Metal’s visibility among the wider record-buying public ebbs and flows. To many, it probably seemed like metal’s torch was extinguished right around the time that spandex sales bit the dust. But the explosion in metal’s popularity in the last few years can’t be denied— even if it’s no longer an MTV-fueled phenomenon. And the hard-hitting tones that are the signatures of thrash doom and gloom drive not just a flourishing metal underground, but a thriving segment of the gear industry that serves the players behind it. Fernandes is among the guitar builders the new metal guard favors. And the new V-Hawk Deluxe reviewed here is built to give metal players aggressive tones, fast playability, and radical styling in a quality package that won’t break the bank.
Talons of Tone
Although the Snow White-finished, all-mahogany V-Hawk is so light that it makes the neck feel a little heavy when worn with a strap, the guitar feels amazing played sitting down in a quasi-classical position—fast, legato-style runs were a breeze! Whether you’re sitting or standing, the neck-through construction and 14"-radius ebony fretboard feel fantastic, with a near-perfect setup and a combination of mass and thin profiling that begs for shredding. All 24 jumbo frets are carefully dressed and highly polished, and the ebony fretboard is encased in white binding. I couldn’t find a single buzzy spot on the neck, and the extended cutaway on the lower bout of the neck gave me unhindered access to the guitar’s upper registers.
The body is home to two EMG humbuckers—an 81 in the bridge position and an 85 in the neck—which suits the guitar’s thrash-metal mission. Output is controlled by Volume and Tone knobs, and a 3-way selector. A tried-and-true Tune-o-matic-style bridge and stopbar tailpiece round out the hardware complement.
White Hawk Cries
As you’d expect, the V-Hawk is a metal machine first and foremost. And through a Mesa/Boogie Multiwatt Dual Rectifier and an Emperor 4x12 cab, it pounded outincrediblymean and percussive rhythm tones. The EMGs—which proved their worth in the metal world ages ago—were smooth and balanced, with a tendency toward scooped mids, a tight low end, and a razor-sharp top end that sliced through like an indomitable battle ax. Further, the EMGs hi-fi efficiency and power enabled the V-Hawk to retain high-end sting even when using a long cable.
If you’re looking for a metal weapon that also has a warm, soft side, however, the V-Hawk may not be your implement of choice. Even when using very different settings on the Mesa, the V-Hawk emphasized mids and treble frequencies, which tended to sound a bit one-dimensional when I tried to play more sensitive licks. There wasn’t much tonal “give” or sag to extend the expressiveness of the instrument beyond a tighter-than-a-drum onslaught of overdrive. Granted, the V-Hawk isn’t designed for classic rock and jazz, but it was difficult at times to exploit the natural advantages of a neck-through-body design in non-bludgeoning, take-no-prisoners contexts. Though the acoustic resonance of the body and neck made me think that digging into string bends at the right gain levels would produce a pleasing, overtonerich bloom, the pickups consistently imparted the indelible sonic fingerprint their known for. Even with the gain turned down to moderate levels, the tone was a little too flat to play more nuanced or bluesy licks or melodies. Plugging into a 1981 Marshall JCM800 half-stack added some detail to the midrange guts, yielding a tone perfect for thrashy mayhem. But, again, it was difficult to summon tones well suited to subtlety. To be certain, this guitar wants to go full bore!
For those who need to lead their metal forces into battle on a budget, the Fernandes V-Hawk Deluxe is an excellent choice—particularly given the top-notch construction. The guitar is a straight-up fire-breather, with a comfortable, well-contoured neck that’s one of the best I’ve seen in its price range if you’re looking to scorch eardrums. If your metal preferences lean more toward late-’70s and early-’80s metal in the fashion of, say, Judas Priest, you might find the guitar’s tone a little too modern and focused. But if you need the tight, raging tones that define mid-’80s to mid-’90s thrash, the V-Hawk Deluxe is a superior choice.
Watch the video review:
you’re on a budget and need an aggressive, modern-voiced metal weapon.
you need to occasionally chill your molten metal tones down to warm, classic-metal levels.
Street $799 - Fernandes Guitars - fernandesguitars.com