Under the rule of the once and future king, one Edward Van Halen, there were a few axe-grinders building the weapon of choice for professional (and less so) sweep-pickers everywhere. Names like Charvel, Hamer, Kramer, BC Rich, Jackson and ESP were emblazoned across many a pointy, reverse headstock. While much bigger, older companies absorbed many of said builders, others sadly crumbled into dust once grunge ruined hairspray for everyone. However, of the ones that survived a select few seem to be in the midst of somewhat of a renaissance. With a renewed energy among younger guitarists for heavy metal’s speed, accuracy and high-gain, the Charvel factory is once again in full swing and churning out some examples that hark right back to the pedigree of their ‘80s heyday. Enter the new iteration of the Pro-Mod San Dimas Style.
All the classic tricks are there. Black hardware on naked maple necks, deeply recessed Floyd Rose tremolo systems, locking nuts and Super-Strat style dual humbuckers scream at you to send your fingers flying across the smooth yet dark rosewood fretboard. The neck is dangerously shallow and the action just about as low as it can get without buzzing away like it’s being sat on, and it’s all aimed at helping you get as close to Malmsteen speed as you can. And it works. I am by no means ready to tackle ‘Flight Of The Bumblebee’ as a player (as my workmates will attest to), but both of these T-birds had me racing up and down the strip.
One thing that sets them apart from their contemporaries is the sensitivity of the voicing in the Seymour Duncan JB TB-4s. These are not the usual high output, wax potted pick-ups you’d expect. They are coil-tapped for one thing, which makes them more versatile than most, but more importantly they are voiced to let the gain stage of your amp do more of the heavy lifting. Sure, with both rails engaged and a flat out TS808 in front of it, the Pro-Mod is going to djent like the best of them, but wind it back a little way and there is a sensitivity on tap that could make your mama cry.
The biggest stars of those glory days may have all succumbed to coke-bloat, and Gordon Gecko may be little more than a movie premise, but Paul Gilbert still rips his hot pink Iceman up like the ‘90s never happened. There are still people out there flying the flag for screaming solos and technical wizardry everywhere. It’s good to see that Charvel have them covered down to the ground with the historically accurate, sonically sensitive and lightening quick Pro-Mod San Dimas Style 2.