BC Rich guitars have always stuck out of the crowd due to their uniqueness in design—however, these days, BC Rich guitars now also feature innovative upgrades and are factory optimised for speed and playability. Billed as a guitar designed by shredders – for shredders, Nick Jennison puts the BC Rich Warlock Extreme to the test.
Ask players from different generations what they think of when they hear “BC Rich”, and you’ll get very different answers. Millennials like myself will probably think of the dark period in the company’s history when the majority of their output was lacklustre, entry-level instruments for sweaty young men in Slipknot hoodies. But consult with the older crowd and they’re likely to remember the ultra-high-end custom shop designs played by the likes of Slash, Lita Ford and Joe Perry.
I have a big soft spot for the original purveyors of pointy guitars, and seeing such a unique and storied brand in the doldrums was heartbreaking. So when I heard at the 2020 NAMM show that BC Rich was under new ownership, I found myself desperately hoping they’d get back to what made those 70s/80s guitars so great. Well, if the new Warlock Extreme is anything to go by, BC Rich is back with a vengeance.
Gone are the tacky “horned” headstock, cheap hardware and plain, goopy poly finishes of yesteryear. In their place, we have premium Gotoh, Fishman and Floyd Rose appointments, a gorgeous matte white finish and gorgeous abalone binding. Yes, it’s an ostentatious look, but it’s a BC Rich Warlock for crying out loud. And you know what? In this new livery with the old reverse headstock it actually looks fantastic.
Another classic BC Rich feature I’m over the moon to see return is neck-through construction. While it’s not cheap to build guitars this way, it’s such a huge part of the look, feel and sound of those old guitars, and it’s on show here in all its naked glory. The satin-finished maple and wenge “Shredzilla” neck is an absolute dream for shreddy histrionics, but still has enough meat for laying down some vicious riffs. The factory action did leave a lot to be desired, but 30 seconds with an Allen key and we had the kind of action that’d make Shawn Lane blush, without a rattle or choke anywhere on the fretboard.
Tones are provided by a pair of Fishman Fluence Modern humbuckers, with a push-pull switch on the single volume control to switch between the “active” voice one and “passive” voice 2. While these pickups are hardly subtle, they’re incredibly articulate, punchy and juicy. The two voices are well balanced in terms of output, with more attack, midrange focus and smoothness in voice one and more fatness, grit and character invoice 2. There are no coil splits to speak of, but there’s enough high-end extension in these pickups for a very convincing modern, clean sound. I do wish this guitar came with the rechargeable battery pack instead of relying on 9v batteries, but that’s a relatively small quibble. The push-button killswitch is a bit “extra”, but a lot of fun all the same!
There are few things more disappointing than a poor quality tremolo, and BC Rich has decided to save you this disappointment by fitting the Warlock Extreme with a 1000 series Floyd Rose. As you’d expect, this thing is solid as a rock and laughs in the face of even the most violent dives, flutters and warbles. I tried pulling up a full major third; I tried diving the strings until they were slack; I could not put this guitar out of tune.
The BC Rich Warlock Extreme is a triumphant return to form for the storied brand. It’s not subtle, it’s not incredibly versatile, and it’s definitely not appropriate for playing weddings on the weekend. What it IS is a killer sounding hard rock and metal guitar that oozes quality and looks like something from a childhood “rock star” fantasy. If you’re self-assured enough to play a guitar like this (and you’ve got the chops to back it up), this guitar is a riot.
For more information, please visit: