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This article was originally published in issue #42
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Dave Mustaine’s VMNT series of distinctive, V-shaped signature guitars have formed a major part of Dean’s product range for quite a while now, with a number of iterations over the years that have ranged from affordable, mass produced instruments to ultra-high end, US-made limited edition runs with only 50 pieces for sale. All of the guitars feature the same small bodied and extremely pointy Flying-V design for a ‘more Metal than Metal’ look, but the latest release is truly something unique within the range and possibly within the entire industry!
The story goes that, on a recent trip to Jerusalem, Dave Mustaine was enamoured with the ancient icons he encountered there. Inspired by what he saw, he set about designing a guitar that reflected these ancient artefacts within his signature line and the result is the USA made VMNT Holy Grail guitar, featuring a blood red finish, topped with hand-laid flakes of genuine 24k gold leaf. To fully realise the link between his inspiration and the resulting instrument, each guitar also comes with an engraved chalice to commemorate the ancient iconography that influenced the design. This is, of course, a collector’s only affair with only 33 guitars being produced (of which we obtained number one!) to commemorate 33 years of Dave’s band, Megadeth.
The Holy Grail features a mahogany body, neck and top, with an ebony fretboard and 24 medium frets. The back of the body and neck are finished in an opaque, gloss black finish for a suitably ‘Metal’ look that contrasts well with the incredible Blood Red and gold leaf top. The guitar utilises a Tone Pros Tune-o-Matic bridge, high quality Grover tuners and a pair of active Seymour Duncan Live Wire Gold humbuckers in the neck and bridge position. Tones are controlled via a three-way switch, a pair of volume controls, one for each pickup, and a master tone control, all finished in matching black.
This being a US-made Dean guitar, the construction is as good as it gets, as is the factory set-up with a super low action that begs to be played fast and accurately. The inlaid gold leaf is particularly stunning, considering that each delicate element has to be placed by hand and then the gloss finish applied on top. The pointy body has been given comfort contours on both the top and back, making this a far more comfortable guitar to play than you might expect, although as with all V-shapes, using a strap is essential whilst in a seated position, since the guitar won’t sit on your lap comfortably. Fretwork is superb, the medium sized fretwire providing more than enough height for easy playability of both riff and lead work.
The VMNT Holy Grail is certainly a ‘Metal’ guitar through and through with the Seymour Duncan Live Wire Gold pickups offering very high output tones and masses of gain. The beauty of these pickups is that, whilst they offer the higher gain potential of an active design, they are designed so that the dynamic range and feel isn’t sacrificed in the process. In practice this is very effective with a pair of pickups that sound great for clean tones as well as super saturated ones. For such a high output signal they clean up rather well too, so having a volume control for each pickup is a nice addition for those using a single channel amp for their tonal palette.
Without a doubt, the VMNT Holy Grail is a guitar that will appeal to collectors and truly devoted Mustaine fans. The price tag alone is enough to put off all but the most ardent and affluent of potential buyers, but this is a unique instrument and the gold leaf obviously adds hugely to the long term value of an instrument such as this. Dean is aware of this and in producing only 33 guitars, these will likely become collector’s items in the future and more of an investment item for those that can afford them and are big enough fans. For the rest of us we can look at this guitar as a fun and unique project that shows what the US-based Dean factory is capable of.
It’s hard to come to a definitive conclusion on a guitar such as this since so few people will ever get to own or even play one and it will appeal to such a small part of the market that the normal factors of a review don’t necessarily apply to such a collector’s item. It’s easy to say that the VMNT is a good guitar but far harder to say whether it represents value for money, since it was never designed to do so. It does represent an important part of Dave Mustaine and Dean’s ongoing relationship however, and will certainly be seen as an essential purchase by collectors.