Gear and Loathing
Manufacturer: Searls Guitars Model: SS7 Instrument: Guitar RRP: Subject to options Reviewer: Nick As a young musician, especially once I hit about 16 or 17, I’d always watch YouTube videos and read articles just to see the amazing custom instruments which my favourite guitarists owned. Whether it was a variation on a signature model like some of Stephen Carpenter’s amazing ESP baritones, or something truly unique and eclectic like the many guitars Misha Mansoor played, I couldn’t get enough. It was at that point in time I decided that, once I was in the position to afford it, I’d buy my very own custom guitar. I revisited the idea around December 2015, and started to get some quotes from various brands. The two it eventually came down to were both Australian – Ormsby Guitars, and Searls Guitars. And, despite being very keen on the idea of a multiscale SX, I passed on it in the end. “NICK WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING???? WHY DIDN’T YOU GET AN ORMSBY YOU IDIOT????” is what you’re probably thinking right now. I have nothing against Perry, he makes some absolute artwork in musical instrument form – I just decided that a multiscale wasn’t exactly what I was after, plus I didn’t have the patience to wait for a run that would accommodate what I wanted. Maybe one day! Either way, I went with Searls. It’s run by luthier Allan Searls, and I’d been familiar with some of his past work. After hitting him up via email with some rough specs and receiving a very long one back with some advantages and disadvantages... read more
Manufacturer: ESP/LTD Model: LTD SC-608B Instrument: Guitar (8 String) RRP: Around $1,500 (US) Reviewer: Hughesy To start with, this guitar sounds great – keeping in mind that it’s a baritone 8 string and there’s a specific market of drop-tuned metal players an instrument like this is aimed at. I myself currently have it tuned to FADGCFAD. It features an Alder body, 27 baritone scale, two EMG 808 pickups, ESP locking tuners, rosewood fretboard, USA Hipshot bridge, a neck-through construction, and a ridiculously shiny high-gloss black finish. I’m not usually a fan of EMG pickups, however, these compliment the guitar really well when taking into consideration the wood used for the body. For me, these pickups seem to have a little more low-end and are not as compressed as your standard 81/85/60/81-7 EMG pickups, although personally I think I’ll replace them with some Seymour Duncan pickups further down the line. The biggest thing that does it for me on this guitar is the neck. Unlike most 8s I’ve tried/owned, it’s actually quite flat and thin. It’s just slightly bigger than an Ibanez Wizard II neck, and it’s very easy to play – it’s reminiscent of a 7 string neck. The fretwork is nice, and I haven’t noticed any sharp frets on either side, or dead spots/dead frets. I’d recommend this guitar for any working/touring/recording musician who doesn’t want to break the bank on an ESP guitar, or getting a custom instrument made. Obviously being a mass produced model it’s not going to have all the quality and features of some USA or handmade custom instruments, but this guitar definitely is... read more
Manufacturer: PRS Guitars (SE) Model: Tremonti Custom Instrument: Guitar RRP: Around $1,000 (US) Reviewer: Nick If you’re at all familiar with Paul Reed Smith Guitars, you’d be aware of their SE range of instruments. These are PRS guitars built under license by World Musical Instrument Co. (they also produce LTD and Chapman guitars), and are quite a fair bit cheaper than the US models. For example, if you were to buy a US made Tremonti, you’d be shelling out $4,000 to $5,000 at a minimum. The Tremonti SE Custom is of the higher end SE range, costing around the $800 mark (on average). PRS already produce a Tremonti SE guitar that retails for significantly less, so what makes this worth the additional cash? First off, this is one of the few SE guitars that has a full PRS spec body thickness (usually they are substantially thinner, therefore lighter and cheaper to produce), a set neck construction, and it also has a proper tremolo system which allows you to dive down and pull up. On the visual side of things, you also get a rather nice maple veneer top and some natural body binding. The finish is also close to looking like Mark Tremonti’s favoured PRS Custom Shop guitar that he has owned for many years, and was exclusive to this guitar at the time of release. It of course includes the famous PRS bird inlays (love them or hate them), and the pickups are straight out of the 245 SE guitar. PRS include a gig bag, a tremolo bar, and some Allen keys. This guitar, quite frankly, sounds awesome.... read more
Manufacturer: Shawn Guitars Model: Ghost 6 FT Tigers Eye Reviewer: KratorFWIW Instrument: Guitar Who It’s For: Shredders
You may have heard of Kraken Guitars – or at the very least, the Kraken guitar factory over in Korea, having churned out some big brand custom-shop instruments in their time. Unfortunately, late last year the owner sold up closed the business, but luckily the head design team didn’t go too far.
Shawn Guitars are the new Kraken. For the first run, the marketing was on point; they completely sold out within hours. By the third, however, they barely seemed to move at all. It looks as if Shawn Guitars could be as short-lived as Kraken itself; as Kraken had their promotional auctions on eBay, so too did Shawn.
I managed to get my hands on a Shawn Ghost 6 FT Tigers Eye from the first run. After getting in contact with the owner of the company, I found out it was number five of only twelve made, and the only set neck model to come out in that release. Aesthetically, I swear I’m staring at a Caparison/BC Rich love child, with a very small mahogany body with quilted maple veneer, 25 1/2 scale, Ibanez lo pro/Floyd rose style bridge (home brand) and custom wound pickups from the factory.
It feels very BC Rich Villain – small and extremely ‘shreddy’ – but with the tone, quality, and headstock look of a Caparison. For such a small body, it does have a bit of weight to it. All appearances of the guitar make it look sleek and ready to take anything you throw... read more
Manufacturer: MGH Custom Guitars Model: Blizzard Beast Reviewer: KratorFWIW Instrument: Guitar Who It’s For: That one kid who wants to show off his fancy ass guitar to all his friends, and probably the Swedish metal scene as well.
MGH Custom Guitars – where do I begin? Who’s heard of them? Who plays them? The answer is…very few people.
Germany has been known to produce some quality electronics back in the day, and even with their european craftsmanship, hardly anyone seems to know about this brand. It’s hard to know whether there’s a reason for this or if it’s simply a Daemoness type problem – so busy that they have to slow down production just to keep demand happy. There’s very little promotion online via any form of social media, and it’s lucky I even found them. I noticed that they advertise very few models on eBay along with a few as promotional auctions, and others as outright buys, which can all be quite expensive.
After waiting a month for it to land, finally pulling it from the box today made it feel like Christmas. It was securely wrapped up inside a hard foam gig case, complete with a certificate of authenticity signed by the company, complete with my name, date of build completion, and purchase date. They also threw in a free shirt and some business cards for good measure. It looked sleek, but a little bit something like BC Rich maybe should have churned out. It has a blue oil and wax stain finish on an ash body, twin wenge stripes, and a maple neck with a rosewood... read more
Manufacturer: Agile (Rondo Music) Model: Septor Pro 727 Reviewer: KratorFWIW Instrument: Guitar Who It’s For: Those who want a cheap(ish), custom built guitar all year round (if the Aussie dollar doesn’t fuck us in the ass) Agiles seem quite popular, as I’ve seen many people not only posting about them, but playing them live as well. They feature a multitude of different options, from finishes to fanned frets/multiscale, so I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring and purchase one to see what the hype was about. After ordering, I waited approximately three weeks for it to arrive from the United States. They won’t ship outside the US without a HardShell Case, and I found this to be a bonus, as it’s a lot safer than a cardboard coffin. It’s costs extra, naturally (about 80-ish dollars), so that should be kept in mind, but it was totally worth it in my eyes). I
figured I’d order a 7 string, because who doesn’t need a spare nowadays?
Mahogany Body with Carved Top, 27″ scale Baritone, Maple Fretboard/5 Piece Maple/Mahogany neck, Cepheus Active pickups, Grover Tuners, Cepheus TOM bridge with Graphite saddles, Reverse Headstock, and of course (like most guitars I own), made in Korea.
The unpacking was fun. The amount of fragile tape which was used could have covered two semi trailers. It seriously took me about twenty minutes or so to get into it, and once I did, I examined the guitar. All looked well, except the selector switch was broken. Now, when we buy guitars, we usually like to have them in working order when they arrive,... read more
Manufacturer: Diamond Guitars Model: Halcyon ZB-FR Black Moonrise Reviewer: KratorFWIW Instrument: 6 String Guitar Who It’s For: Five Finger Death Punch fans and those who like their fancy finishes.
Before we begin, how about a bit of backstory about Diamond guitars: Mr Dean B. Zelinsky, who founded Dean Guitars back in the day, left his prized company in May 2008 over a contract dispute (apparently) but clearly wasn’t too heartbroken, because only a few months later in the August of the same year, he opened up his own private label of guitars, DBZ. Within 4 years he partnered up with Jeff Diamant of Diamond amps, either for marketing purposes or simply because the brand wasn’t doing as well as he’d hoped (which was a clear case). Then, of course, shortly thereafter Dean “left” this partnership and his company over disputes of designs, design flaws, and simply the control over “his” company. If he can’t control it, he walks away.
Sounds like a spoilt kid who can’t handle not getting his own way, if you ask me.
Well, Jeff Diamant kept all current designs and even signed up Zoltan Bathory of Five Finger Death Punch to their ranks after constructing their first Signature Model, which just happens to be the model we have up for review. Zoltan goes way back with Diamant because of the amps he used for years, what people don’t know though is Bathory helped design DBZ/Diamond’s Bird of Prey, Venom and Halcyon.
Now to the guitar itself. Upon receiving the guitar I thought to myself, well it does look nice, I just hope they’re not all... read more
Manufacturer: Etherial Guitars Model: Custom 7 Reviewer: 0h L0ng J0hns0n Instrument: Guitar Sounds like: Djent Stick Who It’s For: Guitarists who need a damn good looking guitar to draw attention away from their sloppy playing. PLEASE NOTE: This guitar was a custom design built to authors specifications, which were experimental in nature, and this doesn’t necessarily reflect the experience & quality of other builds by Etherial Guitars. For most guitarists, getting a custom built instrument is the absolute dream. It’s also the moment when you become either a distinguished gentleman with a super practical design, or a total flog with something ridiculous and over the top. Personally, I’m the latter. Etherial Guitars is an Australian builder of hand-made custom guitars and has stood out from the crowd with their unearthly designs. Earlier this year I took ownership of my first ever custom by Etherial. The guitar sports a sleek a superstrat shape that looks magnificent, courtesy of the bright white body and intricate inlay that spans the entire fretboard. Another beautiful feature is the subtle details in the cutaways around the fretboard and behind the bridge. You can tell that a lot of time and care has been taken during the building of this guitar, as each little cutaway, inlay and detail has been crafted with machine-like precision. Despite this, the guitar still looks and feels like it’s purely hand-built. The true unique feature of this guitar is the 70+ LEDs mounted under an acrylic cap that spreads over the fretboard and body. When switched on it illuminates the inlay patterns as well as additional patterns camouflaged in the... read more
Manufacturer: Artist Guitars Model: Spiritus 7 (click through for specs) Instrument: 7 String Guitar Reviewer: Erised Who It’s For: Entry level guitarists who are after a 7 string they can pay for with (essentially) pocket change. It seems every kid and his three-legged, mange ridden dog is starting a deathcore/djent/beatdown/nu-metalcore band these days. Artist guitars have cottoned on to this and decided that, since a fool and his money are soon parted, they would very much like to be the ones doing at least some of the parting. That’s not to say you would have to be a fool to pick up a Spiritus 7, because with the right end-game in mind, you will actually be picking up a pretty neat bargain, to be honest. So starting off, when I received this guitar (4 days after posting, thank you express post!), I had a bit of a look over the whole thing and was relatively impressed. The finish is clean, everything is straight and the neck feels quite nice. There was the obvious cost cutting signs, for example, a plastic nut, die-cast machine heads, die cast bridge and a fairly severe headstock, which closely resembles what would happen if someone just dropped a drill bit about ¾ of the way up and cut out a vaguely stylised wedge to make it look intentional. Those few things aside, it is of quite solid construction and there were no obvious manufacturing flaws or knots in the wood, which I’ve actually encountered in cheap guitars before. My first “decent” (I use the word in its broadest possible sense) guitar was an Epiphone... read more