You probably aren't familiar with Sozo guitars, but the company has been going since 2004. If you need an introduction, Sozo is a Christian luthier - its name means 'born again' in Greek - with the express aim of creating instruments for players of all styles.
The Z7 Vintage is pretty representative of what Sozo does, offering a classic body shape, visual bling and build quality fit for the Lord himself.
"The bridge pickup is like a trained attack dog: sharp and aggressive on a high gain setting, but smooth, glassy and responsive when the gain is rolled back."
On looks alone, it's hard to argue with the Vintage Z7. A single push/pull volume pot and three-way selector switch sits on a gorgeous arched maple top that's flawlessly matched to the mahogany back and sides.
Clearly a big fan of abalone, Sozo has adorned the volume pot, logo and fret markers with the stuff. If you flip the Z7 over, you'll also find an abalone inlay on the back that spells out the phrase 'Sword of the Spirit'. No, we're not sure what that means either.
Elsewhere, the no-nonsense bridge with thru-body stringing is smart and unfussy, and a pair of straplocks come as standard - always a bonus for those among our congregation with butterfingers or a healthy appetite for bringing the rock.
Plugged in to a clean channel, the Z7 is almost unnervingly polite; the neck is incredibly comfortable, the chunky frets and Strat-a-like 25-and-a-half-inch scale length lending themselves to bluesy runs. The neck humbucker is crisp, bright and eager to please, while its brother at the bridge is a much fuller-sounding proposition that combines with the chambered body and set neck to dish out some really impressive sustain.
At its core, though, this is a rock guitar, as becomes abundantly clear when you feed it even the slightest amount of gain.
The bridge pickup in particular is like a trained attack dog. It's sharp and aggressive on a high gain setting, but smooth, glassy and responsive when the gain is rolled back.
The push/pull toggle throws more options on the table, switching the humbuckers to singlecoils and further stretching the range of what is an impressively versatile guitar.
The Z7 Vintage is a pretty cool customer, all things considered. The chambered body helps keep the weight down, as well as giving the whole thing an air of PRS-style class, while the combination of thru-body stringing and set neck make it a sustain machine.
Admittedly, some of the aesthetic flourishes are trying a little too hard - a guitar with a top this arresting really doesn't need all that abalone splashed over it like cheap aftershave - but it's easily forgiven when you take into consideration the fact that the strap locks and Sozo-branded flight case are thrown in.
It's a hugely malleable instrument as well, at least on the rock end of the spectrum, comfortably taking everything from high-gain theatrics to spindly indie and late-night blues in its stride. Rock 'n' roll might be the devil's music, but you'll make a heavenly racket with one of these.