Gibson SG Menace review

  • £875
  • $1199
Mean and moody: it's the SG Menace!

MusicRadar Verdict

Alongside its impeccable build and gorgeous tone, this model manages to feel like a blast from the past with one foot in the future, and should therefore appeal to metallers and rockers of all ages.


  • +

    Fantastic tone whether clean and dirty. Superb playability.


  • -

    Relative lack of sustain. Headstock logo design may put some people off.

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When we first heard that Gibson had designed a metal version of the SG, our excitement was laced with mild concern.

What if it got rid of the impish twin cutaways? Or substituted EMG pickups for the dual humbuckers we know and love? Or stuck a Floyd Rose tremolo unit on it? We needn't have worried.

As it turns out, the key difference between the SG Menace and the existing SG Standard is financial, costing about £400 in the UK less than the Standard. In terms of the iconic styling and hardware, we're still in familiar SG waters.


That's not to say Gibson hasn't made an effort with the cosmetics. The Menace's Flat Black finish is sufficiently stylish that you won't mind the lack of colour options, while the 'Brass Knuckle' inlay at the fifth fret of the ebony fingerboard underlines this axe's hard-man credentials.

We loved the Smoky Coil effect on the covers of the 490R and 498T humbuckers. Also worth mentioning are the black chrome Grover tuners and bridge.

And we were knocked out by the tribal routing that runs along the edge of the mahogany body. It all makes the Menace look both familiar and fresh - and that's what it's all about.

Some might say it's only a minor point, but for psychological reasons we weren't keen on the heart and spiderweb logo on the headstock.

It prevents the Menace from being immediately identifiable as a Gibson, and when you've paid nearly a grand for the privilege, you might find that a little irritating.

The original SGs took some flak for the fragility of their neck joints, which at best led to note-bend, and at worst caused them to come off in your hand.

While the SG design is more rugged these days, the fact that the Menace's neck meets the body at the 19th fret (combined with Gibson's trademark angled headstock) means you really don't want to drop this guitar from any great height.

Assuming you don't make that mistake, the Nashville origins of this model mean there's nothing structural or cosmetic to flag up. It's absolutely beautiful.

In use

The SG was conceived as a Les Paul for people who found Les Pauls too cumbersome, so it's no surprise that the Menace SG offers a fast and superbly manageable playing experience.

Thanks to the slimline body dimensions and the additional weight skimmed off by the routing, this model is all about speed, freedom and control.

This is consolidated by the unbeatable access of the twin cutaways and the profile of the '60s-style neck, which helped us pull off the old Sabbath riffs and push the tempo up to Trivium-like speeds.

You probably won't choose this model if you're a soloist in a speed metal band, but it feels considerably faster than a Les Paul to our fingers.

Beneath their fancy covers, the 490R and 498T are the standard-issue humbuckers that feature on most modern SG and Les Paul models.

When played clean, the Menace gives a surprisingly cultured tone, with a level of warmth and sparkle that remind you why non-metallers like Johnny Marr and Eric Clapton have the SG in their arsenal.

And when we hit the drive button, they supplied a level of muscle and bite that compensated for the Menace's relative lack of sustain. For sheer power, select the neck pickup and turn the treble up to maximum.


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