Metallica’s James Hetfield, who began using their guitars extensively in the late ’80s while in the twilight of the band’s thrash-metal era, often championed ESP’s quality, playability, and tone.
Electric Sound Products, better know to guitarists as ESP, started humbly enough in Tokyo, Japan in 1975. The company rose on its reputation for high-quality, custom-made replacement guitar parts and components, but it didn’t take long for ESP to start crafting their own instruments. Entering the American guitar market only a few short years after inception, they began building custom guitars for the likes of Vinnie Vincent and Bruce Kulick. By the ’80s, their hand built axes had started to grab the attention of high-profile players from Ron Wood to many of the shredders riding the ’80s-metal wave.
Metallica’s James Hetfield, who began using their guitars extensively in the late ’80s while in the twilight of the band’s thrash-metal era, often championed ESP’s quality, playability, and tone. And in the years since, ESP has produced a plethora of Hetfield signature models. But their newest offering, the Snakebyte, merges them into one unique instrument with a flair and character all its own.
Tweak & Destroy
Hetfield designed the Snakebyte’s body shape, headstock, and other aesthetic elements. There’s an obvious Gibson Explorer influence—no surprise given that he’s wielded Explorers since the Ride the Lightning era and it’s the Explorer that inspired most of Hetfield’s ESP guitars. But the Snakebyte is built around several, evolutionary alterations to the shape, including a carved bout on the back edge, a beveled cutaway, and a hook-like end on the headstock.
The first thing that struck me when I took the Snakebyte out of its case was how light it was. On a shipping scale, the guitar weighed only 7 1/2 pounds, even though the body and neck are built entirely from mahogany. The case alone weighed over twice as much as the guitar at 19 1/2 pounds.
Metallica’s rhythm king has long been synonymous with EMG’s 81 and 60 pickups— two humbuckers that have likely remained in favor thanks to their association with Metallica’s classic-thrash era. Dual Volume knobs and a 3-way switch control the active, molten-hot fire breathers in the Snakebyte. And the pickup battery compartment sports a cool-looking metal door—located on the back of the body— that resembles a car’s flip-out ashtray.
Crushing All Deceivers,
Hetfield’s sound has always been primarily about power—leaving comrade Kirk Hammett with the effects and extreme guitar-wizardry duties—and the Snakebyte definitely reflects his focus. It’s built to pummel, and make the player feel comfortable doing so for extended gigging and recording sessions.
What struck me initially was how compact the neck felt in my fretting hand. When I first saw the Snakebyte, my first impression was that I would probably have an easier time hanging out from the 5th fret up than I would at the lower reaches of the neck. I was proven wrong when I plugged the guitar directly into a 2011 Mesa/Boogie Multiwatt Dual Rectifier and Emperor 4x12 cabinet, and laid down the meanest rendition of Ride The Lightning’s title track I could muster. With 22 “XJ” jumbo-sized frets set into a deep ebony fretboard, the neck’s 24.75" scale length and thin, U-shape felt super-comfortable—putting every single note within easy reach.
Playing in a seated position resulted in the neck jutting out a little further when I placed my knee in the middle of the lower body-carve. When standing though, the guitar sat perfectly square against my waist. The entire fretboard felt accessible and perfectly placed, ready for the taking at a moment’s notice. And since the weight is only 7 1/2 pounds, there wasn’t a major strain on my shoulder, making the Snakebyte one of the most comfortable, effortless, metal-oriented guitars that I’ve ever played.
In terms of brutal tone, the Snakebyte comes as you’d expect. Metalheads have long known about the magical pairing of EMG’s 81 bridge pickup and a healthy Dual Rectifier. The Snakebyte delivered handily on that promise with solid, percussive lows and razor-sharp highs as I laid down a flurry of palm-muted triplets with interspersed pull-offs and hammer-ons. This is the tone realm in which the Snakebyte truly excels.
After plugging into an Orange Dark Terror head with the gain set around 10:30, a juicy mid-range became more prominent, bellowing along with the EMG 81’s stinging high-end. Typically, I’ve found the best way to tame excessive mid-range presence with the 81 is to drop the tone control on the guitar. Unfortunately, the Snakebyte has no tone controls, which forced me to walk over to the amp and drop the treble. I’m definitely one for simplicity, but this is an irritation that could have easily been avoided with the addition of a master tone knob.
On the other end of the spectrum, cleans from the Snakebyte’s EMG 60 neck pickup are quite stunning. The tone from the Mesa’s clean channel was smooth and crisp, with bright attack characteristics that likely come from the humbucker’s ceramic magnets. The kind of bone-cold, sharp tone that embodied the intro for Metallica’s searing epic “...And Justice for All” was easy to imitate in all its foreboding glory—with stoic lows, scooped mids, and an unrelenting high end.
The ESP Snakebyte is a guitar fit for one of metal’s reigning rhythm kings. But it’ll get along with any player with thrashier tendencies in their music and playing style. The neck and fretboard couldn’t get any more comfortable, and the weight is perfect for those long gigs that put demands on your hands, shoulders, and stamina. Make no mistake, it’s wholeheartedly a metal-oriented instrument, and won’t replace your favorite Tele or Les Paul during those classic-rock or blues moments. But for straight-up aggression and power, it’s one of the finest ways the ride the lightning.
Watch the video review:
you need a guitar that can muster the muscle for the heaviest riffs and remain comfortable over extended playing sessions.
tones with a vintage, warm vibe are essential to your music.
Street $3499 - ESP Guitars - espguitars.com
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Looking for a compact, “noiseless” way to plug in and play guitar? Check out the brand-new Gibson Digital Amp, available only in the Gibson App.
The new Gibson App simplifies the learning process and brings guitar playing to life for the current and next generation of guitarists in a modern, comprehensive, and intuitive way. The Gibson App is the place to take your guitar playing to the next level. New to the Gibson App is the Gibson Digital Amp, the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediate players and pros to get their sound anywhere. The Gibson Digital Amp is an accessible amplifier for both acoustic and electric guitars, and is currently available for Apple/iOS users--an Android version will debut next year.
Use the Gibson Digital Amp’s jamming guide to get started and transform your sound with built-in effects and pedals, jam to backing tracks, or use it in lessons and songs. The Gibson Digital Amp only requires your phone, and wired headphones for the best playing experience, no cables are needed. The amp features 3 acoustic mic presets, 4 electric amp presets, and 6 effects pedals.
The Gibson Digital Amp is the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediates and pros.
The Gibson App uses a unique two-way, interactive platform to teach guitar students how to do everything from playing their first note to shredding loads of songs. The Gibson App features interactive lessons with thousands of lessons and songs. Learn the songs step-by-step with video tutorials from superstar artists and pro guitarists in the “Gibson App Guide.” The Gibson App also includes the new Digital Amp, a built-in tuner, a metronome, Gibson TV, and new songs are added every week. New Gibson App Guides are added regularly and include Tommy “Spaceman” Thayer’s favorite iconic KISS guitar solos, Richie Faulkner’s (Judas Priest) “Guide to Metal,” Jared James Nichols’ “Guide to Blues,” CELISSE’s “Guide to Songwriting,” and more.
The Gibson App uses “audio augmented reality” to provide dynamic feedback to students as they learn and play. As you pluck a note or strum a chord, the Gibson App listens to your guitar and gives you real-time feedback on your playing. It also gives students a more contextual learning experience: Instead of learning chords and scales in a vacuum, you’re able to practice on a scrolling tablature that lets you hear how you sound with the backing of a virtual band. That means you can load up “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “American Girl" by Tom Petty, “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, “Where is My Mind" by Pixies, “Country Roads” by John Denver, “I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett, “Heaven” by Kane Brown, “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran, “Killer Queen” by Queen,“ Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns ‘N Roses, “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden, “Roxanne” by The Police, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana, “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz, and “Don't Look Back In Anger” by Oasis and hundreds more songs in a wide range of genres, to see how your play matches up with such seminal tracks.
As you’re playing, the Gibson App gives you feedback on timing and tone, ensuring that students are getting active input on how their play is developing. The Gibson App appeals to players of all levels, it’s not just for beginners looking to learn a few chords; the app can assist seasoned guitarists who are working their way through difficult riffs, want to learn their favorite songs, or polish their advanced techniques.
Players can also challenge themselves by speeding up or slowing the tabs. Like having a full-time guitar teacher, the Gibson App keeps track of all your progress and adjusts lesson plans accordingly. The Gibson App released a “backing track mode” which supports both lesson and song playback without headphones, so users can self-select what works best for their current environment. And that’s not all: the Gibson App also packs in a fully-featured digital tuner for guitar first-timers, there’s even a detailed lesson on how to tune your instrument, a multi-function metronome, players can connect to free one-on-one consultations with Gibson’s Virtual Guitar Tech team, and to direct links to the Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer online stores for easy shopping for guitars, gear, apparel, and accessories.
Learn Guitar With The Gibson App
The Gibson App is more than a pocket-sized guitar teacher, it’s loaded with an archive of exclusive content and original programming from its premium and accessible award-winning online network, Gibson TV, featuring music icons telling their best guitar stories, with more episodes and installments added regularly. Users can watch Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi share insights and tales from his decades-long career on the series “Icons,” dive into Joe Bonamassa’s assortment of legendary Les Paul guitars on “The Collection,” or see how Gibson’s iconic instruments are made in their Nashville factory from body to binding on “The Process.” There’s even a series called “The Scene” that focuses on backstage stories from hallowed music venues from coast to coast like The Troubadour and Grand Ole Opry.
The Gibson App free version features a few lessons a day; the premium version of the Gibson App offers full access and a 14-day free trial, then costs $19.99/£16.49 monthly or $119.99/£98.99 yearly.
For more information, please visit gibson.com.
This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
Belltone Guitars, as part of their Custom-Select System curated offering of pickups, has partnered McNelly pickups to create a one-of-a-kind retro-vibe P-90 pickup in the standard Filtertron size format. This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl, and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
The McNelly P-90 Foil-Coil comes housed in a ‘raw’ nickel outer casing with a dull nickel foil face with metal mount screw gromets to complete the ‘new-vintage’ aesthetic, making it a perfect choice for your signature Belltone custom build. Available exclusively through Belltone Guitars.
Check out the Custom-Select System belltoneguitars.com to preview the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons and all our standard and selectable components available to create your own signature Belltone. Then visit the Dream Lab on our website and select either model B-Classic ONE with its top binding or B-Classic TWO with its arm and body contours select your body color from our wide range of offerings, select your neck profile of either standard ‘C’ or thicker ’59 Round Back and either Maple or Rosewood fingerboard followed by your tuners, pickguard, and strings. Finally, review our curated custom-designed, and unique pickup selection to locate the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons to complete your signature build.
Builds start at just over $2,300.00 with a custom case and shipping included.
For more information, please visit belltoneguitars.com.
McNelly P 90 Foil Tron video Sep27
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
The Relentless J incorporates a new invention, (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils, offering an expanded mid-range punch, snappy highs, precise lows, and a new dimension to the sound of the Relentless series pickups.
Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.