Epiphone Adam Jones Les Paul Custom Art Collection: Frazetta "The Berserker": What is it?
Tool’s Adam Jones is a modern Les Paul hero, and his implement of choice — a 1979 Silverburst Gibson Les Paul Custom — has been almost exclusive throughout his career.
In 2020, Gibson announced a limited run of 79 Murphy Lab-aged Custom Shop models, alongside 179 VOS replicas. Eye-wateringly expensive at $9,999 and $5,999, respectively, these were followed by the more accessible, but still debt-inducing-for-many Gibson USA Adam Jones Les Paul Standard.
Thankfully, Epiphone and Jones haven’t forgotten the common person, which brings us to the Epiphone Adam Jones Les Paul Custom Art Collection: seven Epiphone Silverbursts made in the mould of Jones’ ’79 original, but with a collaborative twist.
Adam Jones has curated seven works, which are applied to the back of 800 signature Les Pauls each. So far, Epiphone has released Mark Ryden’s ‘The Veil of the Bees’ and this, the second model in the series, adorned with Frank Frazetta’s ‘The Berserker’.
So are we simply getting the standard Epiphone Les Paul Custom with Jones’ preferred finish and a potentially divisive piece of art on the back? The latter is up for debate, but — on paper at least — the answer is no.
Somewhere between 150-200 Silverburst Les Paul Customs were originally issued starting in 1979 when Gibson was under the ownership of Norlin, and contain a few anomalies when compared to a ‘regular’ Les Paul Custom. First up is the maple neck (rather than mahogany), and, as recreated for the three-piece Epiphone Jones example, features a headstock volute.
Silverbursts are also known for their heavy weight, and that’s also true here with our review model tipping the scales at a fairly hefty 9.9lbs. Then there’s the finish itself, which is actually named Antique Silverburst and features a green-ish tint to replicate the way the clear coats of an original Silverburst ages over time.
To the back, there’s the aforementioned artwork, the original of which was painted by Frazetta in 1968, serving as the cover to the Conan the Conqueror novel and now owned by another Gibson signature artist, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett. There’s further design work courtesy of Korin Faught on the rear of the headstock.
The Silverburst is continued along the length of the neck, just as with the originals, and around the front it’s faced by an ebony fretboard, complete with that iconic split-diamond inlay.
Electronically, you might have expected Epiphone to have fitted some ‘close enough’ pickups in order to hit the tonal and price brief simultaneously. The neck humbucker is an Epiphone ProBucker Custom, reverse-mounted ala Adam Jones’ own guitar after Jones picked up a tip from The Melvins’ Buzz Osborne.
Jones’ own guitar features a Seymour Duncan ‘DDL’ in the bridge position, which Duncan fans will know denotes the model (Duncan Distortion) and the identity of the person who wound it. In the Epiphone version, we get an off-the-peg Seymour Duncan Distortion, and while completists might already be hitting up Google to procure an original ’80s DDL, we’d rather hope that Duncan’s consistency is more than accurate enough for this not to be something to think long and hard about.
Epiphone Adam Jones Les Paul Custom Art Collection: Frazetta "The Berserker": Performance and verdict
For Jones fans there’s likely to be only one question about this guitar: ‘Can it do Tool?’. The answer, as you’d hope, is a perhaps obvious and immediate yes. Starting with the playability, Jones’ custom neck profile is actually fairly familiar, with a medium chunk that isn’t too far removed from a C-shape.
Our guitar features a surprisingly low action straight out of the box. That could be a red flag, particularly given the traditional Gibson scale length coupled with the fact that this guitar is destined to spend a good amount of its time tuned to drop-D. So, expecting our heavy-handed approach to put us at risk of pushing the tuning, or even worse, bringing in buzz when we take the tuning down, it was a pleasant surprise to find that we didn’t experience either.
There’s a perceived snappy tension to the strings, even in drop-D, which not only helps to keep the note clarity but is also reassuring when you start digging in a bit.
Plugged in, it’s a similar story. The neck pickup perfectly delivers Jones Tones for the cleaner side of his playing. Where neck humbuckers can sometimes turn slightly mushy, this holds its crystalline clarity.
Perhaps it’s the execution of the electronics, or perhaps it’s owing more to that maple neck — a departure from the Les Paul blueprint — but there’s a distinct woody, neck sound that (to our ears) has an added layer of that hollow neck tonality which reminds us why —when done well — a neck humbucker can be one of our favourite sounds. Throw in a little delay and modulation and there’s no question that this guitar has been through Jones’ own QC stamping process.
Moving to the bridge, and that SD Distortion also earns its place. With a ceramic magnet and high output, it might not be the obvious place to turn if you’re going after vintage tones, but, this is a guitar based on a specific player, and it’s not attempting to hide that fact.
Gained-up, it comes out snarling with thick harmonics and a punchy midrange, but there’s also a brightness here that helps deliver some additional bite. Palm-muted crunch comes pushing through, and the sometimes-overlooked middle position combines the flavours of both pickups really well under medium gain levels: big, round low end met by the top end zing.
Does that mean that it’s limited to only playing Tool? Not at all, but this is a signature guitar for fans of a heavily stylised player. In some ways, we view Silverbursts as the anti-burst. There are plenty of Les Pauls out there that excel at polite weeping blues, and you won’t be disappointed if you attempt it on this, it’s just that it isn’t necessarily its wheelhouse. What is, though, is providing heavy-friendly sounds with the visual attitude to match, by the bucket load.
Now, there’s no shortage of options when it comes to capturing some of this guitar’s vibe. Throw a pick in a guitar shop and you’ll hit a hard rock/metal-friendly singlecut. Indeed, Epiphone’s own standard Les Paul Custom shaves $500 off the price tag, and last year’s Jerry Cantrell Wino signature wasn’t far off production model prices.
Relax on the body shape and you’ll absolutely find humbucker-loaded silver-to-black finishes. But there’s no getting away from the fact that — as expensive as it may first seem for an Epiphone — this is no standard model.
If you want a brand new, genuine Les Paul Custom finished in an authentic Silverburst, this guitar is the only one you’re going to find. Just to be doubly sure, Epiphone and Adam Jones have done a brilliant job at making this about function as well as flare. The artwork on the back will be a case of take it or leave it for some, but it’s clear that it adds to the price tag while also adding collectibility value.
As a collectable signature model, Epiphone and Adam Jones have delivered an excellent package for fans. As with so many of the guitars we’ve tried from the Epiphone stable of late, it plays extremely well, sounds brilliant, and is finished to a high standard all around.
The inclusion of the impressive Protector Series hardshell case is welcome - it might be picky to have expected just a little more ‘case candy’, but in reality, it’s sealed under the guitar’s gloss lacquer.
Overall, it’s hard to fault the execution. If you’re a Tool/Adam Jones fan, it’ll tick all of the boxes and we’d imagine, make a very solid investment to boot.
MusicRadar verdict: Fans and collectors alike might have trouble keeping their mitts off such a playable guitar. A worthwhile investment? Yes. A hard rock/metal-friendly instrument capable of much more? Oh yes.
Epiphone Adam Jones Les Paul Custom Art Collection: Frazetta "The Berserker": The web says
"As Epiphone Les Pauls go, this might well be the GOAT in terms of stunning looks, an easy ride and a stunning range of tones."
Epiphone Adam Jones Les Paul Custom Art Collection: Frazetta "The Berserker": Hands-on demos
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Epiphone Adam Jones Les Paul Custom Art Collection: Frazetta "The Berserker": Specifications
- Body: Mahogany w/maple cap
- Neck: Maple
- Scale length: 24.75”
- Fingerboard: Ebony
- Frets: 22
- Hardware: Epiphone chrome 16:1-ratio tuners, Epiphone LockTone Tune-O-Matic bridge, PosiLock strap buttons
- Pickups: Epiphone ProBucker Custom (neck)/ Seymour Duncan Distortion (bridge)
- Left-handed: No
- Finish: Antique Silverburst
- CONTACT: Epiphone