Hands-On Review:Daring in design and loaded with features

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The whole vintage thing is cool, but I have always found it a little strange that so many guitar players choose instruments that are so traditional - their dad's guitars that haven't changed their look for 40 or 50 years. It just doesn't seem right that the agents of anarchy and rebellion should be so conservative, such rock 'n' roll conformists.

Some still believe that rock should be radical, extreme, and confrontational. It should scare the crap out of authority, make parents uneasy - if not recoil in shock and horror. Rock should have attitude and passion, and so should the guitars that play it. B.C. Rich makes guitars for those whose music walks on the wild side. They're not vintage. They don't look anything like the guitar your dad used to play. Even their names are threatening. The Bich, the Warlock, the Assassin, the Ironbird - these are guitars for the dangerous crowd. Their shapes are extreme, edgy, suggestively gothic.

B.C. Rich NJ Series BeastEnter the Beast
BCR's latest offering takes the BC style to a new extreme. It was designed by Bernie Rico Sr. and Brian Hoffman of the band Deicide. Its name, "The Beast," was contributed by Dave Stone, a longtime BCR custom shop craftsman. This is no basher guitar, as the name might suggest. There's nothing thuggish about it. Rather, it is sleekly sinister, stylishly Draculean. The body shape suggests vampire wings flared in flight. It's striking. And if you're a lefty, you can reverse the strings. I think it even looks better upside down.

It's the kind of guitar that makes a statement the moment you step on stage, so you'd better be ready to play some serious music. Originally it was intended only to be a limited custom shop creation, but it met with such positive response from the pros that BCR decided to issue it as part of its redesigned and upgraded NJ series.

High-end features
All of the NJ and Platinum series guitars from BCR have undergone a redesign that has kicked them up in output, tone, and playability. If the Beast is any indication, players will appreciate this move. It gave me the feel of a quality axe from the first moment I took it in hand. I like to check out a new guitar unplugged. If it has real resonance, you can feel and hear it even without any amplification. The Beast proved very responsive and toneful. Strummed chords rang clear and true. No muffled deadness, no trebly jangle. I could tell I was going to like what I would hear through my amp.

I also took an immediate liking to its neck. The profile is thin, very easy to play. If you're into fast riffs, this is the kind of neck that will set you free to play them. Slide up to the highest frets, and your hand isn't stopped by the heel. BCR has incorporated its FastBack® heel into all of its NJ models and it is a worthwhile improvement. The top frets play as effortlessly as the lower regions of the neck.

B.C. Rich NJ Series BeastWhen I plugged into my amp, it just got better. This is one incredibly responsive and lively guitar. It has the kind of sustain you'd expect from neck-thru construction. This has to be due to its chesswood body. Chesswood is an excellent tone wood, similar to maple in density, and with much better vibrational characteristics than alder, louder with lots more sustain.

The pickups are the second half of the equation. These are two killer humbuckers. They are loaded with output (over 17K ohms). They are fully capable of tearing off heads and ripping out hearts, but their real beauty lies in their sound quality. They have tone, loads of tone, even when cranked to shred levels. Single notes or power chords stay in balance, which is unusual for such hot pickups. As a final note, the Beast I was given to play was beautifully finished, a transparent red over a beautifully quilted top, and well equipped with closed die cast tuners, locking nut, and a licensed Floyd Rose® trem with a ribbed handle (easy to grab securely). For overall looks, sound, and setup, this and all the new NJ and Platinum models are killer guitars, with distinctive style and the playability to inspire your most possessed music.