Portland-based death metal band Vitriol have been making intense, thrashy tunes for quite a while now. With their latest 2017 EP Pain Will Define Their Death, the dudes are definitely on the up and up in the Portland metal scene. And like many gearheads, their guitarist/vocalist, Kyle Rasmussen, has amassed quite the impressive collection of guitars over the years. To help showcase parts from his catalog of axes, Kyle has put together the following list of his Top 5 Favorite Guitars that he personally owns. This is a great example of having different instruments for different occasions, being able to learn about older models, and just geeking out over some sweet gear, which, if you haven’t noticed, is what we’re all about here. Take it away, Kyle!
At eleven years old my stepfather walked me into the local Guitar Center. He cut me loose and asked me to pick out my favorite axe. It didn’t take long before I dragged him to see a Bronze Series B.C. Rich Warlock in Ferrari Red. As a metal guitar player himself, this was a very proud moment for my father. Though I imagine he had no appreciation for its potential to serve as the catalyst for a lifelong obsession.
Extreme metal is my greatest passion, but extreme metal guitars come in at a very close second. They go hand in hand. The forward-thinking, violent designs reflect the convention-shattering, sheep-crushing ethos of fringe metal culture. For too long they have carried the burdening weight of stigma, being perceived as juvenile, fashion-over-function, impractical, whatever unfounded critique traditionalists can lob their way. And while there have certainly been failed and superficial experiments in the world of extreme guitars, these toxic ideas couldn’t be farther from the truth. But like the genres in which they usually find their home, the role of the pointy guitar has been a niche and underground one, shifting hands from die-hards to enthusiasts. Large manufacturers periodically take chances on radical shapes, but they seldom survive more than one or two production years before going the way of the Dodo. The companies falling back on the quiet comfort of super strats and single cutaways.
My personal collection has grown over the years, and when not acquiring them personally I’m celebrating them via my pointy guitar-centric Instagram account (@victoriousweapons.) Here are five of my personal favorites from the armory.
Jackson Warrior 1991 Professionals
Getting this list started right. These are two guitars, but I figured them being identical models would provide me some leeway to cheat them both into one slot. These are the cream of the crop, my most cherished axes. Jackson, specifically early 90s Jacksons, are the end-all-be-all of high-performance heavy metal guitars. Second to none build quality, wafer-thin necks, radical experimentation, and a tenacious commitment to perfecting the weaponization of a six-stringed instrument.
The Warrior was designed in 1990 by a dude named Mikey Wright. I don’t know what drugs he was taking in ’89 but get me some of that shit. The shape wasn’t completely anomalous, as Rick Derringer had already sold B.C. Rich on the similarly proportioned Stealth shape long before the Warrior was birthed, but it was highly cutting-edge nonetheless. The shape of the four points was designed to reflect that of their iconic headstock, connected by deeply sculpted bevels. It featured three reverse slanted rail humbuckers, a Schaller made licensed Jackson Floyd, maple neck-through construction, alder body, and ebony board. It also boasted active circuitry courtesy of their JE-1200 mid shaping preamp which effectively turned your volume knob into a wah pedal by activating the mini toggle. Fucking wicked. With all its extremity it is highly practical, maintaining superior upper fret access, excellent balance, and an extremely comfortable seated posture.
These guitars are extremely rare as they were only manufactured for a little over a year between 1990 and 1991. Eventually, Jackson reintroduced the Warrior shape in 2001 with more streamlined and conventional specs; A 25.5” scale length in favor of the original’s shorter 24.75” Gibson style scale length, standard positioned dual humbuckers and less exaggerated contours. Still a great shape, but the original reigns supreme.
Bernie Rico Jr. Vixen
What a bad bitch. Bernie Rico Jr, son of Bernie Rico Sr. of B.C. Rich guitars stuck with his father’s company for some time after Sr’s death before following in his footsteps and branching off on his own. He started Bernie Rico Jr. Guitars sometime in the mid-2000s, the exact year escapes me. The Vixen, his take on the classic flying v, was his flagship model. Gary Holt was one of his earliest and highest-profile endorsees taking the shape on as his personal signature.
In early 2012 the company went dark, Bernie’s wife Teresa going public about his persistent mental health issues. This abrupt collapse of the company resulted in a lot of inner industry drama and scorched clients. Turbulence and drama aside, BRJ made some lethal fucking instruments. These were true, inspired progressions and improvements on his father’s company’s designs. I’m hopeful we will see more from BRJ, and the rumor mill suggests we will.
This particular model features mahogany neck-through design, mahogany wings, and highly figured spalted maple top, ebony board, and Bare Knuckle Black Hawk pickups, and I chose to install the new Floyd Rose Pro 1000 tremolo, effectively their take on the Ibanez Lo Pro Edge.
Jackson Special Edition King V “Blackened”
I’m not sure if I’ve seen a guitar that embodies the spirit of extreme metal more than this beast. You just can’t fuck with anything about this. The Jackson Custom Shop knocked this thing out of the park conceptually. Matte black finish, reverse headstock, mahogany neck through with mahogany wings, Seymour Duncan Blackout active humbuckers, original Floyd Rose tremolo, black on black logo, and the single black shark fin inlay on the 12th fret really sets the build off.
Ultimately the poor upper fret access and the heftier neck profile resulted in this guitar becoming case candy for me, but I can’t manage to let it go. It will stay in the collection for some time to come.
B.C. Rich USA custom KKV
My most recent addition, even though the process began nearly a year ago. I acquired this as a blank from a fellow B.C. Rich enthusiast. Every once in a while you can find an unfinished USA build floating around if you spend enough time on the forums and classifieds. Rumor has it this build was actually intended for Kerry King, but it fell through the cracks. That isn’t verified but I choose to believe. I’ve always wanted a Speed V body with a Beast headstock that wasn’t plastered in tribal. It had been sitting at Dan Lawrence’s shop for some time as a project that had hit the back burner. If you’re not familiar with Dan Lawrence, he’s THE name in paint. He still does work for the Jackson and B.C. Rich custom shops while putting out work through his personal company, DRL Graphics.
My aesthetic concept for the guitar was to pay homage to the original 90s Kerry King crackle Vs from ESP, but with a stealth twist. So rather than red for the base, we opted for a metallic gunmetal under the black crackle. Bonus cool factor is that Dan used a can 25-year-old of B.C. Rich crackle paint he still had from when he was with the company. All black hardware, a minimal control layout with an accessible toggle placement, and direct mount Bare Knuckle Aftermath pickups for that extra stripped custom look. Couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. Dan, you killed it, man. It’s a true one-of-a-kind work of art.
Yeah, yeah, I know. After all that talk of moving away from strat style bodies. I just wouldn’t feel right if this didn’t make the list. This guitar was my first truly high-end performance guitar after my two B.C. Rich Warlocks. I developed almost all of my chops on this thing, it has been on every tour, every recording, every solo. It is a workhorse that has never failed me. The craftsmanship on this guitar is hard to believe, especially with it being a production model. There’s real magic happening at the J Craft HQ. I actually believe Japanese guitars to be generally superior to US guitars.
This model has also become somewhat of a cult classic. It is highly sought after by Ibanez enthusiasts and when you find one pop up on eBay or Reverb it is usually selling for close to its original price tag of $2,000. Worth every penny, I assure you.
This axe features a five-piece maple/wenge neck-through design, mahogany wings, and a stunning 5A quilted maple top under a warm Royal Brown Burst finish. It originally came equipped with DiMarzio/Ibanez passive humbuckers, but I swapped them out for the tried and true EMG 81/85 combo.