Over the years, rock and the colour black have grown to become almost synonymous. Black has featured in band names, (Sabbath), numerous song and album titles ('Black Hole Sun', Back In Black) and even helped define genres (black metal). And that's not counting the number of pairs of leather trousers that have graced stages.
For drummers, there are plenty of black kits out there, but until now anyone wanting to extend the theme to his or her cymbals has had to buy ones that don't begin with the letter Z. As any fashion expert will tell you, black never goes out of style and Zildjian probably didn't need a great deal of persuading to take the plunge.
The new Pitch Black series is a range of glossy, black-coated cymbals clearly aimed at young rock/metal/punk drummers. Zildjian has spent over a year working on the Pitch Blacks, with time spent mainly on perfecting the coating. Strip away the black finish and you have a set of B12 sheet bronze cymbals that are closely related to Zildjian's existing ZBT and ZHT cymbals.
"In the flesh the cymbals' appearance is impressive, with the glossiness of the coating lending them a liquid-like sheen"
The Pitch Blacks take features from both ranges (the ZHT alloy is married to ZBT-like profiles), but the weight and size combinations used are unique.
All of the cymbals are conventionally worked before being coated, and regimented lathing bands and hammer marks are visible beneath the black finish. While most of the cymbals are coated entirely, the hi-hats are left untreated on the inside. This is because the relentless metal-to-metal contact that playing brings would soon disturb even the toughest of coatings. Single-coated hi-hats appear to be standard with coated cymbals, regardless of manufacturer.
In the flesh the cymbals' appearance is impressive, with the glossiness of the coating lending them a liquid-like sheen. The only interruption to the smooth blackness is the Zildjian logo in contrasting white and the suitably rebellious-looking Pitch Black emblem.
One of the problems of coating cymbals is that, by its very nature, the process can't help but stifle a cymbal's properties. The solution is to make the raw cymbals extra-bright, thus compensating for the coating's influence.
The range, which includes rock staples such as 15" hi-hats and a 22" ride, features eight cymbals. Of these, we have five; the hats and ride mentioned above along with a 13" splash, 18" crash and an 18" china.
At 13" in diameter the only splash model is on the large side. We'd imagine that anything too small would struggle to counter the effect of the coating. As it is, the splash springs into life with a bright note, beneath which sits a deeper undertone. The decay is fairly lengthy but ultimately pleasant. This comparative slowness isn't surprising considering the size of the cymbal – it's never going to ignite and choke in the manner of an 8" splash.
"One of the problems of coating cymbals is that, by its very nature, the process can't help but stifle a cymbal's properties"
The 18" crash opens similarly easily, its high pitch ensuring a good level of attack. It's a clean-sounding cymbal with a well-paced decay that resolves into a harmonious undertow. Staying at the same diameter, the 18" china is convincing in parts but feels a little more like a compromise. While it certainly clangs like a china, it's difficult to tease any subtler reactions out of it. In other words, to get the best out of it you need to whack it…
The 22" ride is quite a beast. Beneath the coating is a big, heavy cymbal. All the weight would usually point to a certain toppiness – and this is the case. The stick sound is a dictionary definition of the term 'glassy', with little variation across the body of the cymbal. Moving onto the bell, the sound changes significantly, becoming harder and more metallic. The pitch and cutting volume of the bell mean there's plenty of authority on offer.
The 15" Mastersound hi-hats were the best performers of the selection. Unquestionably rock-sized, the hats have a positive, bright presence. The stick sound is crisp and fat, while the crinkle-hammered edge of the bottom cymbal contributes to a strong 'chick'. Loosening off the pedal and laying into the hats brings out an abrasive edge that would easily cut across most 11-rated amps.