the same can be said of this album.