Blaze went on to design a guitar for Kramer
named the NightSwan in the ‘80s that featured a Strat-influenced body. Along with
other trendsetting standards of the time—
low-action necks and Floyd Rose tremolos—
Blaze designed this guitar to have two humbuckers, one at the bridge and the other
in the middle position rather than the neck
position, which is more typical of a two-hum-bucker design. Another distinguishing Blaze
feature was the offset fretboard position
markers that swoop diagonally along the
length of the neck. The new Dean Buddy
Blaze ML wraps all of these design elements
into one guitar similar to his original Dean,
painted blue with a striking chrome flame
graphic. This guitar was definitely designed
for speed, volume and visual appeal.
The Dean Buddy Blaze ML is a set-neck
design featuring a mahogany neck and body.
Despite its size, the body is a mere 1. 5" thick,
unlike the 1. 75–2" thickness of most guitars
of this type. The size of the body makes up
for it in the guitar’s overall mass, although it
isn’t really that heavy when you strap it on.
The weight feels evenly distributed and well
balanced. The scale length is 24. 75", with a
two-octave neck and 24 medium-height frets
on a rosewood fingerboard.
The pickups are made by Dean’s DMT
division (Dean Magnetic Technologies). In
the bridge position is a Blaze Bucker, co-designed with Buddy Blaze. It has an Alnico 8
magnet with a hot output of 15.7k. The middle pickup is an old-style humbucker called
the Nostalgia that has a low output of 8.1k.
Like some other classic guitars, offsetting
the outputs of paired pickups can offer some
tonal benefits. A single Volume knob controls
the output of this guitar. It’s positioned quite
a distance away from the right-hand playing
position, way past the bridge, which could be
a good thing if you’re an arm-swinging windmill strummer, but a bad thing if you need
to do volume swells with your pinky. It in the
same location as the bridge Volume knob on
most all Dean MLs, and Blaze says that he
chose to keep it there for the benefit of ML
fans and players. He also notes that he kept
the full, traditional control cavity of the ML
so that an additional Volume or Tone control
could be easily added if the owner desired.
Rounding out the construction features is
the all-black hardware. Grover Rotomatic
tuners are standard on all Dean high-end
guitars. An original Floyd Rose tremolo is
top-mounted and non-recessed—like all the
classic hot-rodded guitars—with a 37 mm
sustain block inside the body.
Because of the V-shaped spine along the
lower fretted area of the neck, chording is
palpably easy, as is accenting single notes.
An innovation from ‘50s-era strats, it has a
very vintage feeling. In the upper register, the
neck gets rounder and fades to a comfortable U-shape where the neck joins the body
at the 22nd fret. Even with these attributes,
though, playability becomes somewhat
cumbersome because of the use of medium-height frets. Bigger, taller frets are more
common on a modern “shreddable” guitar
and would increase speed and agility on
the fingerboard. Wretching out single-note
bends is a little more effort-ful than effortless.
According to Blaze, however, the aim was
not to simply modernize the Dean classic,
even through there are many design improvements in the Buddy Blaze ML. The fretwire he
chose is similar to that found on the original
Dean from Hell, and other Dean MLs of that
era. “Darrell and I both loved the feel of that
fretwire,” he explained.
What is a breath of fresh air to guitars of this
type is the non-recessed Floyd Rose. With
the neck-to-body angle pitched properly, the
Floyd is aligned parallel to the surface of the
body with enough clearance to pull up or
down. This is the way the Floyd was originally
intended to be mounted on a guitar, and
recessing it into the body is somewhat unnecessary. This also means the Blaze ML’s Floyd
Rose is so much easier to maintain because
of top mounting vs. recessed mounting.
Matched with the mass of the guitar, the
Blaze Bucker bridge-position pickup is quite
a screamer with its super high output, without any chimey peal to the tone. Plugged
into a gain-enhanced amp, the sound of this
pickup by itself is full-metal-jacketed, high-octane metal. When coupled with the mid-dle-position pickup, the tone is chug city.
Thrash metal never had it so good. All of
this is great, except when the middle pickup
is selected to perform on its own: where
this pickup is positioned, the physical, vibra-tionary movement of the strings just seems
to be too unusable in a high-gainapplication.
It lacks clarity when playing rhythm lines
and treble definition when soloing. Its main
benefit is in adding lower midrange to the
bridge pickup when both pickups are on.
This is perhaps the most distinguishing thing
about this version of the ML against all the
other ML models in Dean’s product line.
the Final Mojo
The Korean-built Dean Buddy Blaze ML is a
well-made guitar, and the design elements are
well thought out with a particular kind of guitarist in mind. It seems that this reviewer would
be the old-school metal instead of modern
metal type, but with the advances in guitar
technique, even the old-school metalists have
matured, and for ease of playing this beast
would be better suited with bigger frets (the
fabled Dunlop 6100s). Altogether, this is a great
demonstration of Dean’s gift for modernizing a
classic guitar design—in this case their own.
you’re looking for a visually striking
guitar with the tone to match.
you’re into more ordinary
guitars with less output and
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