Gear4Music Harlem Electric Guitar review

The next essential metal purchase after the leather strides and studded wristband

  • £179.99
The Metal X certainly looks the part.

MusicRadar Verdict

The Metal X looks great and sounds great: leave the whammy alone and you'll be away.


  • +

    Looks and sounds great. Built to withstand abuse.


  • -

    Whammy-based tuning problems.

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Heavy metal music is more popular today than it's ever been, so it's no surprise that interest in the style at grassroots level has increased massively over recent years.

Needless to say, it's possible to play metal on any electric guitar but, for best sonic results, a humbucker in your guitar's bridge position is a must. It gives a far fatter tone than a single coil pickup and, with the high gain amp tone also part of the mix, is much quieter too. Of course, an optional extra is an outlandish body shape, and that's certainly what the Metal X has in spades.

The paulownia body is a cross between the BC Rich Warlock and Virgo designs of electric guitar and as such is a mix of smooth curves and 'you'll have your eye out' spikes and edges. It undoubtedly looks the business.

The fire engine red finish extends the metal vibe and, despite expectations to the contrary, is perfectly balanced whether the player is standing or seated.

For added grunt the guitar is loaded with a pair of high-output humbuckers. Although metal guitars higher up the food chain are often loaded with active pickups from the likes of EMG or Seymour Duncan, we can fully appreciate that that wouldn't have been a viable option at this price point.

The maple neck certainly has the right feel to it with its wide profile yet skinny fingerboard, and the three-a-side configuration of tuners on the functional headstock gives an even string-pull across the board. Something to think about with guitars that feature a double locking vibrato.

This brings us to the licensed Floyd Rose double locking whammy. The array allows for the strings to be clamped securely at both ends of the fingerboard, thus enabling crazy divebombs and vibrato effects without any loss of tuning. Well, that's the theory; even on high-end guitars, the system needs to be set up properly in order to function as intended.

Sadly, the Metal X falls flat on its face here as the tremolo sticks, clunks and groans under duress and we couldn't keep it in tune however much we tried. In fairness, this is an issue with virtually all cheaper trems of this ilk - we'd advise keeping the bar itself in the guitar's case in order to keep your sanity during extended sessions.

The pickups are certainly very hot and, with a gloriously over-the-top level of amp gain dialled in, we found the basic rhythm tone to be impressive. It's abrasive, which allows single notes to cut through, yet also resplendent with plenty of body and it keeps its clarity as you wind the gain even higher. For aggressive solos, the bridge pickup really sings, especially on the higher notes, and the big cutaways allow unrestricted access to all 24 frets.

The neck pickup is, of course, slightly more mellow and, as such, is perfect for the meaningful solo during a chorus-laden middle eight or intro. Metallica's Fade To Black is a great example of this and the Metal X isn't too far away from giving you this kind of tone.

Whammy-based tuning issues aside, we enjoyed thrashing away on the guitar and, to its credit, the Metal X withstood a serious amount of abuse. We shouldn't expect too much at this price point but if it wasn't for the sub-standard bridge, we'd be singing the X's praises from the rooftops.

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.