You could never accuse ESP of failing to understand its customer base. The vast majority of its endorsees are high-profile metal guitarists - such as Metallica and, erm, Alex Wade - whose signature models read like a who's-who of the genre.
Reeling off the spec for this handsome single-cutaway electric from the Japanese manufacturer's LTD line sounds like a shameless come-hither to anyone who has ever worn a black t-shirt and devoted their waking hours to trying to shred loose the Kraken.
There's a mahogany body with flame maple top, ergonomically brisk thin U-profile neck with 24 extra-jumbo frets, plus the coup de grace: two ESP ALH-200 active humbuckers in the bridge and neck. Woof!
"This is a guitar aimed at intermediary players and those with tight budgets"
The EC-330FM takes design cues from the ESP Eclipse (which took its cues from the Gibson Les Paul), but this is a guitar aimed at intermediary players and those with tight budgets, and as such, there are some concessions on spec.
The neck is bolted on; we've got some ESP tuners, rather than the pricier Gotoh; and the pickup choice is clearly a cheaper in-house alternative to the EMG sets we're used to seeing elsewhere in the ESP/LTD stable.
The EC-330FM is handsome, though - the flame maple is a nice touch, while the pearloid flag fret markers are redolent of ESP's top marques. But this guitar is built to play.
While the EC-330FM looks as if it'd give you sciatica within the week, some smart contouring on the body leavens the load, and with the incredibly comfortable fat fret/skinny neck combo, it makes for a well-balanced guitar that's a lot of fun to play.
The big question is whether ESP's ALH-200 pickups deliver on a similar level to EMGs. Tonally, the EC-330FM is a mixed bag. It's not helped by niggling QC issues on the electrics – TG's test model had a scratchy master volume pot for the bridge pickup. It's no big deal, though: these issues should be picked up before you get your hands on one.
The ALH-200s sound great: thick and warm for cleans and solid hard-rock crunch, with a brightness that helps to add nuance and harmonic response to your lead. The problem is they don't imbue the EC-330FM with great power. And that's what you need when playing some high-gain rough 'n' tumble.
An unconvincing high-gain voice means that the LTD's biggest problem is the competition. It's a very crowded market for high-spec'd metal guitars under £500 – a little extra cash will get you a Schecter Damien 6, with a set of active EMG pickups and a flame maple top.