What turns an ordinary axe into the best guitar for metal? Is it the heaviness of the design? Or maybe the sound is a more important factor? These are the questions that spring to mind as soon as you start searching the market for a guitar that will easily satisfy your girth-filled needs. The answers are simple, but sometimes they aren’t as obvious as we might think and that’s why we’re here. Our quest today is to list down the top picks for this genre, making sure that all of them will enable you to create those breathtaking solos. Being a star isn’t an easy task, but there are guitars out there that will make that job a bit easier. You pick them up, start doing your magic and there you are – a rising metal-player, the new legend. Let’s begin this article and check out these interesting pieces. Who knows, maybe growling can be hidden beneath the surface after all!
Top 10 Best Guitar for Metal
You know how sometimes you look at a guitar and you immediately think what genre it was made for? Those crazy, spiky shapes usually tell us the purpose of an electric and force us to imagine ourselves on stage, with equally crazy haircuts and solos. But that doesn’t happen all the time. Models, such as ESP E-II Eclipse BB, don’t exactly look that crazy. That doesn’t mean you should let the appearance fool you – monsters might be hidden beneath the surface. Though the design isn’t the definition of what we call metal, it certainly is eye-pleasing. Black satin top is paired with silver binding, chrome hardware and a single cutaway. The shape will remind you of Les Paul, but it’s way lighter. Mahogany body, maple top, 3 pc maple neck and ebony fingerboard are the main parts of this wonderful electric guitar. No matter what you think of its design, its hot active pickups will convince you to take the girth to a whole new level!
- High level of playability
- The fretboard is extremely smooth
- Powerful and dimensional sound
- The neck might be a bit too slim for those who have big hands
If you want to make a purchase that you’ll never regret, Ibanez RG652AHM Prestige is the one you should go for. There’s no way you won’t enjoy it – it’s a guitar that will suit anybody who is playing heavier genres. Its slim neck is perfect for shredders as it enables you to move your fingers as fast as you can. Ash body is combined with a 5 pc maple/walnut neck and Bound Birdseye maple fretboard. Once you start with it, you won’t have any intention to put it down. The true power is unleashed once you let the pickups do their job. What we have here are two humbuckers: DiMarzio Air Norton on the neck and DiMarzio The Tone Zone on the bridge. They have enormous depth and growl, and deliver countless possibilities with the help of a five-way switch. The latter lets you experiment with different combinations and achieve clean/high gain tones with ease. RG652AHM is for those who have strength, because this puppy will take over you unless you know how to tame it. It’s the definition of the best guitar for metal, isn’t it?
- Stays in tune no matter what you do with it
- Versatile tonal options
- High-quality construction
- If you’re used to thicker necks, you’ll need some time to get used to this one
If you really loved the essence of Jazzmasters, but this time you want to try out something a bit different, Jim Root Jazzmaster can be a nice choice. This version has variations in its design and nature that aren’t too different from the originals, but still set it apart from the rest of the series. This bad boy has a black satin mahogany body, which has the contour we’ve all grown to love. The headstock is rather big, enabling you to change the strings easily. While we’re on the subject, I’ll tell you that this puppy also has locking tuners that enhance the tuning stability. Modern C-shape maple neck and ebony fretboard are quite comfortable to play, but keep in mind that the former is on the thicker side and might be a bit strenuous for small-handed players. Jim Root Jazzmaster has two EMG active humbuckers that are responsible for the absolute chaos that this guitar can bark up. Lastly, beware the volume knob, as your hands might touch it accidentally. If you don’t mind these minor flaws, then this fella is worth your attention.
- Beautiful design
- Impressive tone
- Comfortable to play
- The volume knob is too close to the strings
- Not for small-handed players
Schecter Banshee Elite-6 FR S is one of those guitars that you should still get even if you already own a perfect electric. It’s a model that you don’t really need, but once you get your hands on it, you’ll discover that it’s exactly what you lacked. This bad boy will surely deliver jaw-dropping results, even though it’s relatively affordable compared to its higher-end siblings. The body is made from Swamp Ash, while the top features flamed maple. Maple/walnut multi-ply neck with ebony fingerboard is set through the body, making sure the intonation and tuning stability are top-notch. It’s extremely thin, enabling you to go crazy with your fingers. The response is fantastic – you can easily accentuate the low, mid or high range. The selling point for Schecter Banshee Elite-6 FR S is definitely its sustainiac feature. It has three modes (Fundamental, Mix, Harmonic), each of them delivering different results. With the help of this property you can achieve interminable sustain and crank your solos up a notch!
- Excellent response
- Defined tone
- Sustain for days
- A bit heavy
- Needs initial setup
If you’re searching the market for the instrument that will deliver Eddie Van Halen’s signature sound, then you’ve found your mate, my friend. EVH Striped Series 5150 is the replica of the original, which was created back in 1984. The design and tonal characteristics are virtually the same, making it easier to create the sounds of this renowned guitarist. The basswood body is covered with black, white and red stripes – it’s an appearance you won’t see on every electric (unless they are copying this one). This means that it’s steeped with Eddie’s character even in terms of looks, enabling you to keep the guitar where everyone can see it. This bad boy has a bolt-on Quartersawn maple neck which is reinforced with carbon fibers. This way it becomes almost indestructible. When it comes to the sound, EVH Striped Series 5150 delivers Eddie’s tone so well that you’ll be surprised. You won’t even believe your ears, that’s how close it gets. In other words, this baby is a real rockstar!
- Lightweight body
- Comfortable neck
- Unique, authentic design
If you’ve read about guitars and the countries they are made in, you’ll probably know that many players pay attention to that particular feature. US-made axes are preferred over Chinese due to their quality, but our experience has shown us that things aren’t set in stone. Sometimes Chinese or Indonesian models can be just as good as North American or Japanese, and they will cost half as much. Jackson Pro Series SL2Q is just like that. It has the craftsmanship of a US-made instrument, yet it remains quite affordable. Everything is top-notch here, be it the construction, pickups or the sound. This beast has a mahogany body with quilt maple top, maple neck and ebony fingerboard. Floyd Rose 1000 Series locking nut makes sure your strings remain in tune for a long time. Seymour Duncan Distortion TB-6 and SH-6N humbucking pickups are responsible for its versatile and powerful sound. Whether you want to achieve crispy clean tones or you want to go for high-gain distortion, this fella will easily deliver. Jackson Pro Series SL2Q is truly the best guitar for metal!
- Great pickups
- Clean tone
- Decent build quality
- Fret edges are a bit rough
If you’ve never heard of Charvel but Dinky sounds familiar thanks to Jackson, let me tell you that those two have common history. In fact, Grover Jackson was the owner of Charvel for a while, until he started producing pieces under his own name and these two split their paths. They have been separated ever since. But Charvel was a wonderful brand on its own and it still carries out its legacy with electric guitars, such as Pro-Mod DK24 HSH. This bad boy might not have the most attractive finish (people seem to have some problem with its satin orange color), but it certainly has the most attractive sound. The former can still be somebody’s cup of tea, and we’re still not judging any books by their cover. But the latter is what turns this fella into something magnificent. We have Seymour Duncan Custom Full Shred SH-10B humbucker on the bridge, Custom Seymour Duncan Flat Strat SSL-6 single-coil in the middle and Seymour Duncan Alnico II Pro APH-1N on the neck. Though such a configuration isn’t the most common one, it works perfectly for those high-gain, girth-filled results. Pro-Mod DK24 HSH can be a real treasure for any metal player.
- Amazing pickups
- Powerful sound
- Comfortable to play
- Not as versatile as other models
No matter how long the debate goes on about the authenticity of the Z-shape and how hard the original creators try to reclaim the ownership of it, the fact is that it’s a ubiquitous design. Dean has been producing such guitars for a really long time and we don’t really have the right to judge them. After all, in this day and age, almost all the instruments are replicas of something else, aren’t they? With that out of the way, we can focus on the properties of Z Select Floyd Quilt Top Ocean Burst. If there’s an ultimate electric built specifically for metal, this is it! It’s Seymour Duncan Custom Zebra APH-1 and TB-5 pickups can get as heavy and distorted as you desire. Of course, you can emit some clean tones but we’re not here for that, are we? Floyd Rose 1000 bridge works wonderfully, as its tremolo bar creates breathtaking sustain. Oh, and the design will immediately turn you into someone who has to be the star of the show. What else could you ask for at this price point?
- Unique design
- Smooth satin neck for easy movements
- Heavy sound
- Doesn’t have a coil-split feature
Entering the affordable price range even deeper, we encounter Washburn PXMTR20 Parallaxe. This fella has an attractive design that will add that growly vibe to any collection. Its glossy flame blue mahogany body is topped with black chrome hardware, making it look more expensive than it actually is. The maple neck has an ebony fretboard, which might not be the smoothest thing in the world, but it’s still rather comfortable for our fingers. Two humbuckers define the sonic value of this puppy. We have Duncan USA SH1 and TB4 that pack a lot of power. You can easily achieve a wide variety of tones, be it something subtler or heavy as hell. PXMTR20 Parallaxe is a wonderful option for anyone who’s searching for the best guitar for metal, but doesn’t actually have a lot of money. This axe will deliver everything that you’re looking for without any trouble. Go for it!
- Powerful sound
- Affordable price
- Eye-catching design
- You might notice some flaws with the construction
We can’t end this list without mentioning an electric made by Epiphone. Their guitars are famous for their ability to capture the Les Paul feel at an affordable price. Their Special-II GT manages to deliver classic sounds, while enabling the players to experiment and create whatever they want. It has a mahogany body with maple neck and rosewood fingerboard. You definitely have to do the setup once you get the guitar, otherwise you won’t be able to achieve good results with it. But once you do that, you’ll be ready to rock. Another flaw that you might encounter is the quality of the whammy bar. It will take your guitar out of tune every time you use it, so be careful with it. Don’t let it be a deal-breaker, though, because that’s the case with the majority of the cheaper tremolo bridges. The pickups do a decent job and you can easily create heavier sounds with them. In short, Special-II GT is an amazing value for money and it can be utilized by beginners as well.
- Great value for money
- Suitable for beginners
- Easy to play
- Needs initial setup
- Whammy bar messes with the tuning
The history of metal
It’s easy to assume that all the things in this world have clear beginnings. Sometimes we’re prone to believe that once we go back in time, we’ll find the point where it all started. But this universe isn’t that simple, my friend. We can trace a point where a prototype emerged and then follow the path of evolution. And that’s what we can call the origins.
The same thing happened with metal. You can’t really learn its history without exploring those first attempts to make rock even heavier. So let me tell you a brief story:
It all began in the late 1960s. The technology was evolving more and more, and musicians were starting to find new ways to achieve the unattainable levels of distortion. Bands, such as Cream and Zeppelin, started to incorporate these newly-found techniques in their music to make their sound “heavier”. They also started addressing social and political issues in their songs, adding a rebellious character to the genre. Though their music can’t be called metal, it certainly has prototypical elements of it.
Black Sabbath took it even further. The birth of the genre is closely associated with their name, as they made intense and chaotic music. They were enraged by social and political issues, so they expressed that anger through their lyrics and sound. And then came Deep Purple. They added everything that Black Sabbath lacked – they combined musical craftsmanship with the girth. This way, they gave birth to the sounds that were complex instrumentally and awakening with their drive and message.
Fast forward to the 1980s when bands, such as Metallica, Exodus, Slayer, Megadeth and many others took over the stage. Though the diversification of metal began earlier, these bands contributed to the creation of thrash metal. Their critical lyrics, rhythmic playing and heavy riffs took the genre towards the extreme direction. But some of them had to compromise in order to cater to the masses. The urge to be mainstream took a bit of heaviness out of the metal.
But Pantera wasn’t going to leave underground, not at a cost of “softening” the genre. So they took it to extremes. They incorporated unimaginable rhythm in their music, detuned their guitars and sang the lyrics that many didn’t want to hear. Extreme subgenres included death and black, and though they resulted in the loss of the audience, they exposed everything that was withheld before.
The process of creating new subgenres and merging different ones didn’t stop. Today we can explore so many types of metal that it’s easy to get lost. But the history of this genre shows one thing – there’s always some room for pushing the boundaries even further. Even the most unconventional combinations can sometimes turn into music that finds appeal with many. It’s not about owning the best guitar for metal, it’s about crashing the limitations and cranking things up a notch or two, am I right?
No matter where we go, the journey always turns out quite interesting. This time we dove into the heavy genre with the sole purpose of finding the best guitar for metal. We’ve discussed everything from high-end to budget-friendly, providing some options for everyone. Though it’s not easy to single out the one that you absolutely love, it’s possible to at least narrow down your list. I still hope there was a guitar that spoke to you the most and made its way to your favorites. Once you get your hands on it, a new, way more exciting path will begin. It doesn’t matter what subgenre you are playing – the only thing that matters is that it’s metal. Good luck!