Review: Reverend Guitars Shade Balderose Signature Model

(Image credit: Reverend Guitars)

Right now when you do a Google search for “Shade Balderose,” his Reverend signature model guitar shows up in 18 of the first 20 results. That will probably change soon as his band Code Orange was nominated for a Best Metal Performance Grammy for the song “Forever.”

But from a guitarist’s perspective it’s still pretty cool to be known for your signature guitar before your band reaches the consciousness of the general public. It’s even cooler that Reverend has given the same priority and attention to up-and-coming artists like Shade Balderose as they have to established legends like Pete Anderson, Ron Asheton, Billy Corgan, Reeves Gabrels and Rick Vito.

The Reverend Shade Balderose Signature most closely resembles the Bayonet model from Reverend’s Set-Neck Series, featuring the same korina body with an angular offset shape and bound neck with block inlays. However, most of the remaining features are different enough to justify the signature model designation. Distinctive signature details include a stop tailpiece, Tune-o-matic bridge, Railhammer Chisel bridge humbucker, Railhammer Hyper Vintage neck humbucker, ebony fretboard, no pickguard and a choice of deep blue Midnight Burst or Army Green finish.

The korina body is comfortably light and impressively resonant. Neck features include three-piece set-in construction, a 24 ¾-inch scale length, 12-inch radius, 22 medium jumbo frets, a dual-action truss rod easily accessible just above the synthetic 43mm Boneite nut, and Reverend’s famous comfortable medium oval neck profile. The hardware is chrome plated and includes pin-lock height-adjusted tuners, a three-way pickup selector switch, and master volume, master tone and bass contour control knobs. A two-tone teardrop-shaped case is available separately. Here’s one “stealth” feature not mentioned in the model’s specs or on the Reverend website: The master volume knob provides a push/pull kill switch function.

I loved the generous body contours and the medium oval neck profile of the Reverend’s Bayonet model that I reviewed back in 2013, and the Shade Balderose Signature offers the same balance, comfort and fast playability. The satin finish helps keep the guitar stable against the player’s body, and it also provides just enough resistance on the back of the neck, delivering a balance between the slick feel of a gloss finish and the rougher, raw feel of unfinished wood. Thanks to its light body weight, the Balderose can be played for hours without fatigue.

The pickups and electronics make this guitar one that any rock or metal player should check out even if they’ve never heard of Code Orange. While the tone certainly has the overall personality of humbuckers with more than ample body, depth and wide range, there’s also a crispness and clarity that normally only comes from single-coil pickups. The midrange roars and growls; the bass is big without being flabby or overly booming; but the treble is what really impresses as it captures the metallic overtones of the strings with almost 3D detail. The attack is fast and tight, even with high-gain distortion, with the initial punch transitioning to smooth, lengthy sustain without sounding flat or compressed. The pickups are outrageously dynamic and responsive.

The guitar pairs exceptionally well with high-gain amps, particularly Friedmans, Fryettes, Marshalls, Mesa/Boogies and more, and it brought out desirable midrange and treble frequencies that I thought some of my amps weren’t capable of delivering well. The Shade Balderose Signature definitely has its own distinct sound, but it’s more a refinement of the tones that guitarists want and love than a radical departure from the standards. If you’re considering upgrading an amp, it might be better to try this guitar instead as I found it truly had a sweetening effect on all of the amps I played it through.

LIST PRICE: $1,199
MANUFACTURER: Reverend Guitars,

● Railhammer Chisel (bridge) and Hyper Vintage (neck) humbucking pickups deliver rich, roaring midrange, big bass and crisp, detailed treble that pairs well with high-gain amp tones.

● Controls include master volume with push/pull kill switch, master tone and a versatile bass contour control that dials in tones from full-fidelity humbucking to more defined single-coil textures.

You don’t have to be a fan of Shade Balderose or Code Orange to appreciate the rich, dynamic tones and fast, comfortable playability of the Reverend Shade Balderose Signature, as it’s a great guitar for any rock or metal player.

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Chris Gill

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.