If you missed the ’80s, I can sum it up for you in two words: loud and hairy. Drummers had to make like drum machines, only with personality and stick twirling. Guitarists seemed intent on obliterating drums from the mix, but we responded with renewed muscle, simple brutality, and headbands. MTV was new, and there were millions — no, really — millions of fans (who may now be your parents) singing along to silly songs about sex, parties, and … well, that was pretty much it. In other words, the ’80s were a lot of loud fun. Poison and Rikki Rockett were right smack dab in the middle of the action.
It was from this era that the mass popularity of un-lathed cymbals, heads with extra dots, signature sticks in various baseball bat weights, heavy-duty double-braced hardware, and sticky hair gels emerged.
Rockett had to wait, apparently, for the distillation of wisdom that comes with middle age before he was able to devise his perfect ride cymbals. Finally, though much hair is gone, those cymbals are here. I played ’em and liked ’em.
The Rockett Rides are part of Bosphorus’ signature series. All Bosphorus cymbals are handmade in Turkey. Really hand made, by men with hammers and forges — no automation allowed. The company offers two sizes of the Rockett Ride — 20" and 22" — which are otherwise the same. They’re quite thick and heavy (the 20" test cymbal weighs 2,850 grams), and have a multi-dimensional design.
The entirety of the top surface is copiously hammered with a small-diameter peen. The dark, hammered surface is then trimmed down on a lathe, but only at the very outer edge and the inside of the face from 2"–3", stopping just shy of the bell. The bottom of the cymbal is also hammered heavily, and then trimmed on a lathe from the outer edge inward for 2"–3". This gives each cymbal a very brown, earthy, rough look capped with a golden hubcap. Parts of the cymbal remain rough to the touch where the bronze formed into bumps and scars during the shaping process.
The bells are big, with a diameter quite a bit larger than normal. The 22" Rockett Ride’s bell is 6" at the base, compared to a Bosphorus 22" Traditional ride with a bell that’s 4.5" at the base. In spite of the great girth, this bell is not tall. And in fact, the profile of the whole cymbal is relatively flat compared to a Bosphorus Traditional ride.
I approached the Rockett Ride with a big stick. Neither the 20" nor the 22" is a light and jazzy cymbal. And the notion of “crash/ride” is also tossed right out the window. When my 5B struck the shoulder of the 22", crash-style, the cymbal yielded nary an inch. The sound that came out was not a crash, but more of an industrial accident in the far distance.
But when I laid the wooden acorn tip of the stick into the cymbal face, I heard a big, round, low-pitched and mellow ping wrapped in a sort of aural titanium. Big enough and bright enough to cut through guitars, the 22" isn’t harsh or shrill. It’s an anvil-like tone, yes, but a really polished tone, like a soft metal covered in a thin layer of a harder metal. Under the ping, the body of the cymbal wavers and groans with a mid-range growl full of interesting harmonics. It’s not a cold ping, but a warm ping.
Playing the outer edge of the face, where the cymbal is raw and unlathed, gives you a mellower tone and much more of the underlying wash. But I don’t believe the cymbal is designed to be a ‘dual-surface’ instrument, because the two sounds are not each a distinctly good ride. Only the lathed part gives good ping.
The bell of the 22" Rockett Ride is excellent. It’s loud, surely owing to its large size. But the pitch is medium high, not low like some ‘mega-bell’ cymbals I’ve seen these last few years. This is no ship’s bell, just a classic or vintage rock bell sound turned way up. If you like to play along to classic rock hits from the ’70s and ’80s, this bell will be right at home.
The 20" Rockett Ride, much easier to lug around, is quite different than the 22". The ping is low, but mellower than the 22", and the ping sound “sits” much closer to the underlying wash. And that wash is quite a bit more noticeable in the 20" than in the 22". Though it’s still completely out of the question as a crash/ride, the 20" does give off a lot more wash under the ping than the 22". In a blindfold test, they might not even be recognized as siblings. Because of the washier tone of the 20", its very excellent bell sounds much less integrated than that of the 22". That is to say, when you switch from playing the face to playing the bell, the sound is so drastically different, a listener might mistakenly think you’ve gone to a different cymbal all together. The bell is low-pitched, with bright overtones, massive volume, a dry attack, and lots of after-ring.
I first took the 20" Rockett Ride to some gigs. Honestly, I just didn’t want to wrestle the massive 22" cymbal into the car. But the 20" didn’t quite light my fire. The ping cut through with ease, but the fullness of the wash detracted from the clarity of the attack. The wash of the 20", to my ears, made it sound like a stronger, bolder, medium ride, not a crystal clear singular note. I was looking for clear, loud ping with a warm voice.
Between the 20" and the 22" rides, the warm command resides in the 22". Admittedly, I hated carrying it around, because it weighs a ton, but it proved itself worthy of the effort. This is a great ride for loud rock if you like a grand, distinct ping with some wash and plenty of musical warmth. And the bell will make the whole bar crave “Tequila.”
Mixture of raw and lathed surfaces produce great volume and definition; large bells are articulate and loud; very thick and heavy.