EPI­PHONE MATT HEAFY LES PAUL CUS­TOM

WITH TRIV­IUM’S NEW AL­BUM, THE SIN AND THE SEN­TENCE, ABOUT TO DROP, IT’S TIME TO LOOK AT ONE OF THE MOST ‘GRRRR!’ LES PAULS IN THE EPI­PHONE LINE.

Australian Guitar - - Reviews - BY PETER HODG­SON

For many play­ers, the Gib­son Les Paul is the ul­ti­mate me­tal gui­tar. Its 24.75-inch scale length lends it­self to a darker sound and looser play­ing feel, which means they don’t fight back against you quite as hard as a longer-scale in­stru­ment. They also give up pinch har­mon­ics quite eas­ily (es­pe­cially handy if your name is Zakk). Their leg­endary phys­i­cal weight is equal to their sonic heft, and while some play­ers find them just too heavy for live use, others feel more se­cure with a heavy chunk of ma­hogany and maple hang­ing off their neck. And the elec­tron­ics setup of two hum­buck­ers with in­di­vid­ual vol­ume and tone con­trols means you have in­stant ac­cess to crunchy rhythm tones with the bridge pickup, singing lead tones with the neck hum­bucker, and plenty of scope to shape a great clean sound by com­bin­ing the two pick­ups and bal­anc­ing their con­trols just right.

WE ARE THE FIRE

Triv­ium vo­cal­ist and gui­tarist Matt Heafy is one hell of a me­tal player in the post-Het­field style – al­though if you’ve fol­lowed the band’s ca­reer over the years, you’d know that they’ve evolved well past their early Me­tal­lica com­par­isons – and he de­mands a gui­tar that gives him both power and nu­ance. Heafy’s sig­na­ture Les Paul looks and feels like some­thing Papa Het him­self would be more than com­fort­able with, and in fact, it’s very rem­i­nis­cent of Kirk Ham­mett’s EMG-loaded 1989 Gib­son Les Paul Cus­tom.

De­signed in close col­lab­o­ra­tion with Heafy, this gui­tar has a ma­hogany body with a plain maple ve­neer top. Note that the specs list ‘ ve­neer’ rather than a full-thick­ness top: this is most likely be­cause the wide grain of ma­hogany would cause the paint to sink into the wood, whereas the much tighter grain of maple would keep the fin­ish look­ing nice and slick. But ev­i­dently, Heafy was happy with the sound be­ing mostly ma­hogany­driven rather than a more tra­di­tional ma­hogany and maple mix like you would find if a thicker top was used – and since maple can be a pretty heavy wood, this gui­tar isn’t as heavy as some of the more tra­di­tion­ally-spec’d Les Pauls are. This be­ing a Les Paul Cus­tom, it’s ringed in classy-look­ing bind­ing on the body and head­stock. The neck is made of ma­hogany with an ebony fret­board, and you’ll no­tice pretty quickly that the 1960s slim ta­per D pro­file neck meets the body via an ‘Ax­cess’ heel, which al­most gives it the feel of a neck-thru. It’s a deep-set neck joint, too, which aids in the trans­fer of string en­ergy. There are 22 medium jumbo frets and a set of deluxe die-cast tuners with black me­tal tulip but­tons and a 14:1 turn ra­tio. The rest of the hard­ware is also black, in­clud­ing the Tune-o-Matic bridge, stop­bar tail­piece, strap but­tons, pickup rings, pickup se­lec­tor switch and vol­ume and tone knobs. The pick­ups are a set of EMG hum­buck­ers: an 85 model in the neck po­si­tion and an 81 in the bridge. The 81 is the pre­ferred thrash pickup of many play­ers, so it’s no sur­prise to find it here.

INTO THE PIT

This is a very ag­gres­sive-sound­ing gui­tar, per­fectly suited for the post-thrash and post-met­al­core world of Triv­ium. The bridge pickup

has that sat­is­fy­ingly dis­tinc­tive EMG up­per-end sizzle and low-end chunk, along with that unique abil­ity to sound equally great any­where on the neck with­out hav­ing to ad­just the amp con­trols. Some pick­ups sound great when di­alled in for rhythm but not so great when you move up the neck for a lit­tle lead work, yet the 81 al­most seems to know where you’re play­ing and ad­justs its tre­ble re­sponse ac­cord­ingly – of course, it doesn’t ac­tu­ally know where you’re play­ing: that’s down to clever voic­ing, not some kind of minia­turised equal­i­sa­tion ge­nie crammed into the preamp (though we cer­tainly wouldn’t say no to that).

The 85 is a great round-sound­ing neck pickup with plenty of sus­tain and de­tail for so­los. It’s not quite as ‘flutey’ as the EMG 60, which Mr. Het­field used for years, but if you’re a high-speed player who lives for sweeps, taps, tremolo pick­ing and string skip­ping, you’ll be more than happy with how clearly the 85 on­board this gui­tar tracks the nu­ances of your play­ing.

The neck is very com­fort­able as well, which is very im­por­tant given the breadth of Heafy’s fret­board gym­nas­tics. The fret­work is of a high stan­dard, and the com­bi­na­tion of the slim ta­per neck and smooth ebony board con­spire to cre­ate a very slick, shred-friendly feel when you’re play­ing lead. Yet, there’s still enough neck to re­ally grab onto for lower rhythm work. And for a 24.75-inch scale gui­tar, it han­dles lower tun­ings very well – al­though once you get past C, you’re prob­a­bly go­ing to want to take it to a pro tech for a re­ally thor­ough setup. There are some nice clean tones to be found in the mid­dle pickup set­ting, es­pe­cially if you hit just the right bal­ance of bridge-to-neck vol­umes. About 85 per­cent neck verses 100 per­cent bridge seems to be just about right for great at­mo­spheric sounds with a touch of de­lay and cho­rus be­fore slam­ming into a full-tilt dis­torted crunch tone for the big riff.

THE BOT­TOM LINE

This isn’t one of those sig­na­ture gui­tars that screams the name of its de­signer out loud. You can play it with­out feel­ing like a walk­ing Triv­ium ad­ver­tise­ment, and I’m sure there are a lot of me­tal play­ers who would love a gui­tar with these ex­act specs, re­gard­less of whose name is on the truss rod cover. You can cer­tainly bust those Triv­ium flavoured riffs out in abun­dance, but all in all, this is one hell of a ver­sa­tile gui­tar.

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