Its name might sound slightly pharmacological, but this limited-edition P-90–style axe is tough, mean, and unquestionably virile.

Killer P-90-style tones with Fender spank. Excellently voiced tone knob. Nice playability.

Slightly rough fret ends.

$1049 street (w/gigbag)

Fender Noventa Stratocaster
fender.com

5
4.5
4.5
4.5

If you never learned to count to 90 in Spanish, Fender's limited-run Noventa series sounds like it needs a lot of small-print "Don't take Noventa if…" disclaimers. Once you get the translation down (and remember the term "P-90" is a Gibson invention), it's clear what the series' three models—a 3-pickup Jazzmaster, a single-pickup Telecaster, and a 2-pickup Strat—have in common.


Fender Noventa Stratocaster Review

Played through a Sound City SC30 miked with a Royer R-121 going into an Audient iD44 then into GarageBand with no EQ-ing, compression, or effects.

With its transparent red finish (surf green and daphne blue are also available), oversized black single-coils, black pickguard, and hardtail bridge, it's hard not to see our review guitar as a bit of an SG-ified Fender. But even if the visuals seem slightly obvious, fans of burly, bristling, vintage P-90 grit will likely bite their tongue after plugging one in.

Even if the visuals seem slightly obvious, fans of burly, bristling, vintage P-90 grit will likely bite their tongue after plugging one in.

The neck pickup can be positively corpulent, great for nasty blues riffing, particularly with a good helping of overdrive or the guitar's tone knob eased back. Yet, full up, it puts crisp articulation behind formidable brawn. In the middle position, the blend of taut chime and muscle lets you chunk-up rock 'n' roll nasties, sparkle-up strummed chords, or put some stank in your funk. That's because the bridge pickup is rather incisive—a little more so than I expected. With amp or pedal raunch, the soloed unit is glorious for, say, violent Stooges riffs, but with clean tones it can feel somewhat strident. That's where the impressively voiced tone control comes in. With its gradual, consistent taper, the tone knob yields enough shades for everything from subtly muted rhythms to wiry country spank. Best of all, regardless of pickup position, it never imparts über-muffled tones till it's completely counterclockwise.

Test Gear

Sound City SC30, Fender Vibrolux Reverb, SoundBrut DrVa Mk.II, Ground Control Tsukuyomi, SviSound RetroZoid Germanium Fuzz

A bone nut being back-filed for proper string placement and correct action height.

It doesn’t have to cost a lot to change your acoustic guitar’s tone and playability.

In my early days, all the guitars I played (which all happened to be pre-1950s) used bone nuts and saddles. I took this for granted, and so did my musician friends. With the exception of the ebony nuts on some turn-of-the-century parlors and the occasional use of ivory, the use of bone was a simple fact of our guitar playing lives, and alternative materials were simply uncommon to us.

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While Monolord has no shortage of the dark and heavy, guitarist and vocalist Thomas V Jäger comes at it from a perspective more common to pop songsmiths.

Photo by Chad Kelco

Melodies, hooks, clean tones, and no guitar solos. Are we sure this Elliott Smith fan fronts a doom-metal band? (We’re sure!)

Legend has it the name Monolord refers to a friend of the band with the same moniker who lost hearing in his left ear, and later said it didn’t matter if the band recorded anything in stereo, because he could not hear it anyway. It’s a funny, though slightly tragic, bit of backstory, but that handle is befitting in yet another, perhaps even more profound, way. Doom and stoner metal are arguably the torch-bearing subgenres for hard rock guitar players, and if any band seems to hold the keys to the castle at this moment, it’s Monolord.

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