The Schecter name has been around for over 30 years now, and while once they were known for their replacement parts for existing guitars, and later their own models including a Telecaster-inspired design used by The Who’s Pete Townshend, today their bread and butter is the art of the metal axe. Sure, they also make some very cool signature guitars for the likes of The Who, and Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan has been known to sling a Schecter or three, but mostly they’re the first choice for the likes of Nevermore’s Jeff Loomis and Avenged Sevenfold’s Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance.
On a side-note, I almost became a Schecter player once when I spotted a gorgeous Tele-style model in a pawnshop. By the time I’d returned with some money to buy it, someone else was walking out the door with it. Boo!
The Hellraiser C-1 FR has its feet planted in Superstrat territory: 24 frets, two EMG humbuckers, original Floyd Rose locking tremolo, reverse headstock. It all adds up to scream METAL. The body is made of mahogany, as is the neck, which is capped with a rosewood fretboard. The neck is glued in, but has Schecter’s Ultra Access carve, which involves smoothing out the joint after gluing, to the point where it feels like a neck-through instrument. It’s extremely comfortable up at the widdly end of the neck, which is good because the 24 jumbo frets are very playable and this is the kind of guitar that makes you want to whiz up and down the neck like a madman.
The fretboard inlays are intricate ‘Gothic Cross’ designs, which balance well against the abalone inlay around the body and headstock. The body edges are quite square, making for an aggressive, solid-feeling guitar that means business. Evil, metallic business.
The pickups are an EMG 81TW in the bridge and an 89 in the neck, and both pickups can be switched from humbucker to single coil mode by dedicated push-pull volume pots. The 89 is made up of one single and one dual coil pickup. The single coil mode is an EMG-SA pickup with an Alnico magnet, which was David Gilmour’s pickup of choice from the mid 80s through to the 90s. It’s also favoured by Steve Lukather. The dual coil mode consists of two Alnico-loaded coils opposite each other, with a tone similar to an EMG-85. The EMG-81TW has the sound of the original 81 pickup but adds the single coil mode, along with dual internal preamps, each tuned for their respective modes.
In humbucker mode, the Hellraiser is a firebreathing beast, perfectly suited for death metal. I tested the guitar through my Marshall DSL50 set to ‘kill,’ as well as through IK Multimedia’s Amplitube 2 on various levels of demonic hellstorm. The famous EMG headroom is in full evidence, with a biting sizzle around the edge of the notes which ensures clarity and precision no matter how much gain is piled on. The neck pickup tracks very well for ultra-fast playing, and the bridge unit eats up fast palm-muted triplets like Ozzy gnaws on bats and doves.
What surprised me most about the Hellraiser was its single coil vibe. Setting both pickups to their single coil modes, the sound was edgy and grindy, with lots of pick attack and string sound. You know how some single coils are jangly and twangy, and others have that full-bodied edge? Well I have a feeling the mahogany body has a lot to do with how these pickups sound in the Hellraiser – it’s still a single coil, and very noticeably so, but with enough power to hang with the humbuckers – no mean feat when the humbucker in question is an 81.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This is a great metal axe but has enough flexibility to even approximate those 80s/90s Pink Floyd sounds. The playability is superb and the guitar is well built. Structurally, if you were to take this exact guitar and make it look more traditional without changing playability or sound, it would appeal to a huge range of players.