NAMM 2023: Dean and thrash icon Kerry King partner for über-metal Overlord USA Custom Shop signature model

Kerry King shows off his new Dean signature model at NAMM 2023
(Image credit: Daniel Knighton/Getty Images)

NAMM 2023: NAMM 2023: Dean Guitars has unveiled the Overlord, a second signature model designed with Kerry King, and an instrument that future historians might point to as an archetypical example of a metal guitar.

Having already spec’d up a weaponised V-shaped electric guitar for the former Slayer guitarist, the Dean USA Custom Shop had its work cut out to make the Overlord somehow more metal. 

It is as though all parties had somehow reached out to the Marquis de Sade and various thought leaders in medieval weaponry for this one, with the Overlord boasting a sort of X-profile mutation of the original Dean Kerry King V design. 

Dean Kerry King Overlord

(Image credit: Dean Guitars)

As the kids say, it is a big mood; all in high-gloss Dark Gray, frets marked by pentagram inlay, and looking at it in profile against a white background there is something of the prehistoric beetle about it (is that a tremolo arm or a stinger?).

Dean and King know the drill. This is the man who formed one half of the deadliest twin-guitar partnerships in metal, dovetailing with the late, great Jeff Hanneman on tracks such as Mandatory Suicide, Altar Of Sacrifice, Hell Awaits… Angel Of Death. A shell-pink finish and smooth edges are just not going to cut it.

But the Overlord’s design is more than just the HR Giger fever dream aesthetic – this is built for the sort of high-gain, high-tempo mayhem that made King a household name in the first place.

The Overlord comprises a mahogany body, topped with US maple, and has a three-piece maple neck carved to a custom Kerry King C profile. It has a 24.75” scale, an 12” radius ebony fingerboard with 24 jumbo frets, and if the pentagram inlays confuse your sense of navigation there are LEDs down the side of the fingerboard – just the thing for the low-light and dry ice conditions when shredding in the abyss.

The headline items, however, besides that aggressive silhouette, have to be the pickups and the hardware. Where most players have favoured the Floyd Rose, King has long been a champion of the Kahler double-locking vibrato, and the Overlord comes equipped with his own signature Kahler KFK Tremolo. Given that Kerry King’s middle name is Ray, you can use your imagination as to what the KFK stands for.

King’s pickup choice is interesting too. Of course, there is an active EMG 81 humbucker at the bridge – a hot, high-output pickup by anyone’s lights. But King has his hooked up to a PA2 Preamp Booster to give it some extra juice. At the neck you’ll find a Sustainiac, which will come in handy for the creepy intro riff to Slayer fan’s favourite Dead Skin Mask. A set of Grover 18:1 tuners completes the spec.

A hardshell guitar case is included with each guitar. The Overlord is built in the USA and is priced $6,499. See Dean Guitars for more details.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.