NAMM 2023: ESP has dropped a mega-haul of signature guitars at this year’s NAMM, including a new Olympic White take on James Hetfield’s Signature Series Vulture, plus new models for Gary Holt, Bill Kelliher, Stephen Carpenter, Nergal and Javier Reyes.
At the top of this reassuringly large list is James Hetfield’s LTD Signature Series Vulture, which looks resplendent in its new Olympic White finish.
“Metallica fans around the world have seen James onstage playing his ESP Custom Shop version of the Olympic White Vulture,” says Matt Masciandaro, ESP’s president and CEO.
“This is a case where popular demand for a guitar was overwhelming, and we’re glad to finally make it available to ESP players.”
As with the existing black Vulture, it features a mahogany body shaped to emulate the iconic Metallica ‘M’ logo. There’s a three-piece mahogany neck with a Gibson-like set neck construction and 24 3/4" scale-length. You’ll also find a Macassar ebony fretboard with a Vulture inlay at the 12th fret and it comes loaded with a set of Hetfield’s signature EMG JH Het Set active humbuckers.
Hetfield might pull the focus, but as mentioned, he is by no means the only artist granted the honor of a signature from the ESP umbrella this year. Let’s have a look at the rest…
LTD Bill Kelliher Vintage Sunburst BK-600 and Sparrowhawk
The Mastodon man already has three signature LTD guitars out there and now two of them – the BK-600 single-cut and the Sparrowhawk (an offset that borrows a little inspiration from the non-reverse Firebird) are available in this new Vintage Sunburst finish.
In addition, they have both been overhauled to include a set of Kelliher’s signature Mojotone Hellbender humbuckers – as opposed to the previous Seymour Duncan Distortions.
LTD Gary Holt GH-SV
The thrash legend and Exodus linchpin has a new “very pointy” (his words) signature model, the GH-SV. It uses a neck-thru-body build, though you can’t see that because, as well as being very pointy, it’s very black.
That finish is accented with a nice blood red trim and red pickup covers over its direct-mount EMG 81/89R active humbuckers.
The neck has a 24 3/4” scale-length (setting it aside from Nergal’s new HEX Vs, below) and 22 frets ‘extra jumbo’ stainless steel frets. There’s also a double-locking Floyd Rose 1000 tremolo and Grover tuners.
LTD Signature Series JRV-8
Looking not-unlike an overfed Strat, the JRV-8 is an eight-string take on the classic S-style body shape, built for Animals As Leaders’ guitarist Javier Reyes. It has a 27” baritone scale and uses a bolt-on build, pairing an alder body with a five-piece maple and walnut thin contour neck.
ESP notes it is a rare example of a production model featuring an official eight-string double-locking Floyd Rose vibrato.
The HSS pickup layout is also pretty interesting, offering a combination of Fishman’s Fluence Single Width 8 pickups on the middle and neck alongside the guitarist’s own Fluence 8 String Javier Reyes Classic Open Core at the bridge. The Fluence pickups have three selectable voices, so there should be plenty of sonic flexibility on offer here.
Rancid’s Lars Frederiksen is a man who favors utility in his instruments and his new Volsung-200 shaves off some of the weight and frippery of ESP’s SG-like Viper build.
It features a straightforward set-neck build, LTD hardware and ESP Designed humbuckers. The only added complexity is that it features an extra volume knob (Viper’s usually only have one shared volume pot), enabling individual control of the pickups’ output.
LTD HEX-6 / LTD HEX-200
Nergal, frontman of Polish metal giants Behemoth, has two new Vs making their debut at this year’s NAMM. First up, the HEX-6, which has a neck-thru-body build and a 25.5” scale-length. You’ll also find a set of direct-mount Fishman Fluence Modern Humbuckers in there, plus a TonePros Locking TOM bridge.
The HEX-200 offers a more affordable take on the build, cutting the production costs with a bolt-on neck and using ESP Designed pickups in the place of the Fishman set.
LTD SCT-607 Baritone
Finally, Deftones guitarist Stephen Carpenter has reprised the black finish for his T-style seven-string guitar. A baritone build, it has a neck-thru-body construction and Carpenter’s Fishman Fluence pickups, plus a TonePros TOM bridge.
So that’s about it on the ESP signature front this year, a typically generous haul – and that’s not even counting Kirk Hammett’s new LTD-KHV guitars, which were announced last month.
For more information on all the brand’s Signature Series gear, head to ESP.