As one of the godfathers of thrash, Dave Mustaine knows a thing or two about high-performance metal machines. His guitar playing took what was then underground music to newer and heavier extremes, driven by his thirst for unrelenting noise just as much as his desire to eclipse the band that famously ousted him on April 11, 1983.
He became an architect of anger, channelling all of his frustrations with the world around him into the finger-twisting riffs and neck-thickening brutality heard on songs like Peace Sells, In My Darkest Hour, Hangar 18 and Symphony Of Destruction – all of which have stood the test of time and remained relevant to new generations of metal fans year after year.
Which is precisely why his latest signature guitars through Epiphone and Kramer have been greeted by much excitement across the world. As to be expected, the Gibson models thus far have priced out those on tighter budgets. And while this Custom isn't exactly entry-level in terms of cost, Mustaine has ensured it is as close to the instrument he’s seen with on stage as humanly possible at a much more affordable price point.
For example, 24-fret Flying Vs – at least for these brands – haven’t been produced with much regularity over the years, so this new line gives players a chance to own an instrument with extra range.
Even if you’re not a Megadeth fan, there may very well be some strong appeal there. The pickups have also been chosen to cater for thrash metal aficionados.
From the new range, it’s the Flying V Custom that looks closest to last year’s limited run of 75 Gibson Custom Shop guitars in Ebony VOS. Those instruments, however, were four times as expensive, and naturally there are some differences to be found on closer inspection.
For example, the scale length on the Epiphone is what you’d expect from Gibson-style guitars, while the 2022 collector’s pieces had a longer, Fender-style scale as well as a maple cap on top of the mahogany body.
Other cost-saving factors include swapping the mother-of-pearl Mustaine inlays for basic dots and knurled black metal knobs in place of the black witch hats, though build quality and tonewood aside, that’s really about it.
The model sports the Megadeth frontman’s uncovered Seymour Duncan Thrash Factor set, some lavish tuxedo-style binding and a ‘hockey stick’ headstock more akin to the original Explorers than typical Flying V arrowheads.
And some might even say the Epiphone has a bit more to it in terms of finish, with metallic sparkles dotted within its visual darkness instead of flat black throughout.
But is it capable of administering the punishment due? We’re happy to report that it passes the test with effortless ease, with a bright and loud acoustic snap that gets articulated very well indeed by said signature Seymours, which pack a direct current resistance of 7.6k in the neck and a whopping 16.4k in the bridge. As for playability – provided you have a strap – this is a guitar that virtually plays itself.
Of all Mustaine’s lower-priced new Epiphones and Kramers, it’s the Custom that plays, looks and sounds closest to what he will be using on stage night after night. It’s the most acoustically resonant of the three guitars by quite some distance and therefore feels closest to its Gibson counterpart in terms of quality.
The signature Thrash Factor pickups are surprisingly versatile, thanks to the pairing of a medium-output Alnico V humbucker in the neck and a much hotter option in the bridge. All of which makes this our favorite budget Dave Mustaine model.
- PRICE: $/£1,399
- BODY: Mahogany
- SCALE: 628mm (24.75”)
- PICKUPS: Seymour Duncan Dave Mustaine Signature Thrash Factor Set
- HARDWARE: LockTone Tune-O-Matic bridge, String-Thru Flying V tailpiece, Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, Graph Tech nut
- FINISH: Black Metallic
- CONTACT: Epiphone