REVIEW: AXL Badwater

Up until now I’ve only known AXL through their line of black, aggressive metal guitars, so when this pair of AXL Badwaters arrived I was surprised and a little curious. The most apparent thing about these guitars is the finish – they take the Fender idea of ‘relic’ to the ultimate extreme.

Back to those finishes in a second. These guitars feature an alder body – one of my favourite body woods at least since I got my Ibanez Jem7VWH – a wood which is known for having a lot of dimension and liveliness, with a pleasant high end and tight bass response. The neck is maple, with a rosewood fretboard. Electronics consist of a set of AXL pickups designed by EMG, as well as a 5 way selector switch, master volume, and 2 tone controls.

Now those finishes. I tested the #10036, a distressed, faded white; and #10037, a crackled, dirty brown. This is no photo finish or neat process: these guitars appear to have been strapped down while a crazed wolfman wailed the bejabbers out of them with a chain. Metal parts are rusted, wooden parts are scratched, scorched and dinged, plastic bits are faded, stained and marked, and paint is scraped, knocked, gouged and hacked. On the #10037, the finish is rough to the touch, and on both guitars, you can even see thumb prints pressed into the plastic of the control knobs. Of course this is not the work of a lazy baggage handler: These finishes are expertly applied and carefully sealed, so while the guitars may look like they were left out in the rain during the wet season and then dumped in the middle of the desert to dry off for a decade or so, they’re actually very structurally sound.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s get to the real guts of these guitars: What are they like? Both models felt nearly identical in playability and sound, so let’s talk in general terms. These are tough guitars. They don’t feel like pretty, easily playable planks to plink out dinky little solos. These are tough, rough machines that put up a fight in the same way as a vintage Telecaster or one of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Strats. They’re not hard to play, per se, but they seem to beg to be picked hard, and this type of playability is great for blues, funk, or really aggressive rock.

Despite my Ibanez fixation I’ve always kept a few single coil loaded guitars with high actions and heavy strings, and the AXLs hang in there with the best of them in terms of feeling like a living, breathing instrument. The EMG-designed passive pickups complement the visual aesthetic very well. The bridge humbucker sounds a bit like a Bill Lawrence L-500L to me. In fact if you’re after that Nuno Bettencourt sound, which is aided not only by that pickup but also by an unfinished guitar body, you’ll get startlingly close with these guitars, considering the price range. The higher action of the #10036 especially invited this vibe. The single coils sounded tough and mean, with lots of pick attack, and were especially good for Hendrix style rhythms and SRV rhythm-lead work.

These are fun, funky, well built, tough guitars which sound great. For the price they’re quite unbeatable, but if you like this kind of rugged, ‘have to fight it a little bit’ feel, then the Badwater holds its own with guitars worth several times the price.

SPECS:
BODY:
Alder
NECK: Maple
PICKUPS: AXL, designed by EMG
BRIDGE: Vintage vibrato
ELECTRONICS: 1 volume, 2 tone, 5 way selector

NEWS: New AXL Badwater colours

Just saw this news about two new AXL Badwater colours, which reminded me that I dig these inexpensive little rockers so much that I should post my review. So CLICK HERE to read it.

Here’s the press release about the new colours:

AXL Releases Two New Badwater Colors

Capitalizing on the successful Badwater Series of electric guitars, the new Badwater colors, Dark Grey and Dark Red add a further individualized element of unique vintage style to the award-winning Badwater guitars.

The Dark Grey and Dark Red (AS-820-DGY/DRD) Badwater guitars are assembled from the same quality components found in the entire Badwater series of guitars. The double-cutaway Alder body is hand-distressed for a vintage look and worn-in feel. The rock maple neck is finished with a satin stain for ease and comfort, and the rosewood fretboard helps give the guitar a warm and articulate tone. The new Badwaters come standard with excellent-sounding EMG-Designed pickups — two single coils and a humbucker — for a full complement of different tones, selectable by the aged 5-way selector switch. The rest of the hardware is carefully aged to give the guitars a classic vibe, and the headstock has the AXL badge burned directly into the wood.

The all-new Badwater colors add additional depth to a unique and innovative line of guitars that offer guitarists the look and feel of vintage instruments without the exorbitant price tag. With a list price of $239.99, Badwater guitars are a great-sounding alternative to pricier vintage-style instruments.

List: $239.99. Available Now.

For more information, visit their web site at http://www.axlguitars.com/.

REVIEW: Marshall 1959RR Randy Rhoads


The late great Randy Rhoads left an indelible mark on the guitar world when he passed away in 1982 with just two Ozzy Osbourne albums to his name, and a pair of Japan-only releases with his original band, Quiet Riot (yes, that Quiet Riot). At a time when Eddie Van Halen was revolutionising guitar playing with his party-guy antics, flashy technique and legendary ‘brown sound,’ Randy provided the Yang to Eddie’s Yin with similar technique and tone but an altogether darker aesthetic.

Before recording Blizzard of Ozz with Ozzy, Randy ordered some Marshall amps direct from the factory, based on the 1959 Super Lead but customised with white Tolex and including several modifications. The most important of these mods is a change to the way the two channels interact with each other. Typically, a Marshall Super Lead would have two channels, I and II, which each have 2 inputs. Players discovered early on that they could run these two channels together by joining them up with a short cable, but the 1959RR offers an internally-facilitated variation on this idea, all in the name of increased gain. The mod, which is only on channel II, cascades both halves of the first 12AX7 preamp valve, feeding the output of the first stage into the input of the second, instead of using each half separately for channels I and II. This effectively makes channel I’s volume control function as a master volume, while turning the channel II volume into a gain control. Or if you are after a classic Super Lead sound, just plug in to channel I, throw in some industrial-strength earplugs and off you go.

Read More …

NEWS: New Divine Heresy album out July 24

Awesome. This just arrived in my inbox. Cool to see that we’ll hear something new from Divine Heresy before Dino returns to work with the new Fear Factory lineup (Dino, Burton C Bell, Byron Stroud, Gene Hoglan).

Divine Heresy new album coming soon on Roadrunner Records – July 24th 09

Dino Cazares – Guitars, Travis Neal – Vocals, Joe Payne – Bass, Tim Yeung – Drums

The creative force behind the genre-defying, legendary metal titans Fear Factory, guitarist Dino Cazares, has returned with a mind-blowing, scathing new offering that shatters the boundaries of conventionality with unrelenting intensity, precision and speed. This new offering from Cazares’ extreme metal juggernaut DIVINE HERESY also features one of the genre’s most acclaimed drummers, Tim Yeung (ex-Nile, Vital Remains), bassist Joe Payne (ex-Nile) and newcomer vocalist Travis Neal (ex-The Bereaved, Pushed). This pummeling new offering, Bringer of Plagues, redefines the meaning of aggression and takes extreme to an all new level.

Vocalist Neal has undoubtedly proved that he is the perfect fit for the role as he delivers a debut performance for the ages.

DIVINE HERESY teamed up once again with acclaimed producing team Dirty Icon (Logan Mader and Lucas Banker) who has recently produced Cavalera Conspiracy, Gojira and Five Finger Death Punch. This album undeniably upped the ante in brutality, precision and technicality as the group are more focused and tighter than ever before. Bringer of Plagues features the legendary machine gun riffs that’ll take your breath away, combined with some jaw-dropping double-bass drum insanity. After a year and a half of touring with the likes of All That Remains, Static-X, Arch Enemy, Shadows Fall and Chimaira, DIVINE HERESY have proven that they are a stellar live act and are a force to be reckoned with.

Cazares further comments: “With Neal now having a few shows under his belt, his confidence is coming across through the new material. The songwriting process has been great and the ideas are constantly flowing. Collaborating with Tim Yeung, Joe Payne and Neal, all together hashing out ideas in the practice space has been very therapeutic and enjoyable. We all have a collective desire to take our performances to the next level with this release to undoubtedly prove that we are one of the most devastating bands in the scene today.”

Cazares doesn’t accept second best. As you’d expect from the man who co-founded both Fear Factory and Brujeria, his new band isn’t about to tread well-worn primrose paths. Meet DIVINE HERESY – not so much a metal band for the modern era as crimson innovators ready to transcend time and place. You see, when you’ve already made your mark with bands like those mentioned above, there are two things you can do: “I could have carried on being successful in Latin America with Brujeria, and my other band, Asesino,” admits the guitarist. “But that wasn’t enough. I wanted to do something that would go beyond what I’ve achieved before. Something to take metal into the 21st Century.”

“I know that my fans expect something special from me,” says Cazares. “And I would never let them down. With every project that I’ve done, what’s been important is to ensure that I deliver music that doesn’t just meet people’s expectations, but goes beyond them. That’s important to me. I know that I could coast along and do well on the back of my reputation, but that would be to cheat everyone – including myself. I really do believe that with DIVINE HERESY, I’m once again setting the highest standards.

The metal/hard rock world was anxiously awaiting Cazares return since he left Fear Factory and with DIVINE HERESY’s highly acclaimed debut release, Bleed The Fifth, he quickly proved that he was the force that propelled them to the forefront of the scene in the 90’s. Cazares took his performance to a new level with

DIVINE HERESY whose brutal, unrelenting and overall refreshing sound will quickly garner legions of followers who are starving to hear something devastating and unique.

In 2009, DIVINE HERESY looks to leave their definitive mark upon the genre with their most explosive and dynamic offering yet.

“Bringer of Plagues will be released by Roadrunner in Australia on July 24th.

Official MySpace Page

REVIEW: Line 6 BackTrack

There’s nothing quite like the Line 6 BackTrack out there at the moment. Ever tried to record a guitar riff on your iPod or phone? Not always the best sound quality, huh? Well the BackTrack is a tiny recording device which you can plug in between your guitar and amp, or use the built-in microphone if you want to capture the sound of your amp or even your full band. 

The controls are quite simple. There are buttons for volume up and down, a selector for on, off, and play-only modes, standard tape transport-style buttons (forward, back and play), a Mark button for adding index points so you can easily come back to a riff, and a Play Mark/All switch so you can either play only indexed riffs or go through the whole thing. There’s a USB out for transferring the files to your computer, and in addition to guitar input and output jacks there’s a headphone jack. Notice there is no record button. The BackTrack records everything you play, so as long as you have it plugged in between your guitar and amp, you’ll capture your idea. I mean, what’s the point of a device designed to capture inspired one-off moments if you have to go out of your way to make sure it’s recording, right? Line 6’s decision to have the BackTrack record all the time is so simple and obvious that it’s kind of amazing that such a device hasn’t been around for years. This device is a godsend for me because whenever I’m noodling away in the lounge room someone says “Hey that was cool, play it again” and it’s already zoomed straight out of my mind.

The first thing I looked for when I plugged into the BackTrack was the amp modelling. This is Line 6, after all, creators of the venerable Pod. But amp modelling is nowhere to be found. If you really wanted to use it to record riffs as you noodle on the sofa, consider placing a Pocket Pod between your guitar and the BackTrack. If you record a riff you like and you don’t want to hear it back as just a clean guitar part, simply play it through your amp, and a properly-impedence-matched version will shake through your bedroom or rehearsal studio as if you were playing it yourself live.

You can hook this little puppy up to your guitar strap or even Velcro it to your pedalboard so you can record rehearsal-room inspiration, but if I was to buy one (and I think I might), I would use it for live gigs. I tend to improvise most of my solos, but occasionally, if we record a gig, I find an improvisation I like, and then learn it as the permanent solo. With the BackTrack I can have a permanent record of all my live solos, so I won’t be bound by the economic realities of which gigs we can afford to multitrack, or the technical limitations of a handheld camcorder.

This is such a cool idea that it belongs in every guitar case or gig bag, whether you’re a guitarist or bassist, and while its main use is to record guitar parts through the direct input, it can also be a very handy way of keeping a record of the full band in the jam room.

More information: Line 6.

NEWS: PRS releases new metallic DuPont Hot Hues finishes

Here’s a press release from Paul Reed Smith. Please note that PRS sales team member Rick Hodgson is no relation to me, unless he gives out free PRS Starlas at Christmas. Hehe.

PRS Guitars Releases New Metallic Finishes Featuring DuPont Hot Hues
May 22, 2009

Paul Reed Smith Guitars is once again teaming up with long-time partner DuPont and their Hot Hues™ palette of colors to present brilliant new metallic guitar offerings. “Twilight,” “Catalina Dream,” and “Sinful Cinnamon” make up the roster of new color options offered.

PRS Guitars has been using DuPont paints for more than ten years and has been using Hot Hues™ paint since its inception. Over the span of this partnership, the prominent guitar manufacturer has joined DuPont at two SEMA shows, providing guitars finished in Hot Hues™ colors for the DuPont booth display, and provided a custom guitar for The Jeff Gordon Foundation. This guitar, signed by Jeff Gordon, Chip Foose, and Carlos Santana, was finished in the same paint as the Hot Hues “Heat Wave and Flames” No. 24 DuPont racecar driven by Gordon. PRS also chose the Hot Hues™ line to reintroduce the CE Alder Bolt-on guitar in 2008 with exceptional results.

“We are very proud of our relationship with Paul Reed Smith Guitars and we’re very pleased that they have chosen our Hot Hues Custom Finishes for their new line of guitars. DuPont is a company powered by Science and Innovation and that is a great fit with the innovative spirit of PRS Guitars,” says Fred Wissemann, Brand Manager for DuPont Refinish and Hot Hues Custom Finishes.

The most recent application of the Hot Hues™ line will appear on some of PRS’ newest guitar models: the Mira and the Starla. Rick Hodgson of the PRS Sales Team said, “We are excited to offer these unique colors. They are brand new for us, and we think they will give these already retro-inspired guitars a customized, Hot Rod vibe.” These guitars began shipping to dealers in mid-April.

“DuPont Hot Hues products offer the most user friendly metallic paint system we have tried,” says Steve Sears, Topcoat Finish Manager of PRS Guitars. “The ease of application, quality of coverage and variety of colors make Hot Hues™ an astounding product line.”

Paul Reed Smith Guitars is a leading manufacturer of high-quality instruments in Stevensville, Maryland and has been providing some of the world’s most renowned guitarists with instruments since 1985. More than 260 highly skilled craftspeople produce more than 70 guitars each day for worldwide distribution. PRS Acoustics and PRS Amps were introduced as new product lines in 2009 with support from renowned artists Ricky Skaggs and Derek Trucks. Carlos Santana, Linkin Park, Chris Henderson of 3 Doors Down and Mark Tremonti of Creed are also among the artists currently playing PRS guitars.


NEWS: Chickenfoot CD release date moved forward

Just got this in my inbox:

Hello Friends of the Foot! A lot is going on as we near album release. Read all about it below!

ALBUM RELEASE DAY MOVED UP TO FOOTDAY, JUNE 5!

You read it right– the album is now dropping on Friday (now Footday), June 5th instead of June 9th– 4 days earlier to get your foot fix!

We will also be hosting a listening party with our friends at Apple so those who can’t quite make it to the store can still take a listen. More news on this as it develops!

GRAND OPENING – OFFICIAL ONLINE STORE

The official Chickenfoot online store is open for business! Check out the latest ‘Foot gear and come back as we continue to update the store with new items. Click here.

IN-STORE SIGNING IN LOS ANGELES JUNE 5!

In Store Appearance @ Best Buy (West LA)
11301 W. Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Friday, June 5th
8:00 pm – 9:00pm

Come down early for an in-store in Los Angeles and meet the guys and get an autographed copy of the new album!

Note: Due to anticipated attendance, autographs will be first come, first served. Chickenfoot will only be signing their new self titled album, “Chickenfoot”.

CHICKENFOOT ON CONAN/TONIGHT SHOW

We’re happy to announce that the boys will be joining Conan O’Brien just days into his taking over of the Tonight Show. Tune in June 5th at 11:30pm on NBC.

NEW CHICKENFOOT “CHICKENMASH” VIDEO

We’ve dropped a hip montage of songs from the new album with exclusive live, rehearsal, and behind the scenes footage. Songs featured are Avenida Revolucion, Soap On A Rope, Sexy Little Thing, Oh Yeah, and Get It Up. Check it out on CHICKENFOOT.US in the Chickenfoot player (embed it on your site/ blog/ etc) and it’s also available over at the usual Facebook/Myspace/Youtube Chickenfoot channels.

“12 DAYS OF THE FOOT” video podcast series

In case you haven’t noticed yet, we’re now a few episodes into our “12 Days of the Foot” video programming in which we join the band as they share thoughts and behind the scenes details on each song (one per day) from the new album. Also included are clips of each song so you can get an early listen to what is in store for you. Check the videos out on CHICKENFOOT.US at www.chickenfoot.us/12days, or on Youtube, Facebook and Myspace.

MORE TOUR PRESALES COMING SOON

We are finalizing the upcoming “Chickenfoot Summer Tour 2009 Part One” cities and dates and very soon we’ll be announcing pre-sales to happen for members of the Fan Club. These shows will be in bigger venues and not subject to the extremely limited availability of the Road Test dates. If you want pre-sale access, pick up your Fan Club membership and upgrade your CHICKENFOOT.US account to Premium status. Click here.

NEWS: New DiMarzio Billy Sheehan videos

Here are a couple of great new DiMarzio videos featuring Billy Sheehan.

In this one he talks about discovering hammer-ons from under the shadow of Billy Gibbons’ cowboy hat.

And here he shares a secret trick about his unusual picking technique.This one’s pretty freaking amazing.

CLICK HERE to buy Billy’s new CD, Holy Cow, from Amazon.com.