Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ibanez: Marty Friedman signature

We've seen this guitar before; it's the Ibanez Marty Friedman signature model. You've no interest in it whatsoever because of those repulsive stars in there, yes? It's made to the endorser's specs so if those stars in there put you off, it's personal...

Anyway, I was looking for info pertaining to the MFM2, a later incarnation which is more peculiar than its predecessor as it features only a kill switch- no knobs whatsoever. I'm quite a sucker for a single pickup guitar but the MFM2 won't make it here anytime soon in view of the cold reception of the MFM1... *bummer*


Wishing all Muslim guitar enthusiasts & musicians alike a blessed & peaceful Ramadhan. Remember, playing guitar does not nullify your fast...

Saturday, August 30, 2008


This is quite a wish come true; John Scofield would be playing here with sax great, Joe Lovano:
  • 13th October '08
  • Esplanade concert hall
  • Tix: $58/ $78/ $108

Godflesh: Slavestate

I'm still digging into my 'forgotten' CD collection & came across Godflesh's Slavestate. The reason why I bought this album was due to Napalm Death; guitarist Justin Brodrick had a stint in ND before splintering into Godflesh.

This was my first Godflesh album & it's not the band's debut, it's a remix/ EP release featuring the Godflesh duo implementing some electronic beats, no human drummer was involved. This effectively triggered my interest in such music, I believe guitar/ bass players who can play along machines are the rare breed of musicians with high emotional quotient, chances are, their music would be of a certain landmark which could only be appreciated by the artistic. I guess this is why I enjoy Satriani's Engine of Creation more than the highly acclaimed Surfing with the Alien/ Flying in a Blue Dream.

Mick's Blackouts...

After the Ibanez SZ discontinuation, I was browsing the catalog to see what other Duncan pickups remain in the manufacturer's guitars- WEF 2008, the MTM1 (Mick Thompson) features a pair of Duncan's Blackout humbuckers.

Ibanez: ARX140

The ARX series are the spinoff models in Ibanez's Artist range (not to be confused with the signature series), these are Ibanez's other offering of double cut guitars which are very Gibson SG-like in outline. This is as far as it gets in terms of similarities, the ARX models are not direct competitors to the SG, it's not a cheap knock-off either.

I played this guitar today. It seems the manufacturer are currently equipping their affordable instruments with pickups of good voicing differentiation which is a psitive inclusion because it goes to prove that good tones need not cost everyone their coffers. The overall workmanship is praiseworthy & reflective of the increasing quality measures at the Chinese plant. Recommended for beginners (definitely) & dweebs looking for a good back-up unit. If you are looking for something affordable & would like to avoid the GIO series, the ARX/ ART guitars offer you more than a decent instrument to own.

Product availability: Swee Lee Co
List: $640

Friday, August 29, 2008

Darkthrone: Fenriz

I'm currently hooked on Darkthrone's Frostland Tapes not because of the music's majesty (it's a set of unproduced materials, how stellar can these be?) but Fenriz's drumming is admirable in terms of intricacy & dynamics. While majority of the black metal drummers choose to live by blast beats, Fenriz here takes time to make his drumming interesting, if a non-drummer like me would pay attention then the implication is clear; a good musician, regardless of his instrument of choice, would intrigue the common understanding.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ibanez: AJD91C

This is one of those Artcore (semi-hollow) models which is stunning in looks & performance. The 'C' suffix in its model alpha-numerics represents the guitar's body wood- cocobolo. As exotic as it looks, the tone generated here would appease those in search of that thick bottom end without mushing out when playing single notes at intense drive/ distortion. All the guitar's attributes are deserving in terms of above-average performance but I'd question the necessity of the fine tuners (part of the Quick-change Ultra hard tail) as intricate tuning can be done over at the headstock.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Good tone, nevermind the looks

My newly acquired SZR520 & my Sound Drive amp made last weekend enjoyable. I'm still having a hard time accepting the SZR's outline; it looks retarded but this is something personal, to be fair to the instrument. The overall tone churned out by the above combination is very pleasing especially when I'm one who is distortion inclined & particular with single note definition.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Darkthrone: Frostland Tapes

What am I doing with another Darkthrone album, especially one featuring songs I've already heard countless times? This is a 3-CD package, the third disc is an instrumental DEMO tunes from the Goatlord session, which is what I look forward to listen to... This is the second set of unproduced materials (the first of which were Mayhem's uncut recordings of Grand Delaration of War in their US/ UK Legions live release) which contain a more scorching distortion definition, much of the ferocity was lost upon mixing for the final release.

When Dad's not looking (Part 2)

Mum's just gotten me this cool stool so now I can just reach for Dad's picks when he's away; I put them back when I'm done so no big deal (I like the Stylus pick)... he won't notice. Of course, I've just messed with his Marshall amp settings... he he.


My daughter was playing with some stuff I still keep for the memories, I can still remember specific occurences during some of the shows/ events:

Top row: (L-R)
  • Marty Friedman clinic- Friedman appeared in platform shoes, played some Megadeth instrumental medley, explained why he moved to Ibanez
  • Gary Hoey Clinic- Hoey promoting Fender's Cyber Twin amp
  • Joe Satriani clinic (event was cancelled)

Middle row: (L-R)

  • Frank Gambale clinic- Beez actually called me to inform me of this memorable clinic. Gambale just had his new Yamaha signature guitar out so he was explaining the unique features like the Fret Wave & rear pickup installation, among others. During the autograph session, I wished Gambale a safe journey to his next destination; the man called me back as I was walking away & shook my hand one more time- allegedly, I was the first fan to have done so...
  • Billy Sheehan clinic- It's a Yamaha clinic but I made Mr. Sheehan sign a poster featuring his long-time Fender P-bass (his 'wife' as he affectionately called it).
  • Foo Fighter/ Sonic Youth concert- people were shouting for Sonic Youth to come on during the FF slot...

Bottom row: (L-R)

  • Harry Connick Jr concert- Harry Connick is one of the best musician in my books
  • Metallica concert- not too pleased with the show because I was at the rear, every time the music came on, it's one loud buzz with no darn definition whatsoever
  • MAD (Musicians Against Drugs) show @ Ayer Rajah CC- I'm a friend of Stomping Ground's guitarist, Zahid. He gave me one ticket to watch him play but I bought another for a friend.

Ibanez SZR = resurrected Ghostrider?

The comparison is inevitable. Ibanez might have gone back in time to give us what we now know as the SZR series. The similarities are too evident as depicted above... The Ghostrider was discont'd in the mid-'90s.

Ibanez: SZR520 (owner's take Part 2)

Here's Jensen's Neodymium driver; Neodymium is a high powered magnet (stronger than ceramic) which is light hence its preference for driver applications. What has this got to do with the SZR520?

In lieu of the Duncan Ibanez pickups, the SZR520 features a pair of Neodymium humbuckers which are very high output but the nature of these pickups are that they produce a sweet driven crunch, primarily. These pickups however, does very well with a high dose of distortion so you get the best of both worlds; blues rockers as well as the metal heads would feel at home with them.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ibanez: SZR520 (owner's take)

The latest Ibanez in my line-up: SZR520. It was a hesitant acquisition because the display piece has a repulsive action but I managed to tweak mine on the spot before purchase & tested it at the store; it was good enough to bring home. The feel isn't a total departure from the discont'd SZ520 but... you can see here (if you can't, do try harder), in addition to the ribcage bevel, the guitar also features a bevelled section immediately after the neck heel. This isn't useful when played sitting down but once strapped on, you'd appreciate its inclusion. However, I still think the SZR's overall outline (especially the body) isn't as attractive as its predecessor (SZ) but it plays well.

Why is the SZR520 cheaper than the SZ520? Two major accounts:
  • made in China
  • pickups are Ibanez's own, it's not the Duncan Ibanez model

Beta Aivin: Bass amps

Mike @ Standard Value made me try the new Beta Aivin amps & here's some take on them:
  • control features are responsive
  • wide range of tones available; boomy/ crispy; it's all available here
  • tilt-back feature is a wise inclusion
  • good clarity

List: TBA

Friday, August 22, 2008

Rally: GL-300

The Rally guitar you see here (GL-300) is an outright LP copy but there are subtle differences; the sublime but tasteful alteration would be that sharper, more inward forearm cutaway (it's very ESP Eclipse-like, compared to the average Gibson LP). As it is, Rally guitars are anonymous in reputation but the sub-$400 price would have you wanting one after you actually try it out:

  • one of the best neck/ fret attention to finish in this price bracket
  • great default pickups (whatever they are, they sound criminally similar to Duncan '59 model)
  • smooth & functional tuners
  • great action out of the box; the model I tried was unwrapped, tuned & handed over to me & it was play-ready
  • concern: equipped with a set of .009 set by default which made the tension floppy & necessitated frequent tuning after some bends
Product availability: Standard Value (freshly unveiled today...)
List: $370 (yes, it's that affordable...)

Gibson: LP Studio

The LP Studio is in town, I played this guitar before & after playing it again, I'm still not on good terms with those 490/ 498 humbuckers. I guess they are not meant for high gain dweebs like me because no matter how much distortion you use with this LP, the pickups display that vintage grit which is more useful for those in search of that immaculate blues-crunch, which I am not.

However, this generation of LP Studios are, in my honest opinion, worth the money as they reflect immaculate construction unlike the LP Standard where QC consistencies plague majority of the units. The Studio is also the epitome of no-frills attraction. My take on Gibson LPs has always been- go for tone/ playability, ignore the cosmetics. If you can acquire a superb LP Studio with your favourite pickups in there, you could be happy.

Product availability: Swee Lee Co.
List Price: $3,040

Ibanez: SZR520

The other Chinese Ibanez making its debut here is the SZR520, the alleged replacement for the superb SZ series. I could only appreciate the guitar for its craftsmanship because the display piece has a ridiculous default action (too high) to conjure a fair appraisal.

Product availability: Swee Lee Co.
List price: $802

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ibanez: ART-120

This is one of the Chinese made Ibanez ART models to have made it here thusfar (the Artcores are non-solid body Chinese units, yes?). I'm very pleased with the playability & overall tone, especially knowing those are active pickups in there (yes, active as in batteries required...). The $642 list price is attraction itself. Of course, its Les Paul-like shape would please many but it's the last consideration if you are really interested in this guitar- highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

ESP: Ninja

This guitar is available here, the FR version. If you don't already know, Mike Amott parted ways with ESP... Didn't get to try it as the store was crowded.

Product availability: Davis GMC
Price: $2,960

If it's good, it's good.

Just finished playing the set-up above. Sound Drive & Biyang are relative unknowns but good does not necessarily equals boutique. However, the good are most of the time well-known because reputation breeds mentioning.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tube cleans + trusty distortion = best

These two friends are currently very impressive implements: Sound Drive's Tube 7 head & Biyang's Metal End King. It seems that, for a spectacular distorted output to happen, tube cleans would
complement your preferred distortion unit. This is NOT the case when one employs a tube equipped pedal through a solidstate amp.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Project guitar: for sale (RG170)

Putting up my abandoned project guitar for sale. It's an Ibanez RG170 I got used, one of the preferred model which was made by Cort (for Ibanez) in Korea. As you can see, I actually have acquired some spares for its resurrection but never quite got to work.

Fender: Standard HSS

If you are looking forward to buy a quality, inexpensive guitar, Swee Lee has the Standard (Mex) HSS Fender on promo: Less than $800

Fender: Mini Twins...

Another new Fender Mini Twin for me. this time it's the '57 version (left)...

Remembering Nodtveidt

One of the most respectable Les Paul wielding players in my books is certainly the late Jon Nodtveidt. This Aug 16th marks the second year of his passing, this memory is a tribute to the man & his music, I am not one to sympathize with his spirituality.

The final Dissection release (Reinkaos) was a downturn to many hardcore fans especially so when its two predecessors (The Somberlain/ Storm of the Light's Bane) proved to be landmarks in terms of music genre. What Nodtveidt did was respectable, the materials in Reinkaos proved to be commanding but many failed to see the man deviating from his past by choice, not because of some lethargic former life hauntings. Nodtveidt was also one who took time to deliver his solos, majority of which were down-tempo phrasings; there was no rush for leads, the man took his time.

On the night of 16th Aug 2004, Jon Andreas Nodtveidt was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head, lying in a circle of lit candles (sources stated the time of death to be disputable- he was discovered dead on the 16th but the actual time of death could have been earlier). It was a case of spiritual manifestation where a gnostic proved to the world his end time to be entirely his doing & not pre-determined by a higher power. A Satanic Bible was discovered on his person at the time of discovery but a confirmation by fellow band member (guitarist Set Teitan) revealed it to be a copy of Liber Azerate instead (a publication by the Misanthrophic Luciferian Order).

Friday, August 15, 2008

New Highway 1 Fenders @ Swee Lee

New Fender Highway1 models now in stock @ Swee Lee. Jumbo frets make their presence felt & a closer listen would reveal a stronger output pickup set.

Sound Drive: The Tube Menace...

I'm enjoying the best of both worlds from Sound Drive:
  • Solidstate (left): SG612R
  • Tube (right): Tube 7

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Biyang: X-Drive (OD-8)

The new Biyang X-Drive OD-8 is actually the OD-7 (no tonal differences) with an immediate access to the JRC4558 chip as evident above- just remove the hatch to replace the chip.

Biyang: Metal End King

Tonal performance:
  • pedal fulfills its 'Metal' tag; one of the best saturation this side of planet tubeless
  • true bypass means no loss of your favoured cleans
  • MEK's primary draw is its Amp Simulator function which is the manufacturer's pseudo-tube tone- you'd hear a marked difference when it's turned off, especially if you have your amp's volume cranked up
  • for an instant scooped setting (after you have meddled with the 4-band EQ but need a quick switch), there's the High Cut feature.

Rich voicing:

  • as if the EQ controls & Amp Sim features aren't adequate, the manufacturer included a 3-channel overall EQ voicing (Modern/ Normal/ Classic) + a 3-channel distortion voicing (Normal/ Bright/ Warm), so that's a 6-way variation for you to mess with
  • the Level control, mind you, also affects tone in addition to volume level variation


  • size- rather bulky, will affect the pedal board geek
  • the distortion voicing's Bright mode produces a bump in volume

New Biyang pedals

3 new Biyang pedals for me:
  • Metal End King
  • EQ-7
  • X-Drive

Monday, August 11, 2008

Biyang: Noiseless adaptor

So you are rather sick of power adaptors which are hum inducing despite the manufacturer's claim; then you should try what Biyang has to offer. Either that or stick to batteries...

Product availability: Standard Value
List price: $25

Sound Drive - Celestion

If you are a keen Sound Drive fan because you are privy of its wholesome tube-like tone, be informed that the manufacturer would cease colaboration with Celestion drivers as evident with the latest SG100R manifestation (Ceestion-less). However, you can still acquire the Celestion equipped units from Standard Value as they are still in stock (limited qty).

Washburn: WV548

This is one of the latest Washburn offerings, a V-type guitar (WV548), from the manufacturer's HM range. The intriguing feature here is the guitar's carbon glass epoxy composite fretboard, a departure from the others' wooden offerings, so expect something different in terms of feel & tone (if any, note the EMG humbuckers in the guitar). Hope this would make it here soon...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Ibanez TS7: That chip in use...

This morning's probing exercise saw me removing the base plate cover of my favourite drive booster, Ibanez's TS7.
The reason why I like my TS7's overall tone (including its boosted setting) is partly attributable to the chip in use: that fabled JRC4558.

Sound Drive: SG100R

Fans of great solidstate tone, be informed that the more affordable version of the superb SG100R amp is now in stock @ Standard Value. Why more affordable? This model features a pair of non-Celestion speakers.

Product availability: Standard Value
List price: $980

Carcass: Resurrected

Carcass, the fearsome quartet who blurs the line between death metal & grindcore, is resurrected this 2008. However, the current line-up excludes original drummer Ken Owen (the one holding the syringe) who is recovering from brain hemorhagge. The reunion sees Arch Enemy's Daniel Erlandsson filling in the slot.

Fender: Billy Corgan Strat

Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins) is the latest Fender endorser to be given a signature model. Before we dismiss the guitar as an eccentric instrument, Mr. Corgan himself was objective enough in being mindful of the features of his instrument so that it will be appealing to players in general, not just himself exclusively. The guitar borrows heavily from Fender's Highway 1 Series range of Stratocasters, namely the satin-finished body. It is also devoid of a whammy function & the body's overall heftiness complements the trio of humbucking DiMarzio pickups on board; the added weight ensuring a healthy dose of bottom end.

Marshall Mustaine

Dave Mustaine (Megadeth)...
... is the latest guitar superstar to be liking Marshall's JVM.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Ibanez Jemini (Part 1)

Here's a glimpse of the Ibanez Jemini under the covers; the left cavity is a dummy cavity, the functional battery housing is on the right. It takes only a single battery to power the pedal's twin features hence the inclusion of the energy saving SAVE switch to reduce the intensity of all light emmiting indicators of the pedal.

Tone take: Watch this space...

Joe Satriani: Engines of Creation

Still digging into my CD collection- my fav Satriani release has to be Engines of Creation, much to the dismay of Surfing with The Alien lovers, of course. Why does this release hit the right notes with me? Most probably because it moved away from the conventional guitar+bass+drum line-up. Much of the materials here are Satch's fine playing, backed up by machines. If you are master of your occupation, it doesn't matter what you do to further your cause, you would still command respect (just don't lose focus).