Sunday, March 8, 2015

Haiku-nnihilate This Week

Written by: Sean Austin

Date: March 8th, 2015

Beau Monde Guitars is proud (full disclosure: author’s words, not theirs) to present a new semi-weekly column, Haiku-nnihilate This Week. Each week (or so), writer, musician and local sex symbol Sean Austin will be choosing a batch of new music releases to review in the traditional Japanese form of haiku. The haiku as we know it today (a 17 syllable poem split into 3 lines consisting of 5-7-5 respectively) was initially known as ‘hokku’, merely the opening stanza of a collaborative linked poem, or ‘renga’. Around the 17th century hokku began to appear a standalone poem; yet it is not until the late 19th century that legendary Japanese poet Masaoka Shiki, widely regarded as a master of the form, renamed hokku independent of further metrically structured writing ‘haiku’. For those unfamiliar with the form, following is a sample unknowingly recited by famed 20th century hesher, Garth Algar:

“I mean, we’re looking
down on Wayne’s basement. Only,
that’s not Wayne’s basement.”

Now, in the 21st century, revered critic and all around awesome guy Sean Austin will further propel this historically significant style of poetry into the modern consciousness by reviewing current pieces of auditory pop-culture, applying the ancient form to do so. I hope you’re all sitting down as you read this because this combination of tradition, innovation and sheer truth is guaranteed to knock even the most hardened music and poetry aficionados flat on their asses…

All That Remains – The Order of Things
Riffs are off the chain.
I don’t like the clean vocals,
but that’s just me though…

Torche – Restarter
Crushing guitar tone.
I like the clean vocals here.
I’m inconsistent.

Screaming Females – Rose Mountain
Huge leap for this band.
Best album production yet.
Melissa can shred.

Scorpions – Return to Forever
50 years a band.
Don’t break up > become “legends”,
like RHCP.

BADBADNOTGOOD and Ghostface Killah – Sour Soul
Ghostface still got it.
Hard rhymes over some fresh jazz.
Exit the trap house.

Kid Rock – First Kiss
Strong Mellencamp vibes.
At least he isn’t rapping.
NASCAR fans will like.

Dan Deacon – Gliss Riffer
Less schizophrenic.
Reminds me of Talking Heads
if they were Daft Punk.

The King Khan & BBQ Show – Bad News Boys
Garage rock doo-wop.
I thought they had broken up?
Welcome back, this rocks.

THEESatisfaction – EarthEE
Sub-Pop: great label.
THEESatisfaction: Sub-Par
Stick to the rock, guys.

Pelican – The Cliff EP
Cliff Burton was cool.
“The Cliff” here is not Burton.
‘Nuff said, skip this one.

…and just like that, this week in recorded music has been summed up in 170 syllables. If this piece was half as informative as it was fun to write then I have done my job. Be sure and check back next week for more of the good stuff. All 10 of these releases are available for purchase in stores, on iTunes, and in bootleg form out of the back of Thor’s van in the Newbridge Commons parking lot. I hope I have adequately helped educate you in your consumerist tendencies for the week. Until then, drink your milk, eat your veggies and keep on rockin’ in the free world!

ESP Marks 40 Year Anniversary

Written by: Sean Austin

Date: February 23rd, 2015

40 years is a long time for a company to stay in business, especially in the current economy. The best way to ensure longevity in any industry is to find a niche, get your brand’s product in the hands of those who use it most, and keep your customer happy. ESP has been known as the premier heavy metal guitar manufacturer for nearly their entire run, finding their way into the legacies of such legendary acts as Metallica, Slayer and the Deftones among countless others. By matching quality woods and designs with killer electronics by EMG Pickups ESP has maximized the quality of their axes and delivered a product that does what it supposed to and has consistently thrilled the callous-handed cult worldwide.

This year marks ESP’s 40th anniversary and to commemorate the event the company has put out a limited run of gorgeous pieces including two from the Eclipse series, an EC, an MH and its 7-string brother, the H7. While all of them are beautiful, high quality shred machines, I’m going to concentrate on my favorite in the series: the EC-2015.

I will be completely truthful, the first time I saw an ESP Eclipse I absolutely hated it. Since the time I was young, anytime I see a Les Paul-shaped guitar (with the exception of the Heritage models, I’ve been lusting over those for years) I get a severe case of the fantods. It always seemed like a cheap and desperate attempt to capitalize on the respectable legacy of the Gibson guitar company. However, after seeing what my good friend Zakk Mild, one of the most tasteful and talented metal guitarists in New Jersey, does with his LTD EC-1000QM, my mind was swiftly changed. Be sure to check out his band,Huldra, for a taste of what I’m talking about, you shan’t regret it.

Since being converted by my good friend I have definitely warmed up to the series. The line’s features include super fast, playable necks, locking tuners, a Tune-o-matic style bridge, and top notch EMG pickup configurations. However, if I’m being honest, the finishes offered always turned me off. The satin black finish always looked corny to me, their version of the sunburst finish comes off as gaudy and cheap, and I feel like they ruined their beautiful selection of quilted maple with a black cherry finish that while isn’t completely hideous, just doesn’t suit my personal tastes.

Well, I feel like they finally nailed it with the EC-2015. They did us right by covering that gorgeous maple with a see-thru satin finish in a color all of us metalheads can get with: black. Looks, which are on point, aside, this thing is stacked. Specs are listed at the bottom of this article, so I am just going to touch on the features that I like the most.

First off, ESP changed up the pickup configuration on this one, opting for the EMG 57/66 array, which are PAF-style and feature Alinco-V magnets complimented by steel pole pieces. A little change from your typical 81/85 setup, they get more of a classic, warmer sound than their more metallic, sharp sounding counterparts. Fans of Gibson’s Burstbuckers and ’57 Classic Humbuckers take note.

The guitar also comes with a certificate of authenticity from ESP and a special 40th Anniversary hardshell case. Both the front and back of the headstock are imprinted with ESP’s 40th Anniversary logo, which further makes these beauties stand out from the pack. Limited to 300 pieces worldwide and with a relatively modest street price of $1,099, I would recommend you jump on this one if you like what you see.

All in all, this guitar has the potential to make a believer out of even the most hardened Les Paul purist. It really has it all, ESP’s widely beloved thin U-shaped neck, a gorgeous finish, a fresh set of pickups atypical to the brand that help distinguish it from previous models, and most importantly, a consumer friendly price tag. The only thing missing for me is the binding they put on the neck of the EC-1000QM, but hey, there’s a 50th Anniversary coming up in 2025, right?


• Construction: Set-Neck
• Scale: 24.75″
• Body: Mahogany
• Top: Quilted Maple
• Neck: Mahogany
• Fingerboard: Ebony
• Fingerboard Radius: 350mm
• Finish: See Thru Black Satin
• Nut Width: 42mm
• Nut Type: Molded
• Neck Contour: Thin U
• Frets/Type: 24 XJ
• Hardware Color: Black
• Strap Button: Standard
• Tuners: LTD Locking
• Bridge: Tonepros Locking TOM Bridge & Tailpiece
• Neck PU: EMG 66 Brushed Black Chrome
• Bridge PU: EMG 57 Brushed Black Chrome
• Electronics: Active
• Electronics Layout: Vol/Vol/Tone/Toggle Switch
• Case: CECFF40
• Case Included: Y

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Pedaltrain Debuts New 2015 Models

Written by: Sean Austin

Date: February 14th, 2015

In this writer’s humble opinion, Pedaltrain remains the leading producer of widely available pedalboards. Sure, you can get a board with ebony back and sides, a cooling fan and onboard USB support built by one of the many custom shops that have sprung up in the last few years, but it’ll cost you an arm and a leg and to be perfectly frank, few of us truly need those options. For the average musician a sturdy, ergonomic board with power supply mounting options will do just fine. Gator, RoadRunner and SKB all make fine products, but in my personal experience as both a salesman and an active live performer, Pedaltrain blows them all out of the water. They have always blended practicality, a sleek look and a strong frame in perfect harmony with one another without following trends or betraying their no-frills reputation.

At this year’s NAMM convention Pedaltrain showed us that they are still completely in touch with their customer base by making a few minor tweaks that yield major improvement without straying from the basic nature of the boards which many of us have come to love. By making the mounting rails thinner across the entire line, Pedaltrain have also shrunk the gaps between them which allows for even cleaner power and signal routing possibilities. Also for the Classic, Nova and Terra series is that a full gap, like those between the rails on the face of the boards, will be replacing the port holes on the back of the boards designed to grant cable access to your power supply. Now instead of having to line up your power supply (or multiple supplies in some cases) with the previously designated holes, you can place them anywhere you please or even add more supplies! This small modification is by far my favorite feature of the new line; it is simple but completely brilliant.

Further testaments to Pedaltrain’s attention to small details that make big differences are the changes they have made to their gig bags. The most important of these changes would be the replacement of the nylon zipper with an all new steel tooth design. Customers have reportedly complained that the nylon zippers were wearing out and ceasing to function after years of repeated use. While this has yet to happen to me, I can fully appreciate the fact that Pedaltrain keeps the consumer in mind by designing a sturdier zipper that will last longer instead of forcing customers to purchase a new bag from them if and when their original one fails. Now that’s class, people! The bags will also feature more padding to keep your precious pedals safe and sound in transport; now who can’t get behind that? The only change that is coming this year that I’m not wild about is the fact that Pedaltrain bags will no longer have a storage pocket on the front of the bag. Apparently owners of the bags have let the fine folks over at Pedaltrain know that few of them used the storage pocket and that they found it unnecessary and bulky. I always personally liked the pocket a lot. As someone who changes their pedal array frequently for different projects and applications I enjoyed the fact that I could throw a couple extra pedals and cables in there in case I wanted to add something into my line or switch something out. I personally like to bring as few bags to a gig as possible, so throwing tools, batteries, and other emergency supplies in there has become second nature to me over time, so I have to say I am sad to see the front pocket go.

Sticking with theme of enclosures for these great boards, let’s talk cases. Pedaltrain previously only offered hard cases for their larger format pedalboards, leaving the smaller ones with only the gig bag option. Well good news for all the players out there that are only using 2 or 3 boutique pedals that they want the extra protection for; Pedaltrain is now offering the hard case option on the Metro series and the tour case for the Novo, Classic and Terra series. Unfortunately the Nano series is still gig bag only, but I doubt that many Nano users will mind as the whole point of the board is to save space and a case would only add to the dimensions of their rig. I have always been a bag guy, I personally like to keep things as light as possible weight-wise, but there have certainly been times that I’ve had to slam the brakes in the van and cringed as I watched my gig bag get crushed by a massive Marshall cabinet and swore that I was going to buy a hard case the next day. I’ve yet to make the switch but it’s good to know that Pedaltrain will be able to provide a solid and relatively light weight case if and when I do take the plunge.

Let’s get to the heart of the matter, the boards themselves. We’ve got a few updates of current models and a few entirely new additions to the line. First off we have a nice little upgrade to a nice little board and fairly recent addition to the Pedaltrain family, the Nano! The new Nano+ comes with all of the upgrades listed above as well as now being sized up a few inches in order to hold 5 pedals instead of 4. The board is still compact enough to be one of the least intrusive and most convenient boards on the market but has been enlarged just enough to add another effect or to give your current setup a little more breathing room.

Next up we have the all new Metro. The metro is another compact board for those of us who only use a few pedals and aren’t staring down at our feet when we play and just want to rock out with a nice little meat and potatoes array. The Metro will be replacing the Mini series, introducing a sleek 3 rail design and an even more sleek design. No unnecessary bells or whistles here, just a nice, small, clean board for the player only using a few pedals. They are all 8-inches deep and range from 16 to 24-inches wide, so they are deeper than the Nano+ (which comes in at 5”x18”) but start out at 2-inches less width.

Lovers of the Classic series (such as me) will be very pleased with this year’s updates and additions to the line. In addition to the previously mentioned full gap feature, the height of these boards has been increased. The increased angle helps with accuracy when stomping your favorite boxes. I anticipate this being received warmly as most classic users do have quite a few switches on their board and hitting your Fuzz Factory instead of your Maxon Phaser when trying to bust out a smooth, clean creamy solo can result in disaster. The Classic Jr. and Classic Pro, mainstays of the brand, are now joined by the Classic 2 which dimension-wise falls right between the two.

Now we’re getting into shoegaze territory, the Novo and Terra series. The Novo boards are nearly 15-inches deep and range from 18 to 32-inches wide. These boards have 5 rails on them and the gap under the top rail is wider than the other 3 spacings. It would be easy to get 3 rows of pedals running on any one of these, and as they get wider they allow for even more inventive configurations. If all that space isn’t enough for your outer space sonic explorations, then you might want to check out the Terra, the big daddy of them all. Replacing the Grande series, the Terra is the same depth as the Novo but measures out to a whopping 42-inches. If you can’t fit it on there, you may have a pedal problem and should consider seeking counseling.

All in all, I think Pedaltrain is going to have a good year in 2015, as are the pedal-obsessed public at large. The biggest advantage that they have is that they truly take into account the practicality of their products and value their customers opinions enough to take them into account when designing a new product or redesigning a staple of their brand. The 2015 line is expected to hit shelves around April/May of this year, so keep your eyes peeled and your pedals close by, they may have a new home on a Pedaltrain board.