Caparison Guitars has been making some of the best-looking metal guitars since 1995, which is coincidentally about the time the DayGlo, awkwardly pointy and obnoxiously ugly trend of guitars that only CC DeVille would be caught dead holding came to an end. A new era of guitars for the metal guitarist was being carved through the painful glam past into a classier new future, as grunge laid waste to the epoch of BC Rich and Jackson guitars almost too dangerously jagged and spiky to wield onstage. Caparison guitars were the devil’s deal, a compromise between the pointed past and the rounded future – metal enough to hold in a photo shoot splattered in blood, but classy enough to play in a Paul Anka cover band without causing too much fuss.
The TAT Special 7 FM I reviewed is a further evolution of this idea, a marriage of sophistication and danger, futuristic and classic, poetry and pornography. It has a matte flame maple top, but at the other end there’s the devil’s tail headstock that’ll poke your eye out. It’s got the classic Caparison clock inlays, and a neck-through construction with 27 frets. It’s something your grandma AND your bandmates will look at and let out a low whistle – it’s gorgeous. It’s got a lot going on.
The review model I received played spectacularly – until I put a set of custom heavy gauge strings on there (10 – 52 with a low 68). Then I had to wrangle the Schaller floating bridge into submission – my own fault, really, but I always put new strings on before I record (I play tested the thing for like 3 weeks, it needed new strings). Once I got it dialed in, it was back to where it was when it came in and I was back in business. I tracked the demo through my Revv Generator 120 with a VFE Ice Scream OD in front, and was pretty pleased with the sound I got. I think that after having reviewed the Caparison Brocken recently and really loving the DiMarzio D-Activator and PAF pickups, the Caparison pickups in the TAT Special were a little underwhelming. Not bad, just not quite the screaming demons I was hoping for. Especially when everything else about this guitar is so top shelf.
The main complaints I have about this guitar are my usual ones – comfort contours. The Brocken had a very sassy forearm cut, but the TAT has none at all. Also, on the backside of the access cutaways there are some tiny scoops that suggest that they put at least some effort into making room down there for your hand, but stopped short of really digging in. That’s not to say that the horn doesn’t have good access – it’s quite deep. Just that a little more consideration for the human body would go a long way towards making this guitar perfect. I’m also a lot more partial to a matching headstock than a basic black one, especially with such a top to match! That’s a personal preference I don’t expect everyone to share, so I won’t put that one in the suggestion box, but hey, it never hurts to ask.
“Handmade in Japan” is a high standard to be held to – the finest luthiers in the world spend their attention to detail there, and the Caparison TAT Special FM lives up to the expectation that comes with that label. It’s a high priced label ($3300 street), but when you hold it in your hands, you won’t want to put it down for any price.
For more information, visit the Caparison Guitars website.