Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ibanez: Re-issue RG770

So you thought the Anniversary RG550 (2007) was downright attractive- this year, there's the RG770 to consider. This will definitely make the shred-era '80s Ibanez lovers drool.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Stylus pick

This is the Stylus pick up close, the highlight is of course that ridiculous diamond-edge tip which might hinder play, so you thought...
However, in use, the Stylus is able to focus much of the string contact at the tip thus promoting precision picking- good news for all you speed mongers out there...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Spotted: S-series in BM

The Ibanez S-series has its place in black metal; as seen in 1349...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

New picks

Got more new picks with me:
  • Alice: I usually avoid thin picks but this is a metal pick from the manufacturer who I suspect is an OEM for other brand name picks.
  • Stylus: That pentagon-shape is quite unmistakable, note the diamond tip; yes, it's a diamond shaped tip, quite a protrusion from the main shape & it makes the pick very uneven. The reason it was made like this is to promore precision picking.
  • Grover Allman: The one with the skull; no I didn't buy it for this reaosn but the brand name itself on the flip-side is grooved to promote better grip- Made in Australia.

All picks available @ Davis GMC

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Current playlist: Greg Howe

Greg Howe's Sound Proof album is my current fix with these 3 numbers in repeat mode in my mp3 player:
  • Reunion
  • Morning View
  • Child's Play
  • If you need ot know what Greg Howe is about these days, these 3 would be more than sufficient proof of technical wizardry as well as the master's touch for great melodies.

Hey, dad!

Hey, Dad! While you were away at work, I had this cool tap harmonics thing coming along- you know, when you pluck the E-A-D strings at the 24th fret then thumb & index finger the E string's 15th & 12th fret respectively while you let the rest of the open notes ring, it has a very sweet chime to it. I think it's something Antonio Forcione would have played but he's playing an acoustic anyway... say dad, when can I get my own guitar?

Squier: The singles club

Also new @ Swee Lee are the above, single humbucking Squier guitars. Despite them bearing the endorser's quirks, they are great instruments per se. I'd give my thumbs up for the Deryck Whibley version for that mojo laden '70s-style headstock & the overall tone on offer- great humbucking chunk with liberal top end sizzle (thanks to the all maple neck). The Avril Lavigne manifestation has that great rosewood fretboard warmth but the checkered pickguard is acquired taste but never judge a guitar by its looks (or the endorser quirks for that matter).

Monday, July 21, 2008

Gibson: New LP Std for 2008

The people at Gibson finally (after 56 years) listened & provide the following upgrades, among others, which are value-added inclusions:
  • Locking Grover tuners
  • Strap lock buttons
  • Tone-Pros bridge + hardtail

Personally, I feel these upgrades are grossly overdue. Many other guitar manufacturers managed to include such wise details into their instruments without losing intrinsic appeal. I understand that Gibson has a staunch tradition in keeping things true to their origin but there's no harm really, in making things better (especially for the player who's paying that much money for an LP Std). Yield! And ye shall be adored.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ibanez: Edge Zero bridge

WEF 2008, Ibanez's RG 3xxx & 2xxx models (less the RG2228) feature the Edge Zero whammy bridge which is essentially the fusion of the Edge & ZR units.

Fender: More new stuff @ Swee Lee

The Koa Strat is one of the best eastern crafted Fenders (Korea) in the market namely due to the body wood- if you are after that darker, lower midrange, akin to what an overwound single coil would churn out & nothing excessive in the top end (but Fender's signature tone remains to be their defined top end, despite the 'restrained' tag), the Koa is one to consider.

On the contrary, the Roadhouse Strat offers you the sizzle courtesy of a trio of Texas Special single coils. I've put them through very high gain/ drive settings (amp in use: Peavey Bandit + the drive booster in maximum overkill!) & the twang remains prominent, so if you are into this kinda tone, the Roudhouse rocks.

Gibson: The Gotoh overhaul

A quick wiring touch by Master BEEZ...

An approval by its Alien guardian...

... my LP Std is alive once more. It also marks the end of the Gotoh hardware overhaul- tuners (locking Magnum locks), tune-o-matic + hard tail; I'm happy with how things works out. Of course, LP purists would consider this desecration but I'm not obliged to retain parts which don't serve my needs. For owners of nickel plated hardware; be informed that the tarnish won't go away upon polishing; yes it'll shine but the tarnish remains resident. If you are after the relic look then nickel plating is best.

In use, the LP's overall tone is much richer in the midrage which is a good thing for me because I am in need of definition when plugging this guitar in (it's a PRS tip actually: keep your hardware light & your guitar will sing- how true). The rightful solution here would be to swap the pickups out for something richer in the aforementioned frequency but the Burstbuckers here are for keeps.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ibanez: Addy Rasidi

If you've acquired the '08 Ibanez catalog, you'd see Addy's pic there, finally putting Singapore on the shredder's map. So what's taking the Addy signature Ibanez model too long to manifest? According to brother Addy himself, the good people at Ibanez are waiting for the release of his instrumental album in Japan (label deal's already in the works) to make it a complete package- so here's to you bro: All the best & congrats in advance!

Gotoh: Hard tail

Finally, got my Gotoh hard tail (labelled) for my Gibson LP Std; you can see the tarnished nickel plated Gibson version there.
There's a substantial weight difference between these two hardwares so the tonal difference is inevitable but I've yet to hear it in action as my LP Std requires a little re-wiring...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Fender: 2008's American Standard

The new 2008 American Standards have debuted @ Swee Lee, managed to try selected models:
  • American Standard rosewood/ maple fretboard: Both the guitars manifest a lighter overall mass, so the thinner body finish does account substantially for this
  • The vintage-type bridge saddles are devoid of those annoying action adjustment screws, makes the guitar more addictive
  • The rosewood fretboard model has this very SRVesque midrange honk once you kick your amp overdrive into action, got me playing for quite a while

Greg Howe is still ga-ga over his humbucking (bridge) Strats, comprehensively so because it's made to accomodate high gain/ drive settings very well. The HSS American Standard doesn't differentiate itself substantially from its SSS sibling feel/ weight wise which is a good thing because players won't account this difference for any substantial differences in the single coil tones.

The prices of these great guitars are not available (yet) at this time but the SSS model won't be anywhere near the $2K mark once you enjoy the usual dealer discount... that's definitely good news for the buyer because it's almost the kinda of money we'd splurge on a Japanese unit in the mean time.

Not so good news for the Highway 1 series in general...

PS: Thanks, Adam @ BB Showroom for the heads-up!!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Greg Howe: Sound Proof

I absolutely have no regrets taking a quick trip to town after work, just to fetch this great new release by Greg Howe today- superb!

GH continues his jazz/ rock expletives to excellent effect. The overall guitar tones are great & he cites Cornford as his new squeeze in the amp department in this release. There's not much clues as to which guitars were really employed though despite GH thanking Parkwood in his album's cover sleeve. We could only make a calculated guess as to whether his ESPs/ Fenders had any share here as many of the tunes are whammy laden. Regardless of the brand names he favour, this album is simply guitar education for those in need of inspiration.

Bloody Loveless

Does the above blurred, hypnotic, spectral album cover look familiar to you? If it does, it's probably because you own one- Loveless (My Bloody Valentine). For the past few days, I've been digging up my relegated CD collection to find out which individual had brought meaning to me, guitar-wise, in terms of anti-technical playing but still superbly appealing. There were many to choose from if you still adore the grunge guitar era but I choose to keep that point in time as a bandwagon fanfare; everyone drowning in the current hype without having a sense of purpose.

Guitarist Kevin Shields approach to playing in Loveless was reflective of an obsession, rather than giving the flavour of the time a chance to prove his worth- I can still remember reading the extent of effort he put into, in churning out Loveless; covering a mic-up VOX amp with a blanket just to capture that claustrophobic tone. This is quite impressionable to youngsters back then who simply wish to be different but I chose to listen to the whole Loveless offering before believing the heretical grandeur & it was worth it. As such, I remember Kevin & Loveless till today.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ibanez: Xiphos (new Summer 08)

This is good news indeed: This summer, the good people at Ibanez had decided to offer a fixed bridge, 6-string version of the Xiphos (yes, that Jackson Warrior clone...). I deem the Edge III equipped version to be very impressive but some of us prefer much less hassle when it comes to tuning/ re-stringing. Hope this one makes it here soon...

Endstilles Reich

The most well-known black metal band coming from Germany is arguably Marduk but there is another equally influential band in the country's black metal annals which deserves worthy mention: Endstille.

This band makes no apologies for being quite singular in their black metal approach- one which is rather excessive in war relations & brazen guitar with very little opportunity to showcase
palm dampening (that chugga-chugga sound to the rest of us). Nevertheless, Endstill is very capable in showcasing what black metal should constitute but the critics might have a field day in naming Enstilles Reich as the one which triggers definite boredom. Fans would disagree, of course, because Endstille is essentially, simply that.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The single coil week

It had been a single coil week, the above 2 guitars were all I played which included some high gain & black metal stuff.
  • The Edwards was used for majority of my clean tones, especially those chord works; the P-90 in the neck is still my fav for those jazz-like moments...
  • The ST72 took up all my technical employment, it's one of those guitars which would not let me down when I need to play something in repetition. The scale length & maple fretboard are major accounts for this. It goes to show that if you have your preferred specs in the guitar, you'd be induced to play better, regardless of the brand name. This guitar is also currently serving as my platform for the K Garage strings test (more updates soon)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Strings: K Garage

I came across this Chinese string set (K Garage Strings- heard of 'em?) with a rather eye-catching graphic, it's the cheapest in town: $3.80 but the most intriguing part of the packaging are the individual string envelope labels- if you are illiterate, those fingers would tell you what they are.

Product availability: Tymusic Center

Flashback shred: Jennifer Batten

This should be essential listening for all shred-heads. Jennifer Batten let loose in this solo release way back in 1992 when grunge ruled the airwaves. If you thought Mattias Eklundh's deep but piercing tone was bona fide original, JB had that for hers. Also, hear how the Talk-Box was the in thing back then but do not try to figure out too much on the shred work, much done with 8 fingers...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Biyang: DS-8

Go ahead, laugh. The rodent name on this pedal has a simple lash at another fabled distortion unit, much adored by the past & present purveyors of effects pedals: Pro-Co RAT... So how does it sound like?
  • As visually evident, the pedal has 3 modes, all addressing tones in the lower frequencies more than anything else.
  • Normal: The mildest distortion, but more girth than the infamous BOSS DS-1 Max: A boosted response on the lower midrange, more compression in overall output Turbo: The fattest sounding of them all, the most compressed tone in use, some would say it's crossing into fuzz territory
  • Great alternative to the Pro-CO but not a comprehensive substitute. To me it has more clarity & less nasal honk of the Pro-CO but traditionalists love that tone
  • Impressive as a rhythm unit, for solos, it suppresses pinch harmonics if used as a stand alone unit at high pedal volume settings. Employ a mild overdrive with it & it's cured

Product availability: Standard Value (Pre-order now to enjoy a 10% disct)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Gorgoroth: Black Mass Krakow 2004

This got them into a legal mess, its documentation here is the band's sublime way of telling the authorities they simply don't give a hoot...

Tell you what took place: Gorgoroth's date in Krakow saw the employment of 4 naked models, hooded & knotted to 4 crosses respectively. The authorities saw this as erotica extravaganza, not to mention sheer blasphemy, so the band had to bear the legal brunt.

If you have access to this footage, you'd realize, even after only the opening number, visual sexual gratification is a remote occurrence; it's more tormenting than stimulating, seeing a quartet of restrained individuals tied to wooden poles throughout the set. The blasphemous elements here are, of course, expected- it's a darn black metal act for goodness sake, not some pious superstar making an atheistic renouncement. Those 4 people were paid individuals, mind you, not some geek kidnapped & made to perform at gun-point.

Moving on to the music, the materials here are a tight performance by the band, who would've guessed there was a storm brewing over the ownership of the 'Gorgoroth' legalities following the strained relationship between frontman Ghaal & guitarist Infernus- the ommission of Infernus on the cover is implication itself. We also witness how a strict vegetarian, in his true black metal philosophy, is able to front a sacriligious delivery but Ghaal is one stiff performer. He didn't swirl his locks or beckoned & gestured to the masses; it's lacklustre showmanship, there's no hiding this. A close scrutiny of the instrument wielding/ pounding chaps prove their great musicianship, especially drummer Kvitrafn, pity his departure (to date, Mayhem's Hellhammer is bashing skins for the band). Also, Gibson (Les Paul & Flying V employed here) continue to be a potent tone generator for this music genre, it's undeniable.

This is a great documentation for fans of the music, other distractions aside. But not if you're easily offended, whatever the reasons may be.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Seymour Duncan: Power Grid Distortion- test results

I gave the Power Grid a good testing today:
  • The pedal in general is a very well thought out distortion unit; the wide distortion sweep + active EQ section do wonders to tone tinkering but it's a trade off- you can sit down from dawn to dusk to experiment with incremental differences which translate to an elaborate palette of tones but getting immediate results isn't gonna be easy. Guitar players enjoy doing nothing but tinker with tone so it doesn't matter...
  • The manufacturer was careful not to let the upper/ more intense distortion voicing to cross over into metal territorty. What you get in the upper reaches are great saturation & still sounding distortion-like.
  • The pedal sounds wonderful with humbucking guitars but if you play single coils, watch the treble control, even at noon position, the tone generated sounds quite piercing.
  • It does well pushing a tube amp's overdrive into saturation but it's not as impressive being a driver of another distortion pedal. I feel that it has excessive raunchiness to act as a restrained unit for this intention; you are better off with a Tubescreamer type, smooth overdrive instead. In this light (as depicted above), the Power Grid enjoys being boosted, choose a very mild drive drive unit to enjoy maximum satisfaction (I had my Austin Gold fulfilling this task).
  • Battery access is a chore though, it's a complete base plate removal as the manufacturer continues to ommit a battery flip hatch cover.

The Power Grid would definitely give the Land Mine distortion a good run for the money in terms of distortion but this one has a more dynamic voicing range so it's a winner in terms of versatility. In comparison to the BOSS DS-1/ MXR Distortion +, it has more aggression in whole (yes, you can still do a restrained employment in the distortion's lower levels), what the (Visual Sound) Son of Hyde has in store but a little bit more raunchiness at the distortion's maximum end.

Strings: Brooklyn Gear

I chanced upon this Brooklyn Gear set of strings the other day when I was at Yamaha, decided to give it a try (in my RG321). I kinda enjoy the thrill of discovering a relatively unknown brand name which might contain that mojo, akin to my Curt Mangan experience. Not cheap though- $11.00...

Gibson BFG (yet again...)

Be informed o' ye who wish to, P-90 stacked install, in the neck position- the cavity isn't deep enough. I've decided to just add a cover to it so that it looks less bare-bones & thanks to the master touches of BEEZ, my BFG is up & running once more. I'm also basically done with the mods/ swaps, it'll stay as it is.

For sale: Seymour Duncan STK-P1 (neck unit + coverless, of course...)

Opeth: Watershed

This is a great release by Mikael Akerfeldt & company, one which will surely fortify Opeth's capacity in the prog arena where the proponents of black-tinged metal tread with hesitation.
Guitar-wise, Akerfeldt has a fresh sparring partner who is one of the better players in this industry; Fredrik Akesson. As such, the overall guitar tones here are very polished & defined, thanks to the partners' obsession with all things guitars & the expansion of PRSes in this release.
Despite the countless accolades this album receives, it has limited appeal to me; I'm quite averse to the 'nice' vocals, my tolerance being the lung burst of Master Ihsahn. Add to that the crawl-run-crawl concept of the album in its entirety; I'm selling this away (yes, it's the deluxe, 'envelope' edition as depicted here)... you want?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

ESP- the wait...

I've set my mind on this one: Horizon II with the former 'tongue' headstock (as preferred by BrettGarsed/ Page Hamilton). Now the wait begins...

Mex Jag

Fender has included the Jaguar in their Mexican production- the Jaguar Special/ HH are now part of the Classic Player models. I have been particularly impressed with the Classic Player 70s Strat which manifested some fine craftsmanship from this non-USA range, these Jags are definitely something to look forward to...

Seymour Duncan: Power Grid

This is my latest fix, Seymour Duncan's Power Grid another distortion pedal but worth every cent. It does NOT cross into the metal territorty, but contain more than enough saturation to out-do whatever distortion pedal out there, to punkify your tone. Full appraisal soon.

Product avaiability: Davis Guitar
Other Duncan pedals re-stocked @ Davis: Twin Tube Mayhem/ Lava Box

(No) Room for stack

The STK-P1 (P-90 stacked pickup) has excessive depth & it failed to fit into my LP BFG, even with its cover removed. Clearing this pickup immediately...

Friday, July 4, 2008

Biyang: DS-9 Distortion

This is one of the later incarnations in Biyang's Tonefancier pedals, the DS-9. Managed to try it today:
  • Overall tone mimics a modded BOSS DS-1 pedal (Monte Allum mod)
  • Lots of distortion girth, substantial differences in tone compared to an aggressive overdrive in general
  • A healthy distortion sweep from vintage blues to a punk bark
  • Would have been better with a TONE knob included

Product availability: Standard Value

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Fender: CBS-era headstock

I still find the CBS-era Fender headstock very unappealing; it somehow highlights the very asymmetrical outline of this design. The lame reason for the upsize according to CBS was to make the brand name more visible; it's like having a bigger billboard so your attraction is now magnified. Talking about putting guitar matters in the hands of non-enthusiasts...

Anyway, I do own a Strat with such headstock- ST72 (Jap) not that I finally forgive it for its sheer repulsion but the ST-72 proves to be a good playing & sweet sounding instrument regardless of how it looks like; I'm not too picky with looks these days. We should regard looks as secondary in terms of acquisition priority but too many people do not mind owning a good-looking guitar even if it's unplayable & croaking.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Keep of Kalessin: Kolossus

There's much hype surrounding Keep of Kalessin namely due to the former members in this band: Frost (Satyricon) & Atilla Csihar (Mayhem). Upon the departure of these black metal icons, many were left wondering if KOK could live up to proven performances.

But that should be the least of worries because band chief, Obsidian C, is virtually the heartbeat of this quartet, proven again in their latest release, Kolossus. This collection of songs are more intricate & necessitate slower tempo which fans of Armada (prior release) would cite as the chink in KOK's very structured armour. Despite black metal being synonymous with speed, we need to keep in mind the formula that works, regardless of the general consensus; bands like Carpathian Forest, Burzum, Dark Throne & Xasthur (among others) are proof enough. The technicalities in this album are quite the reason why Obsidian C is the hired hand for Satyricon live shows. Also, Vyl (drummer) displays a schooled technical performance throughout, to match the Nick Barker, Frost, Hellhammer, Emil Draguinovich in the industry.

Van Halen: Ibanez Destroyer

Back in time when bell-bottoms were about to make way for the skinnies, the Jap guitar manufacturers had a lucrative occupation- they were enjoying their fills as copycats. One of the more well known brand names in this notoriety is Ibanez, more so for their remarkable craftsmanship, which was about to knock off the genuine articles in their own turf, than their reputation for being mere blatant reproductions.
This scheme of things even caught the attention of one Edward Van Halen who took a liking for the manufacturer's interpretation (which possess negligible differences in essence) of Gibson's fabled Explorer guitar simply because the korina wood used sounded fantastic. However, one day, possibly under the influence of foul constellation alignment which conjured bad karma, the aforementioned Mr. Ed decided to give his Ibanez a creative touch by hacking off a substantial portion of the instrument beyond its bridge's hard tail. The entailment of this spur of inventiveness resulted in total annihilation of immaculate tones; it was a gonner.
The issue here is, how much wood is substantial for good tones to manifest? We know that there are guitars with lesser fibre in the body which sound great, we need not tread the Explorer excess to possess ear candy but it all boils down to the design per se. The Explorer was conceived in such an outline by the designer to give off great tone in view of the volume of wood used. Mess with this formula & the consequences might be dire (tone-wise) as discoved by EVH.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Gerald Veasley

One of the outstanding musicians I enjoy listening to is smooth jazz cat Gerald Veasley. He is one to take his time with what he wants to play. We are sometimes possessed with speed & technicalities to realize those are not the true measure of our music capacity. It's people like Mr. Veasley here who institutinalized thinking & feeling into music that it is kept alive to be understood & enjoyed by everyone- even if you have black metal flowing in your veins.


Aguynguerran is definitely quasi-mouthful but that's how it is with the black metal horde; pronunciation & commercial viability take back seats while deviance matters... I was attracted to this band not because it features Enthroned guitarist Nguaroth but the overall tone of their debut LP conjures Immortal's Blizzard Beasts- the guitar sounds choked but the midrange highlight is signature black metal.

The aforementioned Enthroned guitarist did well to incorporate riffing variance, particularly some punctuated bass note chugging (employed sparingly by guitarists of this music genre) in general. There were some catchy drumming in the works as well with very tasteful splash play. The only ingredient needing a refinement would be the solos; the guitarists of this ilk usually execute stacatto picking with loads of repetition hoping to get away with things but the guitar-inclined among us would know this is simply boring material in action. Nevertheless, PTNC is one of the better recordings Belgium has to offer, akin to giving a nudge to the Norwegian acts.