Do you remember when the choice of off-the-shelf drum kit set-ups extended no further than 22"/12"/13"/16" Rock or 20"/10"/12"/14" Fusion types? Boring, wasn't it? These days, while most kits don't deviate too far from these basic blueprints, there's a good deal more flexibility when you come to place an order for a new five-piece. And we're all grateful for that.
Premier's Artist Series is a case in point - no fewer than four main options are offered in the form of the Rock 22, Fusion 22, Jazz 20 and Jazz 22 flavours, which mix and match toms and bass drums to arrive at a line-up that has something to suit most of us.
And Premier are spoiling lovers of the less-than-run-of-the-mill even further with the introduction of the Heavy Rock 24 and Rock Legend 26. If you're fed up with not being able to find monster size drums at non-monster prices then the two newies will be right up your street.
Meaty, beaty, big and bouncy
We love instruments that don't try and be all things to all men. Drums and cymbals with a single-minded dedication to one task are, to our mind, more interesting than middle-of-the-roaders that try to cover all bases. There's just more character with stuff that's either really heavy or incredibly thin, teeny-tiny or absolutely huge.
Talking of which... The '26' suffix of the Rock Legend gives it away, doesn't it? Yet nothing quite prepares you for the sight (and size) of a 26"x16" bass drum emerging from its packaging if you've not seen one for a while. Complementing the colossal kick are a trio of whopping great toms; a 13""x10"" mounted and 16""x16"" and 18""x18"" floors.
This is a seriously big rig.
The Rock Legend package also includes a tidy looking 14"x6 ½" brass snare and the usual hardware suspects, specifically hi-hat, straight cymbal, boom cymbal and snare stands, clamp and L-arm mount for the 13" tom and a simple chain-driven bass drum pedal. It's a pretty comprehensive package, and although this is unlikely to be anyone's first kit, the included hardware is worth having if you're trading up from something more entry-level in nature.
The sheer scale of the kit prompts a good few minutes of wandering around it, checking how it looks from all angles and grinning like a loon once it's set up for the first time. There's no escaping the fact that the sheer scale of the Rock Legend is instantly impressive. But getting down to construction notes and such is inevitable.
The Rock Legend 26 is available in either Premier's Artist Maple or Artist Birch shell types - we got the former for the purposes of this review. As such the set-up features six-ply maple shells and in our case these are finished in Rosewood lacquer, which we liked for its understated and slightly retro styling.
The Legend is a pretty unfussy affair (in common with the rest of the Artist Series) as far as ornamentation and fancy fixtures and fittings is concerned. The tom shells wear individual low-mass lugs and triple-flanged hoops while the kick drum has wooden hoops finished to match the shell itself.
As you might expect, the big 26" bass drum is undrilled, so the 13" tom will need to be stand-mounted - placing it on a bass drum mount would elevate the tom somewhere into the stratosphere and make it just about impossible to play. To maintain resonance, the mounted tom is suspended from a familiar-looking ISO-mount cradle, which is about the most advanced hardware feature on the whole kit.
While we're covering the metallic aspects of the Rock Legend, we should mention the stands that complete the package. Not that there's a great deal to discuss - they're all double braced and of the type that you know will go the distance in efficient, if not esoteric style. Some of the plastic joint inserts were a tad unco-operative when reassembling the cymbal stands, but otherwise everything's just as it should be.
Rock by name, rock by nature?
Given the nature of this incarnation of the Artist Maple kit, you'll know what to expect in terms of the way the Rock Legend sounds. With a kick drum and larger floor tom a full 4" wider than other popular varieties, the set-up is (as if it needs to be stated), aimed at rockers with something of a penchant for bombastic fills and earth-shuddering bass notes.
Certainly the size of the drums here means that they don't have the quick, neat attack of 10" and 12" toms or smaller kicks. And while you might be thinking it's odd that such a wide bass drum is only 16" deep, Premier have judged well here - a deeper kick drum would be pretty unwieldy in the tonal department and hard to get any forceful attack from.
As it is, there's a decent amount of walloping low end on offer, although the bass drum isn't as loud as you might expect, and there's a distinctly punchy upper-midrange edge to its voice.
The upside of this situation is that the drum is fairly usable even without damping, although one of the first things I'd do with the kit is cut a hole in the front head for some extra help in this area. The toms share the same traits as the 26" drum - all of them are fat enough and display enough bottom end to make thudding around the kit a real pleasure, but a different set of heads would probably warm things up a tad.
The Everplay heads (made by Remo) that are factory fitted are worthy enough, but I'd be tempted to experiment with some Emperors or even Pinstripes to see what benefits are to be had. Again though, the toms, despite their generous dimensions, are easy to live with in terms of tunability and lack of annoying overtones and buzzes.
The 14" brass snare drum that completes the Rock Legend has been somewhat neglected in this review so far. But that is no reflection on its performance. In actual fact, the 61/2" deep drum is lovely, and a great partner to the supersized rest of the kit. The choice of brass here is perfect, because it enables the snare to cut through the thick low/mid frequencies produced by the other drums in the set-up with ease. And the depth allows for enough muscular body for the snare to live up to the Rock Legend tag.
If you're a fan of really big drums but you don't have a really big drum budget you'll go a bundle on the Rock Legend concept. Premier deserve credit for not being afraid to offer such an out-of-the-ordinary kit in their otherwise mainstream Artist Series.