GEARIFIED: Bill Kelliher’s Dissonant Aggressors

**Matt Olivo is the founding guitarist of extreme metal trailblazers Repulsion, whose Horrified LP ranks as Decibel’s #1 grindcore album of all time. Because we know that every reader ever plays guitar, we brought his print column to the Deciblog. In issue #113, Matt gave his feedback on Bill Kelliher’s Dissonant Aggressors by Lace, which “crush/destroy with impunity.”

The business of pioneering music isn’t born of conformity and convention. It’s born of efforts driven so far beyond the known path that it’s no longer visible. Thus, in the darkness, brave explorers begin to make their own company that refuses to walk the worn route. One of them is Gearified favorite, SoCal’s own Lace Music. This month, we eagerly survey their new offering, the Bill Kelliher Dissonant Aggressors pickup set. Kelliher made his mark via the unique musical machinations of Mastodon. To us, it hardly seems like chance that he and Lace have found each other, and together given birth to a beautiful—albeit deadly—angel of Acheron.

The Dissonant Aggressors set we received features a classy gold chrome cover with the standard “Lace Sensor” across the top left and a glyph from Mastodon’s Remission album artwork in the lower right—both laser etched into the metal casing. The elegantly designed, 4-conductor pup is encased and sealed with epoxy to prevent microphonic feedback. Construction looks and feels solid, weighted and robust.

In-house designer and company co-owner Jeff Lace worked directly with Kelliher to realize his vision of a veritable steak-and-potatoes rock tone. As such, this pedigree was righteously complemented by the ultimate rock amp, Marshall’s all-tube, 100-watt half-stack horror show, the JCM 800 with Celestion Vintage speakers. The instrument plugged directly into it was Kelliher’s own signature Gibson “Golden Axe” Explorer.

Being “dirty”-minded, we went for the distortion tones right away. The bridge pup immediately lived up to its namesake with an aggressive midrange maelstrom. The peak resonance lands around 1955k, which translates to a pleasingly rich sweet spot that takes to pro-level tube distortion amps readily and willingly. Aggressive chording is dynamically rendered with punch, crunch, squawk and squeal. Leads follow suit with a juiced high end, complemented by tasteful high-mids, which enhance speed-picking clarity. The low end is open, dynamic and somewhat wily. A bit more picking control was needed to get the desired chugga sounds, but in the end the tone was more complex and fatter than super-tight bass pups like Lace’s own Drop & Gain.

The neck pup shines brightly in its own right. We dialed back the distortion a bit and discovered that heavy rhythm comping is viable—even practical—because of the low-mid clarity the Dissonant Aggressors provide. In this mode, we blasted apart the gates of doom and let loose the dogs of war! We spent a good minute chewing this up like a bloody steak. Leads scream and wail, especially in the higher positions. We also worked both pups out in split coil mode. Suffice it to say, Lace makes the best-sounding single coils in the business, so expectations were met and exceeded!

Even though these pickups have Bill Kelliher’s name on them, the Lace Dissonant Aggressors merely provide a palette for the player to discover his/her own personal playing expression—as opposed to a prefabricated, active tone that barely responds to the subtleties of a player’s touch and expression. We reckon the only real question that remains is this: Are you ready to pioneer? For this and other fine made-in-the-USA music products, go to

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Also available in chrome and black.