By anders pearson 21 Jul 2009
This is the prettiest guitar I own. That flame maple top looks so good in person; a photo really can’t capture the translucency and depth.
I think my first exposure to 7-string guitars was reading about Trey Azagthoth of Morbid Angel and Steve Vai playing them in the early 90s. They were hard to find, expensive, and had a very exotic reputation. The extended range let you get down into detuned death metal territory but still keep the high end for solos. Of course, you had to be some kind of virtuoso to justify needing that range. Then Korn came along and the next thing you knew, 7-strings were everywhere. All the manufacturers had cheap ones to cash in on the trend and all the kids had drop tuned 7-strings and were all playing the same palm-muted one-finger power chord riffs. Eventually the nu-metal backlash kicked in and 7-strings became uncool by association.
Finally, in recent years, I feel like some sort of synthesis has been reached in the 7-string dialectic and they’ve found a proper place in the world. Playing one doesn’t immediately mark you as a shredder or as a nu-metal wanker.
Anyway, I’ve wanted a 7-string for many years so I started looking around for a good one last fall. I was originally drawn to the Ibanez Xiphos 7-string (my roommate has a 6-string Xiphos and it’s a solid axe) then was tempted away by the Schecter C-7 Blackjack ATX. I was watching eBay waiting for one of those to come up at a good price and this older C-7+ came along and I ended up getting it for a total steal.
Interestingly, the Blackjack had made it to the top of my list after seeing Jesu play live a couple times and being absolutely blown away by Justin Broadrick’s guitar tone. He’s been a hero of mine since his Godflesh days anyway. I did a bit of research and found that he was playing an older C-7+ and had very recently upgraded it with Seymour Duncan Blackout pickups. The Blackjack appeared to be the closest equivalent among Schecter’s current lineup and was getting excellent reviews on its own.
So I ended up getting an even closer match to Broadrick’s guitar than I’d planned. As far as I can tell from pictures, like this one, the C-7+ I have is the exact same model to within a year or so of production. Same headstock, set neck joint, and “vector” fretboard inlays. I haven’t been able to nail down the exact date on mine, but I’m fairly sure that combination makes it somewhere in the 1999 to 2000 range.
Construction-wise, I’d describe the C-7+ as being pretty similar to a what you’d get if you made a 7-string Les Paul with a 25.5 scale neck and strat shaped body. Like a LP, it’s got mahogany body and neck, maple top, rosewood fretboard, set neck, a fat neck, and a fixed bridge. It weighs a ton and feels solid and indestructible. Action is good but not as low as my Parker (what is?). The fat neck makes it extra beefy feeling so it’s not really as shred oriented as a thin Ibanez 7-string wizard neck. All in all, the construction of the guitar is just excellent.
The tone is very dark and warm. The pickups, which are “Duncan designed” (meaning they are Seymour Duncan pickups but assembled by lower production cost factories in Asia), are relatively low output. Not bad sounding, but they don’t scream. That fat, warm Jesu sort of sound is right up their alley, but they don’t have enough bite to work for death metal. They just get muddy sounding instead of mean and growly. It really needs a warm clean sound or a smooth distortion to sound its best (and it does sound good when you stick to that territory).
I can see why Broadrick switched out the pickups and I’m thinking of doing the same (although I’d end up paying as much or more for a pair of Blackouts than I paid for the guitar itself so I haven’t been able to justify it yet).
Playing a 7-string has been a fun experience if not exactly what I was expecting. I have pretty big hands so the wider neck isn’t that much of an issue for me. Adapting hasn’t been too hard because I tend to stick to single note and two or three note chords which are easily re-located to the lower string. A 7-string is problematic if you play a lot of larger chord shapes since that’s just one more string you have to figure out how to finger.
I like this guitar a lot but I have to admit that I’m still tempted by the Blackjack. The Blackjack seems to really take the C-7+ and turn it into a better metal guitar. It extends the scale to a 26.5 inch baritone scale to keep the tension on the low B string under control (or let you tune even lower). The Blackout pickups and a snappier ebony fretboard should tighten the tone up and make it work better for aggressive styles. The smoother neck joint makes for even better upper fret access.