From Eddie Van Halen’s striped, hot-rod “Frankenstein” to Randy Rhoads’, pinstriped V, Grover Jackson’s guitar-building magic helped bring the age of shred alive. For a while, it seemed like virtually every shredder who came on the scene after Van Halen and Rhoads sported a Charvel or Jackson. In 1985, Jackson sold Charvel/Jackson to International Music Corp., and eventually Fender bought the companies. Since then, Jackson has mostly kept a low profile, working behind the scenes with different manufacturers. But in 2011 he jumped back into the fray in a big way, joining forces with industry vet Jon Gold to form GJ2. The Shredder reviewed here is one of the most dialed-in products of the duo’s shared vision.
Looks That Thrill
Jackson’s creations helped fuel the over-the-top decadence of ’80s glam metal and the Shredder embodies that aesthetic with stirring recollections of Mötley Crüe and Poison videos. Even the case is an article of glam gluttony. With its blue-and-white vinyl exterior and pale blue velour interior, this is—hands down—the coolest case I’ve ever come across.
Though the visual inspirations for the Shredder are undeniably ’80s, the guitar is understated in some respects. Our review guitar sports a plain-top basswood body, bolt-on maple neck with bound rosewood fretboard, and chrome hardware. The latter includes a Floyd Rose locking tremolo (recessed to allow an upward pull of about a major third) and Hipshot staggered locking tuners.
Glam, Bam, Thank You Grover
Grover Jackson pioneered compound fretboard design, and you’re reminded why they were such an essential part of his instruments when you play the Shredder. For starters, the 10"–14" radius gives you an ultra-low action without any setup compromises. You can play single-note lines faster and bend to your heart’s content without fretting out. Big chords are also easier to hold for longer periods of time without your hand cramping. F barre chords are as comfortable to hold as 12th-fret three-notes-per-string scale patterns are to blaze through. The fast neck also benefits from a Plek fret milling, which makes the guitar feel ready for the stage right out of the box.
Gettin’ Hot in Here
The Shredder’s core voice is very authoritative, bright, and lively. I gave the Shredder a spin using a Pro Co RAT pedal into a Mesa/Boogie Tremoverb combo’s clean channel, as well as through the Tremoverb’s high-gain channel. It’s immediately apparent that the Shredder wants to be heard loud and clear. Even with a massive amount of gain and the RAT’s tone control almost all the way off, the Shredder has a commanding voice with great definition. Notes are spiked with clarity, and at times the axe seems incapable of getting muddy. It’s not great at producing round, reedy tone, and the aggressive response can make the guitar feel unforgiving in a way that makes you really pay attention to your technique and articulation. Doing so, though, means you have the power to shine in any sonic environment, no matter how loud. The percussive pick attack from 16th-note scale sequences sounds as explosive as rapidly detonating fireworks.
For clean arpeggios, the Shredder is equally detailed and present. (I couldn’t help but think of the intro to Ozzy Osbourne’s “Killer of Giants.”) The Shredder also delivered great note detail across my five- and six–note chord voicings.
GJ2’s proprietary Habanero humbuckers, which are made and wound in-house at the factory, are key to the guitar’s mojo. The 5-way pickup selector switch offers a variety of tonal options. Positions 2 and 4 give you the outer and inner coils of each pickup, respectively, and conjure a single coil-type sound—minus the hum—for a more focused tone. The tones aren’t quite as thin as a true single-coil, but I was able to get more pop out of my picked notes and even a little twang when I picked right over the bridge. Volume differences between these sounds and those from individual humbuckers are subtler and more organic than some guitars that offer these switching options, and in a live, loud situation you can make great use of these nuances.
One curiosity is that the Shredder lacks a tone control. Jackson, after consulting with various players who deemed it unnecessary, opted for a more direct signal path. Personally, I would have really liked a tone control here. I found the Shredder to be a bit bright at times, and I had to walk over to the amp to adjust the treble mid-song at various points. Just turning down the guitar’s volume knob slightly helped tame the highs, but in general, as long as all you EQ the amp and effects conservatively, it shouldn’t be a crucial issue.
Grover Jackson’s innovations helped shape the sound of an entire genre. And while the shred craze has gone through many deaths and rebirths, a killer guitar never goes out of style for the devoted. Tonally, the Shredder might not be the most versatile instrument around, but its playability will let you shine across a surprising range of styles. If you’re looking for a no-nonsense solidbody rock guitar that is well crafted and built to slay when you need it to, the Shredder is idling and ready.
Watch the Review Demo: