Charvel Pro-Mod So-Cal Style 1 HH HT E | Fender Music Australia | RRP: $1,899.00
Love it or hate it, shredding is here to stay. It’s here to stay because Heavy Metal does not bend to the will of oscillating trends, but rather exists completely independently from them. Like an old religion, its membership may decline from time to time, but the institution isn’t going anywhere. Perhaps this is because heavy metal music doesn’t attract a particular demographic so much as a particular disposition, one that will likely continue to regenerate across generations for as long as people reside on this planet. So, shredding is here to stay and like any craft, it requires the perfect tool. The Charvel Pro-Mod So-Cal is that tool.
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Rising to prominence in the 1980s in the hands of players such as Eddie Van Halen and Richie Sambora, Charvel Guitars earned a reputation for build quality, tuning stability and speed. Dubbed ‘Superstrats’, the brand’s hot-rodded So-Cal models combined the ergonomic body shape of a Fender Stratocaster with the high output humbuckers and locking tremolos favoured by metal guitarists. The result was a zeitgeist defining instrument that dominated the airwaves during that special time when metal bands shamelessly wore leopard print tights and metallic blouses.
Now, Charvel are reliving their glory days in the hands of throwback bands such as Steel Panther and speedy virtuosos like Guthrie Govan; and are still making instruments of an incredibly high quality. The So-Cal Style 1 HH HT E is a great example of that quality. A member of Charvel’s Pro-Mod series, a group of instruments hot rodded for unparalleled performance, versatile sound and exquisite style, the Pro-Mod So-Cal is a modern iteration of the classic ‘Superstrat’ design.
It may have been a favourite of the glam metal movement but this guitar does not suffer from any out of date fashion choices. Its minimalist look is simple and elegant, making it just as applicable to a modern aesthetic as it was in its heyday.
Featuring a sleek alder body finished in either a spectacular Pharaoh’s Gold, Candy Apple Red or Satin Primer Grey, the Style 1 HH is built for speed. Its bolt on maple neck is reinforced with graphite for superior stability, and features a unique Charvel shape that is firmly on the thinner side for all the shredders out there. The slim profile allows for effortless lightning fast runs and is finished in hand rubbed satin urethane, which is smooth and silky to the touch.
The seductively dark ebony fretboard is a modern 12” to 16” compound radius, allowing for maximum comfort in the chording area and increased speed as you move up the neck. The 22 jumbo frets are perfectly levelled, ensuring a low action and facilitating effortless bends and vibrato from top to bottom.
This Pro-Mod is loaded with a set of Seymour Duncan Distortion pickups, a pair of high output passive humbuckers with huge ceramic magnets for maximum power. The coils are wound hot for a classic metal tone and are designed to produce a balanced but fiery response.
Metal guitar tones often suffer from a mid-scoop, but that’s not the case with these expertly crafted pickups.
In the bridge position, the low strings remain tight and mean, keeping the bottom end contained. This combined with the pickup’s rich upper mid range makes it the perfect choice for hard hitting crunchy rhythms and blazing lead tones. Set clean, the bridge pickup can really jangle, allowing the generous amount of top end to shine through.
The neck pickup is hot enough to deliver smooth, fluid solo tones when distorted, whilst still being capable of some lovely chime when set clean. A great position for ultra-saturated double tapping tones, the rounded off highs help to eliminate excess string talk and keep your solos sounding smooth.
Both pickups are wax potted for consistently squeal-free performances, even when you’re cranking that 5150 stack that’s way too big for the room. For added versatility, this model also includes a handy coil-tap function, adding a spectrum of thinner, more strat-like tones to the instrument’s repertoire. This broadens the scope of the guitar’s palette to include more traditional jazz and blues tones, a useful tool in a world in which genres often collide.
Keeping to the theme of high performance, the So-Cal Style 1 includes a HT6 string-through hardtail bridge for maximum tuning stability, which is a sleek jet black to match the rest of the hardware. This model also features a heel-mounted truss rod adjustment wheel for easy access and Charvel’s own sealed die-cast locking tuners. No amount of cacophonous heavy metal tomfoolery is going to knock this speed machine out of tune.
Despite Charvel’s rather specific legacy, I can certainly imagine this guitar suiting a variety of players. It isn’t hard to envisage a bespectacled jazz kid with a soft spot for Frank Zappa rocking one of these in his uni band, taking advantage of the smooth playability and digging the utilitarian design. It’s also not a stretch to imagine an indie band picking one of these off the shelf, perhaps ironically, perhaps out of ignorance of Charvel’s association with heavy metal, and finding it to be exceptionally comfortable in their hands. The coil-tap would get a workout in that band I’m sure.
But, at the end of the day, this thing is built for shredding and that’s what it does best. It’s as slick and speedy as a guitar can get, and its high output humbuckers are crying out for some raucous 80s riffage. Van Halen, Twisted Sister and Ratt knew what they were doing when they picked these high octane axes as their weapon of choice and luckily thanks to Fender, you can too.
The Pro-Mod So-Cal Style 1 HH HT E is a tool for heavy metal and in heavy metal, speed is king. If you’re of that disposition, you already know what I’m talking about and you’re probably on your way to try one out now. If not, go try one anyway. You never know! Leopard print tights may not be your thing but this guitar just might be.