DEAN DIMEBAG RAZORBACK EXPLOSION
DIMEBAG DARRELL'S MUSICAL CAREER may have been cut tragically short in December 2004, but his contribution to the world of guitar is extensive and ongoing. Between his classic Pantera, Damageplan, and Rebel Meets Rebel recordings, his informative and often hilarious Guitar World columns, and his outspoken appreciation of both the instrument and his peers, Dimebag was both one of a kind and a kind we could really stand to see more often. Over the years, Dime was almost as effusive in praising gear that served him well as he was gifted at using it. As a result, he was a prized endorser for a number of equipment manufacturers. His most iconic piece, a 1978 Dean ML with a Bill Lawrence doubleblade pickup, remains the Godfather to an extended family of metal guitars. The new Razorback series from Dean adds some modern touches and (literally) sharp edges to this now-classic design.
Mere words fall short of describing how metal this instrument is: a big, dramatic, and unapologetically fierce-looking piece of rock machinery, a demonic chariot in a world full of Griswold Family Trucksters. If the original ML shape wasn't intimidating enough to traditionalists, the Razorback adds extra cuts and points to evoke serrated edges at every turn. The neck matches the body's air of menace with a bold razorblade inlay on the 12th fret. Finished in a tightly pixellated, computer-generated wash of flames, the Razorback Explosion boldly announces that it doesn't care what your grandpa thought a guitar should be shaped like, and isn't into wearing your father's threetone sunburst either.
We actually found it difficult to exercise restraint while playing the Razorback. Its low action expedited dramatic two step bends without fretting out; its very fast neck and seriously flat fretboard radius seemed to compel us into scalar three-note-per string runs, allowing for indulgences we'd never have attempted if this instrument weren't so well built for speed. The DBD traction knobs for the volume controls were easy to adjust, and the placement of the selector on the treble horn facilitated quick pickup changes and toggle switch tricks. The tone-control speed knob on our test model was a little loose, but could be easily replaced. Both the tuning machines and fine tuners on the double-locking bridge worked smoothly. Although the body has significant heft, its imbalance actually works for playing in a standing position; while upright, the neck rests at a good angle for easy access to higher frets. Because of the body shape and extra cutaways, we'd recommend another instrument for sit-down practice- otherwise, some of the protrusions might dig right into your midsection. Setup, fit, and finish were better than we expected from a Chinese- manufactured instrument.
This being a dedicated metal machine, we expected it to thrive at highgain temperatures, and sure enough, cranking the gain yielded satisfying crunch and limitless low-end thump as the set-neck design and massive body perpetuated single-note sustain. As an update to the classic L500XL bridge pickup in Dimebag's original ML, the Seymour Duncan Dimebucker does not disappoint. Palm-muted riffs leapt out with startling immediacy and clarity, while single notes crackled like power lines knocked loose in a storm. Boasting a ridiculous number of turns and no metallic bottom plate, this dual-blade pickup design boasts extended bass and treble range that shines in the super-clean or super- dirty settings common to metal. While less exotic in concept or fi delity, the custom wound neck pickup was solid on more traditional sounds, serving as a smoother foil to the Dimebucker. The Floyd-licensed bridge did a good job at staying true to pitch. Some instruments suffer tonally from having such a large piece of fl oating hardware, but the added upper midrange and cutting highs work well within this design. If you're looking for a warm, vowel-shaped honk voiced to match your vintage plexi, look elsewhere. If the look didn't tell you this instrument is meant for metal, the sound surely will.
IS IT FOR YOU?
For a second round of testing, we brought the instrument to the Dutch Fork High School Guitar Club in Columbia, South Carolina (along with the Shure PG14 wireless system; see pg. 86). Pulling it out of its case in front of some Dimebag aficionados yielded a response not unlike pulling out raw steaks at a crocodile farm. While the more traditionally minded players shook their heads, the Razorback's bold design and high-gain horsepower were a gift from the heavens to the self-proclaimed metalheads in the classroom. Watching these varied responses confirmed our initial impressions. Unlike so many instruments that live and die by their "versatility" and seek to be everything to anyone, the Razorback achieves its sole goal as a loud and proud metal instrument. Those of us who first tried it sitting down didn't care for the look or the shape; the kids who wore it standing up made metal faces and posed for pictures with their camera phones.
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