Seven great signature ESP electrics

Aside from Gibson and Fender, we´re hard-pushed to recall a make of guitar we´ve covered more in our world-renounced reviews section than ESP. Ever since we featured the gone-but-not-forgotten Hybrid back in 1993 we calculate that no less than 45 ESP and LTD models have been though our hands, and we´ve fondled some real beauties too.

So here, as an idea of where ESP is at in 2009, a selection of just seven of the company´s ever-expanding roster of signature guitars, some of which we´ve used, reviewed and abused, and some we´d have more chance of learning to fly than actually playing...

James Hetfield´s Iron Cross

The erstwhile Metallica man has had more than his fair share of ESP signature models and we´ve played them all save the original flamed-festooned, V-shaped JH-1. From the JH-2 to the Truckster and The Grynch baritone, each has played wonderfully but nothing beats the Iron Cross we reviewed and filmed only last month. From the perfect faux aging courtesy of Nash Guitars to the gorgeous neck, this is a guitar worth trying. Best start saving now, mind and that´s if you can still find one for sale anywhere other than scumbag eBay rip-off sites...

Kirk Hammett´s KH-2 Vintage

James´s band-mate isn´t exactly short of models either, and this Custom Shop recreation of his original KH-2 rivals the luthiery of any guitar company in the world. From the ‘Caution: Hot´ and ‘Kirk´s Guitar´ stickers to the sleek neck and perfect set-up, this is just about as close as you´ll get to playing the real thing short of risking life and most definitely limb on a foray backstage at a Metallica show bent on thievery. Don´t: they will kill you.

Ron Wood

Arguably the turd in the otherwise tasty trifle that is ESP´s artist roster, Woody remains a member of the biggest band there´s ever likely to be short of an unlikely Beatles reincarnation, and so just about deserves his signature model. For the life of us, we can´t fathom the inspiration behind the guitar (\^-^/) but we have seen examples at a number of NAMM shows, so they do exist in real life. In fact, Woody even dusts one off from time to time. Don´t believe us? Then click here for proof...

Jeff Hanneman

If you´re a guitarist in Slayer, you´re not going to play a Gretsch and while fellow axeman Kerry King favours BC Rich, Jeff Hanneman has played ESP for donkey´s. Boasting the ‘polarises like Marmite´ Kahler 2315 vibrato system and offering the option of Urban camo graphics, the alder body and maple neck really allow the two EMG ‘buckers to scream...! Drip some blood into the workings and you´re good to go.

Alexi Laiho´s Alexi-Scythe

Alexi Laiho, one the Children of Bodom, has taken the classic Jackson RR shape and made it his own. In fact, according it Wikipedia (so, of course, it must be true...) Alex went with ESP Guitars simply because they were able to turn a model around for him more quickly than Jackson...hmm. That said, the white Scythe or black Blacky (see what he´s done there?) are true metallers´ guitars and the EMG-HZ passive pickups also boast the MM-04 preamp booster for added aural angst.

George Lynch´s GL-56

If there´s one guitarist more firmly associated with ESP than former Dokken legend George Lynch, then please let us know who it might be. From the Serpent and Kamikaze M-1 to myriad Custom one-offs (check the Carved Tiger for starters), Lynch is rarely seen without an ESP hanging from his muscular yet leathery frame. The GL-56 is actually based on the very first guitar ESP built for him, which explains the serious level of wear that´s been utilized, and pickups comprise two ESP singles alongside the ever-wonderful Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates humbucker. In fact, this writer is the proud owner of a GL-56, although he´s changed the pickups to hand-wound custom shop Duncans...just because he can. Git.

Stef Carpenter´s Stef B-8

Deftones´ man-mountain Stef Carpenter has always approached the guitar from an unusual perspective - and often through a suspiciously fragrant cloud of smoke too - and this new eight-string proves that more is most definitely more. Custom EMG 808 humbuckers, a 27-inch baritone scale length and a 55mm graphite nut are just some of the highlights and, if the prospect of feeding this through a bank of Marshalls scares the bejesus out of you as much as it does us, the slightly more staid seven-string B-7 is also available. It does have a reverse headstock, mind...

All pics © and taken from ESP Guitars

Simon Bradley is a guitar and especially rock guitar expert who worked for Guitarist magazine and has in the past contributed to world-leading music and guitar titles like MusicRadar (obviously), Guitarist, Guitar World and Louder. What he doesn't know about Brian May's playing and, especially, the Red Special, isn't worth knowing.