Gibson releases the Tony Iommi Signature SG Special

Gibson USA Tony Iommi Signature SG Special
(Image credit: Gibson)

Gibson has taken the race to build the best metal guitar all the way back to the beginning with the release of its much-anticipated Tony Iommi Signature SG Special. 

This USA production model comes just over a year after the company released the megabucks Custom Shop reissue of the Black Sabbath guitarist's iconic "Monkey" 1964 SG Special, and offers today's player – including southpaws – the opportunity to recreate Iommi's funereal electric guitar tone, that officially made heavy metal a thing with the release of Sabbath's eponymous 1970 debut LP.

Offered in Vintage Cherry, the Iommi SG Special has mahogany body and neck, a bound Indian rosewood fingerboard with acrylic dot inlays, topped with 22 medium-jumbo frets. Befitting SGs of the period, it has a rounded neck profile that should fill the palm nicely and give you something solid to hold onto while playing an elephantine doom riff.

There are some notable differences between the Custom Shop and USA models. For a start, there is a no ageing on the finish or routing holes below the bridge. Where the Custom Shop replic is equipped with a set of Schaller M6 tuners, the USA model has a set of Grover Rotomatics with contemporary-style buttons. The Custom Shop "Monkey" has a wide-bevel pickguard whereas the USA model is a regular multi-ply vintage 'guard.

The pickups are different, too, with the Custom Shop model's  John Birch "Superflux" at the neck and a John Birch P-90 are here replaced by a pair of chrome-covered P-90s, both wax-potted to tame feedback. 

The Black Witch Hat control knobs with silver inserts remain, however, and here you have a typical Gibson USA control circuit, hand-wired with orange drop capacitors as standard, and the set-up is familiar, with two volume and two tone controls, and a three-way pickup selector.

One thing that sets Iommi's signature SGs apart from the others in the 2021 Gibson line-up is the adjustable wraparound bridges. And of course the "Monkey" sticker, which in the case of the USA production line model is included in the case should you want to complete the Iommi look. 

In which case you'll surely want to tune down, find yourself a Dallas Rangemaster clone, a bank of Laney guitar amps and adjust your entertainment diet accordingly until a steady stream of classic horror movies, blues and classic rock delivers you the the inspiration you need.

Alternatively, you could keep the "Monkey" sticker in the case and make this modded SG Special your own; after all, that's what Iommi did, and while it is arguably the original metal guitar, drafted in when his Fender Stratocaster crapped out on him during the Black Sabbath sessions, it'll handle all kinds of styles, from jazz and blues to rock 'n' roll.

The Iommi SG Special is finished in time-honoured style with a coating of gloss nitrocellulose lacquer. It is priced £2,149 / $2,399 and available now in left and right-handed versions, so now need to play a right-handed model upside down as Iommi once did. That's progress. See Gibson 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.