In January 2013 Seymour Duncan announced the Black Winter pickup set. Initially only available in Scandinavia, the Black Winters were designed specifically for extreme metal players, providing players with the ability to go from crushing aggressive riffs to super articulate lead work. The Black Winter set created such a swell of interest from players all over the world that Seymour Duncan recently announced a world-wide general release.
The Black Winter is listed as having an EQ scale of 6 (bass) –6 (mids) and 6 (treble), resistance of 16.6K for the bridge model. With three Ceramic magnets and some blacker than black screw and slug pole-pieces, the Black Winter Bridge provides the perfect paintbrush for extreme down-tuned metal. But that’s not all it is capable of. In this review I test how versatile the Black Winter set was in an E Standard tuning.
I loaded the Black Winter Bridge model into my 2003 Ibanez RG 450LTD, which has a Basswood body, Maple neck with Rosewood fretboard and an Edge Pro bridge hooked up with a brass sustain block. As usual I tested this setup through my Blackstar HT-5 head with Celestion Vintage 30 loaded 1×12″ cabinet.
Hitting up the dirty channel first, the Black Winter Bridge explodes out of the speaker, with a searing, crushing distortion and saturation that lets you know it means business. Aggressive is an understatement when talking about the Black Winter Bridge, with both chords and single notes alike sounding incredibly heavy. The mids and treble really cut through, ensuring that any guitar loaded with a Black Winter Bridge will cut through the mix without making the tone too shrill.
The interesting thing with the Black Winter Bridge model is that distorted tones have an extra level of grind underneath it all. It almost feels like there is a fuzz or overdrive running in the background in some frequencies, just adding to the heaviness that the Black Winter Bridge provides. It adds an extra level of chunk to heavy chord work, and tremolo picked single notes are really searing.
It’s obvious how this works with low tuned extreme forms of metal, but what is awesome is how well this works in other forms of heavy music in more standard tunings. The Black Winter Bridge model makes for a fantastic pickup for punk rock, where the aforementioned grind provides the perfect overtones for searing fast riffs. Hard rock players looking for a slightly different tone will really dig what the Black Winter Bridge model can provide as well.
Lead work sounds fantastic with the Black Winter Bridge model too. It cuts like a knife, but it is never too thin and shrill. Shredders will love the extra grind as it provides the boosted sound without needing a stomp box to do the work for them. The Black Winter is also a particularly good pickup for pulling all sorts of harmonics and musical overtones out of a note.
What’s particularly impressive about the Black Winter Bridge model is how well it cleans up. Roll the guitar’s volume knob back and pick softly and some great clean-ish tones are on tap. Even better is splitting the Black Winter Bridge model with the Black Winter Neck model. Some amazing sparkly Strat tones are available, and they work equally well for clean and overdriven/distorted work.
It’s amazing to think that a pickup designed pretty much exclusively for extreme metal would be so versatile. Despite it’s obvious proficiency in these genres, the Black Winter Bridge model also makes for an excellent pickup for players of other less extreme styles, and in more regular tunings. If you play rock of any form, more traditional metal, punk, etc, and are looking for a bridge pickup that offers something slightly different to the norm then definitely check out the Black Winter Bridge model. The Black Winter Bridge model’s ability to clean up so well, and provide amazing tones split with a neck pickup make it a veritable Swiss Army Knife of a guitar pickup that many players will enjoy.