Back in 1950, the first commandment of electric guitar manufacture was set in stone: thou shalt have six strings. While most luthiers obeyed, others have since broken protocol, to the delight of more adventurous players and the disgust of old-school purists.
If you frowned on the seven-string boom of the early Noughties, then you'll probably hate Schecter's new Damien Elite 8. Not only does it feature the bowel-emptying low B much loved by Korn and the gang, it also has a tectonic-plate-quaking eighth string that's thicker than an industrial cable.
Eight stringers do have real benefits, with jazz cats (Charlie Hunter) and metal bands (Meshuggah/Deftones) all taking advantage of the added melodic range. But make no mistake: this is the most esoteric guitar we've seen in ages.
First off, the body is deceptive. It's a textbook Schecter Damien, which basically handles like a shred machine, and momentarily fools you into thinking this is a 'normal' electric.
The neck is what will test your commitment. Logically, you'd expect it to be wider than standard, but the uninitiated might not have bargained for the longer 26½-inch scale necessary to keep that low string at the right tension.
Between these factors, you have a seriously hefty playing platform, and while Schecter has done what it can with a snug profile and well finished fretboard, the small-handed will struggle. In addition, despite that extra inch on the neck, there's a slight 'flappiness' to the bottom string when it's tuned to F#.
Why would you put yourself through this physical challenge? Simple: the Elite sounds like nothing else. With a pair of active EMG 808s at neck/bridge, you've got a powerful buzzsaw tone on the higher strings - tight, rich and menacing.
The thrill is that when you've finished squealing, you can climb down an extended scale to those bottom strings, and drop seismic bombs that ring out like funeral bells. It's the bastard child of a guitar and a bass.
This could be the world's most subjective guitar. Some will take to the eight-string format like ducks to water, finding that it opens up their technique and lets them discover their voice.
That said, many others will feel it requires them to fundamentally overhaul their playing, and decide that's just too much of a headache. Our advice? Spend an hour with the Elite on your knee at a reputable guitar shop and you'll know which camp you're in.
Listen to some audio demos of the Damien Elite 8 over on the Total Guitar site.