Dimebag Darrell was one in a billion. A true metal iconoclast who took a little from EVH, a little from Billy Gibbons, a bit of Hetfield, and twisted it around until it was pure Dime. Everything about the dude was custom: for his signature tone he used a graphic EQ and heavy noise gating to get the most out of the Randall half-stack he won in a guitar playing contest. And his main guitar was a heavily customised Dean ML (he actually scratched ‘The Dean From Hell’ into the headstock) which featured new pickups, a Floyd Rose bridge (which required serious routing considering the guitar originally had a tune-o-matic bridge and thru-body stringing) and a custom paint job and further tweaks by legendary luthier Buddy Blaze. Check out the story of Buddy’s role in this legendary guitar in this great Premier Guitar article.
The Dean From Hell DFH is a pretty faithful replica of Dime’s own original, albeit of Eastern origin rather than USA-made. All the major specs are here though: Floyd Rose, V-shaped neck profile, ‘DBD Traction’ volume knobs – with grip burned into them like some kind of translucent octopus suction pads – distinctive lighting strike finish… and of course, it’s the classic ML shape, which is part Explorer, part V and all attitude. The aggressive headstock outline really completes the look, as well as adding extra space to this very important area of the guitar in terms of sustain. When you mess with the strings’ vibration potential by suspending those bad boys from a set of springs and a couple of small pivot points (ie: a Floyd Rose), you really have to do something to make up for the reduced oomph, and the ML’s mahogany body and bigass headstock certainly make up for any loss of body.
The pickups are a Bill Lawrence XL500 in the bridge and Dean’s own DimeTime humbucker in the neck, which is reverse-engineered from the pickup in Dime’s original Dean with the assistance of his longtime guitar tech Grady Champion. Some other Dean Dimebag models feature his signature Seymour Duncan ‘Dimebucker’ bridge pickup, but the Dean From Hell is designed to be much more like his original axe, so the inclusion of the XL500 makes a lot of sense here.
So how does it sound? Friggin’ brutal. If you’re used to Dime’s harsh, razor-like tone you’ll probably be surprised by how woody and natural this guitar sounds. It’s certainly a metal machine, but it’s also great for more traditional rock, and the XL500 has enough grit and spank for hard-ass country as well. Try it through a vintage-voiced amp and you’ve got a great classic rock or traditional metal tone. Play it through a high gain beast and you have enough cut and punch to slice through the mix without letting the amp hog all the glory. This is definitely an axe that makes itself heard. The bridge pickup sounds round and full, and if you’ve ever wanted that Pantera ‘This Love’ neck pickup lead tone, you’ll find it right here. It’s instantly recognisable and it sounds great, especially for huge bends on the higher strings.
Playabilty is great, although the licensed Floyd Rose bridge feels a little less sturdy than an original Floyd. It will still handle Dime’s famous whammy squeals more than adequately. The V-shaped neck may take some getting used to if you’re more accustomed to tiny shred necks, but once you start getting into wide stretches and symmetrical scales you’ll really appreciate how it practically forces you to play with good technique.
It sucks that Dime’s no longer with us, but it’s great that among all the Dime-inspired guitars offered by Dean, they haven’t lost sight of the undeniable mojo of his original classic Dean From Hell. This is the Dimebag guitar, and it looks, feels and sounds the part.