As embarrassing as it sounds, the first time I saw Richie Faulkner was on American Idol, where he and Judas Priest backed up one of the singing contestants who happened to be a huge fan of the iconic metal band. As I watched Faulkner rip through “Living After Midnight” and “Breaking the Law” with such fiery, youthful vigor, I had to ask myself, “Who the hell is this young guitar-slinging metal god?”
Well, I soon found out that Faulkner had replaced K.K. Downing, Priest’s legendary guitarist and founding member, when Downing decided to retire from the band in 2011. Since then, Faulkner has established himself as an incredibly gifted guitarist and songwriting force for the classic metal band, with their brand-new album, Firepower, becoming Judas Priest’s highest-charting album to date.
But I’m not here to praise the accomplishments of one of my favorite metal bands—or to criticize my unfortunate television-viewing habits. What I’d rather do is tell you about Faulkner’s new signature guitar, the Epiphone Limited Edition Richie Faulkner Flying V Custom Outfit, which also has made a stunning first impression on me as one of the finest Flying V guitars I’ve come across for pure metal shredding.
At first glance, the Epiphone Limited Edition Richie Faulkner Flying V Custom Outfit is a handsome combination of a traditional Flying V guitar with Les Paul Custom appointments like an ebony fingerboard with block inlays, multi-layer binding along its body top and headstock and a bound fingerboard. There are some cool personal touches, including a Judas Priest “Trident” logo on the headstock and a “Falcon” logo on the 12th fret, plus a custom three-layer pick-guard that nearly shrouds its entire mahogany body. The guitar also features a glued-in, deep-set mahogany neck design, 22 jumbo frets, a slim-C neck profile on its satin finish neck and a 24 3/4–inch scale length.
It’s immediately apparent Faulkner wanted a stripped-down V with premium components and electronics—the bare necessities—to play metal. And that kind of weaponry includes EMG active pickups (EMG-57 bridge and EMG-66 neck) in a smooth black nickel finish, a single volume control and three-way toggle switch, Floyd Rose 1000 Tremolo with R2 locking nut and Grover Rotomatic tuners. One thing to note is “Outfit” designates it as a complete package, which includes a deluxe gig bag and Faulkner’s hand-signed certificate of authenticity.
After spending a great deal of time playing the Faulkner V, I find no expense was spared in making this guitar, because it feels like a high-end custom instrument. With its comfortable weight, the Faulkner Flying V feels perfectly balanced to achieve maximum density for hard rock and metal tones. The EMG pickups are a smart choice because they provide clarity and definition with high-gain distortion and never sound muddy. Clean tones sound equally cutting and crystal when you play this guitar at loud volumes.
The Floyd Rose also adds metallic zing to the guitar’s massive sound as well as being a superb locking tremolo. There is no mistaking the fact that Faulkner’s V is meant to be played standing up with fans below your feet; however, my only quibble is I wish the guitar’s output jack underneath its top wing was recessed for playing comfortably while sitting down. But that minor issue aside, the guitar is impressive in its out-of-the-box flawless setup and low action. The very flat 12–inch fretboard radius allows you to bend toward the sky without fear of fretting out, and the comfortably slim contour of the neck lets you glide unfettered across the fretboard.
STREET PRICE: $999
MANUFACTURER: Epiphone, epiphone.com
● The Faulkner Flying V comes with active EMG-66 neck and EMG-57 bridge pickups, which are extremely quiet and pump out detailed low-end and crisp highs for metal chugging and soloing.
● The Floyd Rose 1000 Series Tremolo with an R2 locking nut keeps the guitar locked in tune for dive-bombing flights and aggressive whammy techniques.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Epiphone Limited Edition Richie Faulkner Flying V is a near-perfect, stripped-down metal machine made for precise metal tones; its low action makes shredding an effortless affair.