Metal music and the electric guitar have a symbiotic relationship. The Metal electric guitar is an icon and can be identified as a true talisman of the genre.
In a world where the electric guitar industry is sometimes accused of lacking innovation (the iconic models of the 50s/60s remaining as industry standards), the world of Metal guitar surely bucks the trend. We have pointy, fluorescent, and extravagant guitars everywhere nowadays!
With so much choice for the ultimate chugging, shredding, and djenting Metal machine out there, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. But fear not, because today I want to narrow down the best Metal guitar brands available.
When one first contemplates Jackson as a guitar brand, unruly hair growth, streaks of thick black mascara, and circulatory restricting skin-tight leather trousers all rear their beautiful heads in my mind. Jackson is Metal.
Grover Jackson first coined Jackson guitars in the year 1980, after successfully achieving the ‘concorde’ guitar shape, via THE Randy Rhoades pursuit of its manifestation.
Grover intervened that this new creation was so ludicrously wackadoodle that it warranted a whole new guitar brand with its neck-through construction and angular design. If a guitar brand comes about because of a Metal god and shred monster like Randy Rhoades, you know it must be on anyone’s best Metal guitar list.
Now producing a plethora of industry-standard models, The ‘Soloist’, the ‘King V’, the ‘Kelly’ and ‘Dinky’ for example, Jacksons are shred machines made for the purpose. For Instance, they often bear a 12-16” compound radius and deep cutaways designed for easy access to soul-piercing notes.
If you’re looking for your best heavy Metal guitar, I can assure you that the iconic Jackson is one of the best places to start.
Personally, for some reason, I always seem to group Charvel and Jackson in the same portion of my guitar headspace. Maybe it’s because of their ties to a common past owner in Grover Jackson. Or perhaps they’re just another guitar brand that represents a high octane era of shred!
Born out of Wayne Charvel’s workshop, “Charvel Guitar Repairs,” the brand has admittedly had a fairly tumultuous history in recent years; however, they’re now very much on the up. Fender repurchased the brand in 2002, and they’ve begun to reinstate Charvel with the original and core ideal of creating high-quality American-made instruments.
Satchel is an avid Charvel fan, and for me, his aesthetic and that of his band, Steel Panther, are exactly representative of the strain of Metal I associate with Charvel. Despite this, they have proven their worth in the more brutal and extreme forms of the genre. Players like Joe Duplantier from Gojira and Angel Vivaldi sport the brand just as aptly for face-melting Metal!
It’s good to have you back, Charvel. You had a few years off, admittedly, but boy, do I know your back with a vengeance, baby!
Ibanez is the holy grail for many. The “I’m saving up my pocket money for that pointy thing on that poster Mum” guitar, if you will.
Despite developing an ‘industry standard’ reputation (many seeing Ibanez, Gibson, and Fender as the holy trinity), they’re experts in innovation, one of the first to challenge the norms that begin to bore us axe-wielders.
For example, the Ibanez ‘Universe’ model set the bar very high for the seven-string electric guitar, and the Roadster, JEM and Iceman models all boasted ludicrously next generation shapes, proving a hit in the world of shred.
They continue to stay with the times. Their Iron Label range is monstrous for example, but perhaps most notably in recent years, the A-Z models are the most unmistakably modern. With a baked maple fretboard, the range is spear-headedly marketed toward the modern fusion shredder and endorsed by players like Andy Timmons, Martin Miller, and Tom Quayle.
On the subject of endorsees, high-quality guitars like these always boast top players, and Ibanez is certainly no different. Other notable artists include Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Paul Gilbert, Mårten Hagström, and many more.
ESP is a brand I feel gets overlooked a fair bit. Maybe it’s because they’re often looked at as exclusively a Metal guitar, fit for no other purpose but that of chug and shred. Whilst you’ll be sure to find these attributes in an ESP model, they won’t stifle you.
They’re a brand that’s kept the big hitters on their toes, especially in the 80’s/90’s when they seemed to have been spotted in any number of famed shredders’ hands, most notably in that of George Lynch’s who has a signature ‘Kamikaze’ model with the brand.
While ESP was renowned for extreme quality in its embryonic phases, more affordable price points are also now offered, especially in the LTD ranges.
In fact, I’d say they’re one of the best budget options out there for a guitarist. If you’re craving for the rich sensation of a fat Les Paul but just can’t justify their hefty piece demands, you definitely can’t go wrong with an LTD EC series.
Schecter has spread their wings over the industry, and they now just seem to grow every year. A major player of the future, I do prophesy!
Models like the ‘Hellcat’ and ‘Avenger’ are complemented nicely by more familiar designs that hark back to the brand’s origins, building high-quality Fender style guitars. The PT models, for example, are similar to the ‘Saturn’ they made in the ’80s. A guitar that covertly nodded towards that of Pete Townshend’s.
One thing that’s always blown me away about Schecter is their impressive endorsees list. Synyster Gates from Avenged Sevenfold sports a signature model with the brand, and Jerry Horton is another endorser who debuted the C-1 model in Papa Roach’s famous ‘Last Resort ‘ video.
Yngwie Malmsteen also had a signature model with Schecter, with similar specifications to his later produced Fender Strat. This roster of endorsements is a testament to the quality of Schecter.
BC Rich is one of those brands that invokes a lot of emotion in people. Founded in 1969 and known for their zany guitar shapes, they are intrinsically Metal. People connect with the brand as a physical manifestation of everything it means to be a practitioner of the dark genre.
Everyone from Slash (Mockingbird) to Joe Perry (Rich Bich 10 Supreme) has been known to pull one out occasionally; something about them just makes a crowd go wild; they are major crowd-pleasers.
B.C Rich’s current catalog does however require a pretty extensive budget and amounts to a boutique haul of weapons. So save your pennies! They’re a brand and a half and a serious piece of kit.
Is there anything better than plugging in a Les Paul, cranking an amp, and simply indulging in shredding on a heavy, mahogany guitar?
The titans of the guitar industry, the juggernauts of Metal, and the muse of guitar manufacturing history, the timeless Gibson is on the list. Gibson helped to pioneer Metal in its earliest strains, and you can’t ignore that.
For example, Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, a band widely credited with the invention of Metal itself, has sported a black SG for many years. Its crucifix fret inlays and opaquely black paint, a personification of the genre itself.
They’re a brand that pioneered Metal before it was even Metal. Legendary is the only word I can use confidently about them.
Dean guitars, in my mind, occupy a very unique space of the market. On the one hand, I associate them with bands like Kansas and ZZ Top, but on the other, they’re bloodthirsty, lightning taming, brutes of Metal.
It’s clear why Dean is such a popular choice for Metalhead; their designs cover many bases. From the Cadillac series to the Exile, whatever strain of Metal tickles your fancy; Dean has you covered.
It’s also an emotional connection that keeps Metalheads coming back for more though, not just a practical one. Dimebag Darrell, is the most potent example of this. Putting the now classic ML model on the map, the brand is now forever intertwined with this genre’s leading light.
Dean is a brand that makes you feel warm and nostalgic inside.
I can see you’re a little bit dubious about this one; after all, we don’t associate the spanky cleans of a strat with a vertigo-inducing chug, but hear me out.
Two words to begin with. Yngwie Malmsteen. That’s enough, isn’t it? Players like Yngwie pioneered extreme guitar playing. And with the help of predecessors like Ritchie Blackmore, who also used guitars of the Stratocaster mold, laid the groundwork for Metal consumed today.
However, I understand that this still doesn’t portray Fender as a brand that can deliver in the domain of extreme Metal. I think if you’re looking to chug along with a screamo vocalist on a 7 or 8 string guitar, then you may want to look elsewhere.
However, if you’re dead set on using a Fender, looking at modifying one. Whack a humbucker on there, scallop the fingerboard, smack a Floyd rose on it.
Fender has been the inspiration behind most of the brands on this list at one time or another. Without their ubiquitous original designs, these other brands would undoubtedly look very different, and that’s a fact.
There’s something very mysterious about Washburn to me. It’s like their part humble acoustic and part Metalhead alien hybrid. Also, their electric guitars have earned a kind of classic cult status amongst musicians.
That’s probably something to do with how long the brand name has endured I suppose (135 years old in total), and its mysterious ancient beginnings and past.
Whatever rural associations I have with Washburns; sitting on the veranda, rocking gently, sipping wine, howlin the blues,- it’s clear to see that at some point, Washburn players got out of their rocking chairs and began to melt faces, initially with models like the ‘Wing’ in the ’70s.
Suppose you’re looking at purchasing a Washburn today. In that case, the N4 is probably the model you’re contemplating, and it would be a travesty if I didn’t mention it and its legendary father- Nuno Bettencourt. The model is easily the brand’s benchmark and boasts various innovations, including that neck joint! That neck joint is enough to make even the most sweaty, hairy, and bloodthirsty Metalhead drawl!
There we have it!
So there are my top ten best Metal guitar brands. Remember, my opinions are my own. The most important thing to consider when bequeathing an axe for yourself is whether or not it suits you.
Guitar choice is very subjective, so don’t like one merely because it appears on this top ten Metal brand lists. Try one out! You’re a unique player. Who says you have to go with the crowd?
But hopefully, this piece has steered clear of coercing you into a particular need for one brand. Hopefully, it’s just been enjoyable and educational.
Thank you for reading, and I hope this list has helped you learn more about the best metal guitar brands available today. Happy shredding!