The ESP Eclipse was born as a Les Paul derivative back in 1995, though true guitar geeks will recall a Tele-inspired model of the same name manufactured by ESP in the late 80s.
Anyway, no sooner had ESP launched its new guitar, it found itself in a pickle after Gibson grumbled about the similarity of the Eclipse to Les Paul's lifelong single-cut companion.
A return trip to the drawing board saw the Japanese company revise its doppelgänger's profile with a wider, pointier [aka Florentine] cutaway and a three-control-knob format. The established Eclipse recipe also features a thinner body than the Gibson, with ribcage contouring and distinctive racing-flag fingerboard inlays.
Aside from Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood and his Tele-esque signature model, the ESP endorsee list is almost entirely populated by hirsute lads in metal bands who always seem to forget to say "cheese" when they're having their photo taken.
Those of you traditionally repelled by the full-on metal vibe of EMG-equipped ESP/LTD models may find solace in this Seymour Duncan SH-4 JB (the 'Jazz Blues') and SH-1 '59 neck 'bucker-spec'd guitar now residing in the ESP catalogue.
LTD is to ESP as Epiphone is to Gibson, Squier is to Fender, as Gretsch Electromatic is... well, you get the idea.
Made in Indonesia, the EC-401VF (the last two initials stand for 'Vintage Flame') offers Duncan-powered electrics in an affordable package.
Like Hetfield's highly prized JH-3 signature (released in a limited run of 100 examples back in 1999), our LTD has a full depth LP-style body. The EC-401VF shares the mahogany/maple body and set mahogany neck construction of its original inspiration and the Eclipse-I, along with your classic Gibson 628mm scale length.
The U profile neck is almost identical to that of more costly ESP models with a feel that's similar to a 60s Les Paul: slim without feeling like a lollipop stick.
The Duncan JB and '59 humbuckers are the Morecambe and Wise of the pickup world; it's hard to imagine one without the other. Mr Makoto Suzuki, president of ESP Guitar Co Japan, says they plumped for Seymour's iconic combo because they can run from a "mellow vintage tone to really aggressive overdrive sound by controlling volume and tone". Hear hear, we say!
Secured in a maple-capped mahogany body, these pickups can be pretty much what you need them to be. Judicious tampering with your amp's dirty channel and EQ section can pull 50s rock 'n' roll, 60s-and-beyond white-boy blues (Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mike Bloomfield... and Joe Bo, natch), old-school rock riffs (think Jimmy Page and Slash), razor-sharp punk (Sex Pistol Steve Jones) and 80s-to-modern pinched harmonic-drenched metal sounds (in the Randy to Zakk ballpark) - all from the same two pickups.
This LTD offers flawless playability via a thin U-profile neck and a flatter fingerboard radius than a 304mm (12-inch) spec'd Gibson. That said, for all its smart stylistic touches (flag inlays, recessed controls and the like), the LTD EC-401VF is basically a well-executed Les Paul derivative. The full-depth body makes that even more apparent.
As such this guitar faces stiff competition from other mid-range, single-cut contenders from the likes of Schecter (the excellent Solo 6 is a particular favourite round these parts) and, of course, the many LP models ready to take on all-comers in the Epiphone ranks.
What edge the LTD does possess over its rivals rests with the Seymour Duncan JB and '59 humbuckers - a classic double-act that mocks the notion that familiarity always breeds contempt. The EC-401VF is a great way to discover why this combination has become so well loved.