Blakhart HEX FM Philip Fasciana SignatureBlakhart Guitars founder Chad Petit is an unapologetically dedicated metal maniac. His company exclusively works with metal- and shred-oriented designs, and Petit is a metal musician himself with decades of playing under his belt. His experiences as a player inform his designs in a big way, and as the company’s artist roster suggests, he’s gotten the formula right for some of metal’s biggest names.
The Korean-made HEX FM reviewed here is a signature model designed for Philip Fasciana of Malevolent Creation. It’s built around a mahogany body, but the HEX FM’s olive-green, flame-maple cap, and the stealthy shark fin inlays that adorn its fretboard communicate a dark and mysterious metal vibe. And though there are hints of a Gibson Explorer and Ibanez Destroyer in the silhouette, the guitar is peppered with unique design twists.
Though the HEX FM’s body might appear hard to balance when playing seated, its right-side wing sits naturally and comfortably on the thigh. The guitar’s lower-left wing, however, is really big and getting my forearm over the corner wasn’t easy. Not surprisingly, playing with the guitar strapped low and the headstock tilted up at an angle is how this guitar feels most ergonomically at home.
The HEX FM is built with true neck-through construction, which enhances stability and sustain. The ebony fretboard feels sleek, and the guitar’s deep cutaway improves upper-fret access, making it easy to hit those wailing, two-octaves-up, dog-whistle bends. The neck offers a comfortable all-around profile that should appeal to both rhythm and lead players.
I tested the Blakhart HEX FM through a Mesa/Boogie Mark IV amp. The guitar features the tried-and-true metal pickup configuration of an EMG 81 in the bridge and EMG 85 in the neck. It’s a perfect fit for this shred machine, although for some reason, the neck pickup was noticeably louder than the bridge, even though the bridge pickup was set physically higher. That said, the difference in pickup volumes wasn’t as great with a ton of gain on top.
That sonic oddity aside, the Blakhart makes extracting heavy-hitting metal moves very intuitive. It’s easy to dial in tight sounds for palm-muted, low-E chugging by engaging the bridge pickup and maxing the tone control. But even when I rolled the tone knob all the way back, notes still had crisp definition. At this setting, most rhythm guitar figures (excluding ultra-tight, palm-muted riffs) still sound tough and cutting, and no matter where you set the tone knob, the guitar has a beefy bottom end that feels like a punch in the gut.
The HEX FM has a compressed quality that generates copious sustain for lead playing. For solos, I liked using the bridge pickup with the tone knob turned down to around 4 to take some edge off the attack. Rounding off the front end of the notes made shredding feel a tiny bit easier, particularly when I was relying on legato moves to build speed.
The neck pickup offers a slightly more limber feel and a softer attack without getting woofy. It worked well for fast runs, especially when I wanted to hear the individual notes ring through the sonic blur of sweep-picked arpeggios.
I was also able to get many variations of clean sounds for everything from modern extended-range, prog stylings to classic metal moves. With the bridge pickup engaged and the tone knob rolled down to about 6, Animals as Leaders-inspired, hybrid-picked, open-voiced triads had a modern, bell-like resonance. Using the neck pickup with the tone knob all the way up, individual notes in arpeggiated, open-string chords had a crisp attack that at times almost sounded like an acoustic guitar. But you can dirty things up fast if you get aggressive with your pick attack.
The Floyd Rose tremolo is set up for big, dive-bombing pitch bends, but the recessed cavity assures that it can be adjusted to pitch up as well. Grover Mini Rotomatics make tuning stability excellent. In fact the guitar was very close to pitch when I removed it from the case—after a long trip on the FedEx truck—and it remained close to pitch no matter how savagely I pummeled the vibrato arm.
At 750 bucks, the HEX FM is impressively outfitted. EMGs, an original Floyd Rose, and neck-through-body construction are pro-level features that we’re used to seeing on much more expensive instruments. It’s also a very solidly built guitar with a high-quality feel that belies its price. The Blakhart HEX FM is a killer metal axe and it’s worth considering no matter what your metal needs are.