B.C. Rich Guitars Review: Warlock, Mockingbird & Villain
B.C. Rich Guitars: Made for Metal
B.C. Rich guitars like the Warlock, Mockingbird and Villain are serious sonic machines. B.C. Rich has a long legacy as one of the best guitar makers for hard rock and heavy metal, and their influence spans decades. Guitarists like Mick Mars of Motley Crue, Chuck Schuldiner of Death, Kerry King of Slayer and Lita Ford helped to make B.C. Rich guitars a big part of the metal landscape. If these guitars got the job done for them, they’ll work for you too!
I’ve played guitar for thirty years, and I’ve seen a lot of fads come and go in the realm of hard rock and metal. But through it all B.C. Rich has always been there, standing like a massive tower of metal righteousness. When you see certain guitar shapes you know B.C. Rich is behind them, and you don’t doubt the intent of the players who wield them. Few other guitar brands have so indelibly made their mark on a genre of music.
This article will take a look at three awesome B.C. Rich guitars, plus a couple of bonus models. Two are metal classics that have stood the test of time over the years. One is a relative newcomer that’s building a solid reputation in the metal community. There are several versions of each guitar, starting at prices even a beginner could afford, and going up all the way to the pro level. If you play heavy music, there is a B.C.Rich guitar that’s right for you.
For the purpose of this review, for each instrument I’ve attempted to pick out a model that offers good value while still having the specs and quality to satisfy accomplished musicians. I’ve also hunted down some models for players on a budget, who can grab the same epic B.C. Rich guitar design for a low price.
There is a reason B.C. Rich makes some of the best metal guitars in the world. Think you want to join the legions of metal players who trust B.C. Rich to deliver the sound and vibe they need? If so, read on!
NJ Deluxe Warlock
The NJ Series has been around for a while, and the Warlock in particular has hung in there as a great option for players looking for a solid metal guitar for a decent price. The Warlock shape is one of the coolest you are going to find, and for this reason alone many musicians who play heavy music flock to this guitar.
- Body: Mahogany. Mahogany is a deep, rich, resonant tonewood. In this context it will bring a darker sound to the guitar, and work well with detuning. A mahogany body is exactly what you want for metal.
- Neck: Mahogany, with a neck-through design. The same properties that make mahogany work as a body would carry through for the neck. The neck-through design means even better resonance and sustain.
- Fingerboard: Ebony. This is a tonewood that lands somewhere between maple and rosewood in terms of brightness. With all that mahogany, an ebony fingerboard helps to bring some clarity and bite to the sound. Plus, it looks great with that mother-of-pearl binding!
- Pickups: EMG 81/85 active set. These pickups are widely used in metal and perfect for a guitar like this.
- Electronics: Three-way toggle switch, two volume controls, one tone control.
- Bridge: Original Floyd Rose. There are plenty of licensed Floyds out there, and some of them are just fine, but in my mind you wont beat the Original model.
- What I Like: The binding on the neck and body really does look amazing. I love that this guitar has EMGs and a Floyd Rose Original bridge. These two points put it head and shoulders over some past NJ models.
- What I don’t: It would be nice the see the Widow headstock on this guitar instead of the inline tuners.
Kerry King's B.C. Rich Guitars
The Trace Warbeast is a solid but affordable option in the B.C. Rich lineup. It’s priced right for intermediate guitarists and serious beginners,and an affordable alternative to the NJ Warlock above. The Warbeast is a great-looking guitar with some of the same characteristics. But of course there are differences as well. Here’s a look at the Trace Warbeast, and how it stacks up against the NJ Warlockl.
- Body: Basswood. Good! Basswood doesn’t quite have the depth and resonance as mahogany, but it is an excellent tonewood for metal.
- Neck: Bolt-on maple. There is nothing wrong with maple as a neck wood, and nothing wrong with a bolt-on design. This is part of what helps bring down the cost of the guitar. However, this combination will be a little brighter and punchier than what we saw in the NJ Warlock.
- Fingerboard: Ebony. A nice tough for a guitar in this price range. Ebony is close to rosewood but denser and with a little more bite. The black pearl fretboard inlays running along the edge look cool!
- Pickups: B.C Rich patented B.D.S.M. pickups. These are hot, passive pickups and many B.C Rich instruments come with them standard.
- Electronics: Three-way toggle switch, one volume, one tone.
- Bridge: Tune-o-matic with stopbar tailpiece. There is also a version with a Floyd Rose, but if you are an inexperienced player the maintenance and setup of such a complicated bridge may be too much hassle for you. The TOM makes things easier.
- What I Like: This is a bare-bones metal guitar for intermediate players that gives them everything they need and nothing they don’t. Looks amazing with the Trace pinstripe binding.
- What I don’t: If you fall in love with this guitar you may be looking at upgrading some of the hardware and electronics, but then again that’s what guitars in this price range are for.
Next to the Warlock, the Mockingbird might be the most popular B.C. Rich design. While it still looks metal through and through, it has a bit more of traditional vibe. Classy, even. The Mockingbird ST is a beautiful guitar with some awesome features, and one of the better values in the Mockingbird line.
- Body: Mahogany. We know we love it. Mahogany bodies sound warm and thick with plenty of resonance.
- Neck: Maple, with neck-through design. This is a guitar that’s definitely going for a more traditional hard rock sound than the NJ Warlock above. The maple neck brings some articulation to the sound, and the neck-through construction means excellent sustain.
- Fingerboard: Ebony. Not as warm and rounded as rosewood, and not as bright as maple. Ebony fills the tonal gaps between the maple neck and mahogany body for the Mockingbird ST.
- Pickups: Duncan Designed HB-103 humbuckers. These are high-output, passive pickups, and work well with the construction of this guitar. Again, the Mockingbird ST is going for a more classic sound, and it wouldn't make much sense to see something like active EMGs here.
- Electronics: Three-way toggle, mini switches for coil taps and reverse phase, 5-position varitone tone filter, two volume, one tone.
- Bridge: Floyd Rose 1000 series. This is the Korean-made version of the Floyd Rose Original tremolo, but it’s still nice to see a Floyd Rose here.
- What I Like: This guitar is built for classic metal guys who remember the days before 7-strings, crazy detuning and ultra high-gain amps. Some models have AAA quilted-maple veneers that look amazing!
- What I don’t: All those switches seem like overkill, but they might be just what you’re looking for in tonal control.
Guitar World Reviews the B.C. Rich Mockingbird STQ
The Villain Deluxe is a bit of a departure from the pointy-guitar motif that has served B.C. Rich well over the years, but that doesn’t mean this instrument is any less metal. While the super-strat styling may appeal more to shredders than the death-metal crowd, the applications for the Villain Deluxe in metal and hard rock are limitless. Take that, Jackson!
- Body: Mahogany with a maple top. We already know mahogany is a warm tonewood and great for metal, and adding a maple cap adds some clarity and high-end to the overall sound of the guitar.
- Neck: Mahogany. Combined with the body design, this guitar is shaping up with a classic tonewood profile.
- Fingerboard: Ebony. Again, ebony has a somewhat brighter sound that rosewood and will present some clarity to the dark overtones of the mahogany.
- Pickups: EMG Active 60/81. The legendary pickup set from EMG.
- Electronics: Three-way toggle, one volume, one tone.
- Bridge: Floyd Rose 1000 series.
- What I Like: This is a well put together guitar for serious musicians. Guitarists who are looking for modern metal tone with the vibe and feel of a Superstrat will like the Villain. There are many guitar companies putting out instruments in this mold, but this is one of the better ones.
- What I don’t: With all the other great appointments, I’d rather see a Floyd Rose Original here instead of the 1000.
Here’s a version of the ASM geared toward beginners and players on a budget. For many up-and-coming players who like the look of a superstrat guitar like the Villain this is a great choice, and well worth checking out.
- Body: Basswood. This is a soft, resonant, somewhat inexpensive tonewood. Even though the ASM 1 isn’t a high-level guitar, basswood is found in some quality instruments made by certain manufacturers. Don’t dismiss it as an inferior choice of tonewood.
- Neck: Bolt-on maple. Standard for guitars in the price range.
- Fingerboard: Rosewood. Also standard. Bolt-on maple necks with rosewood fretboards are cheap and easy to produce, but it’s still a tonewood combination that has stood the test of time over the years.
- Pickups: B.C. Rich stock pickups. Reviews for these are mixed, and if you decide to upgrade the guitar they may be the first things to go. The biggest complaint is the lack of clarity, but if you play with super high gain they may be fine.
- Electronics: Three-way toggle, one volume and one tone control.
- Bridge: Vintage tremolo. No dive bombs here, but if you go easy it ought to stay in tune.
- What I Like: This is a solid guitar on par with other similar guitars in its price range. If you like the ASM style, you'll probably see good things here.
- What I don’t: It’s only on par with similar guitars in its price range. While it’s a good instrument, really nothing that stands out about it.
More Metal from B.C. Rich
The NJ Warlock is a metal icon that will appeal to extreme players looking for the perfect instrument of sonic mayhem. The Mockingbird ST reeks of classic style while still maintaining an epic hard rock and metal vibe.
The Villain lands somewhere in the middle, with classic super-strat styling but all the appointments you’d need for even the most extreme death metal.
But if none of that does it for you, B.C. Rich still has some amazing guitars waiting in the wings. The Warbeast is a cross between the Warlock and Beast body styles. The ASM 1 is a quality, affordable option for beginners.
And then there are the classic. The Bich is a B.C. Rich design dating back decades. The Ironbird, too, helped this guitar company make their mark in the metal world. All are worth checking out if you are looking for the perfect metal guitar.
If you play metal you know B.C. Rich won’t let you down. The Warlock, VIllain and Mockingbird are just three of their legendary designs. Good luck with whatever guitar you choose!
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