Review – Iron Age Helios 3

John Tron Davidson
March 28, 2019
February 10, 2021

The Greeks knew how to god. Up there with Egyptians and the Indians, the Greeks loved a good pantheon, and while other cultures held their gods up as untouchable, eternal beings, the Greek gods would squabble, enact revenge, and display far more human traits. Helios, the sun god, was the child of Hyperion and Theia, and while this doesn’t have a lot to do with guitars, it has a lot to do with this particular plectrum.

In the Iron Age tradition, the Helios 3 is a little broader and shorter than the Dunlop Jazz XL, and at 3-3.5mm, significantly thicker. It’s crafted from a phosphorescent resin, which glows insanely bright under blacklight, or regular light if you leave it exposed. The construction is truly intriguing – a completely clear resin is married with concentrated glow powder, which Alexis somehow hand-finishes into a matte feel. Compared to the Parthenon, it’s slimmer and less broad, but if you liked that, you’ll love this.

I do love a glow-in-the-dark plectrum, but the reason I settled on the Helios was because of my deep desire for the Jazz XL shape. In this regard, the hilariously glowing Helios, despite being thicker and wider than its Dunlop cousin, had more grip, and moved through the strings with more grace. It felt lighter on its feet, which I put down to the sharper tip and more gradual bevel. Where the Dunlop reaches the edge and rounds off, the Helios’ sharpened point makes the plectrum it’s based on seem sluggish, delivering better note separation with cleaner strikes.

Naturally it’s behaviour on electric was more or less what I expected – a more sophisticated version of the XL – but on acoustic, the Helios was a different beast altogether. It transformed into a strident, arching, magnificent spear, delivering balanced tone with a borderline-impetuous fervour. I can’t account for this other than the combination of disparate elements that is my acoustic, hands and this pick resulting in a genuinely dramatic expulsion. I felt odd playing ‘normal’ lines, and all my most defiant chords came to the fore immediately. It was an enthralling, if surprising experience.

Given my previous dalliances with Alexis’ work it shouldn’t really have been so shocking. The Parthenon, Fenrir’s Fang and Agate models I’ve had my hands on all carry a similar committed aggression, but something about the Helios made it stand out. The grip is certainly a step up on its Ultex grandfather, and the velocity with which it passes through the strings is the definition of ‘eager’. It’s an unusual complaint, but playing major or undramatic chords with it felt like a waste, almost as though it was urging me into combat – the pentatonic as my armour, the Helios, my sword. If you’re even remotely near the heavier end of music and want a pick that burns like its namesake while cleaning up your strokes, get one of these. While it’s currently a limited run, Iron Age’s site does advise that there’s more on the horizon, so get in about it sharpish. Advance!

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