Death metal is one of the heaviest, most aggressive sub-genres of metal. It is all about heavy, chugging riffs, angry sounding distortion, and the Devil’s Tri Tone.
But not just any guitar is going to do it for death metal. It is about more than just a sinister look with a bunch of deadly points sticking out. It is about the right tone.
Top 3 - Guitars for Death Metal
Here are my top picks for some of the best guitars for death metal.
Most Suitable Guitars for Death Metal
Table of Contents
- Most Suitable Guitars for Death Metal
- What Makes a Good Death Metal Guitar?
- Which Brands are the Best for Death Metal?
1. ESP LTD EC-Black Metal
Despite what the name might suggest, the EC-Black Metal isn’t a guitar just for playing your favorite Gorgoroth riffs. This thing can rip Cannibal Corpse just as hard.
This is a guitar that lets you know exactly what you are getting. The all black look tells you that it means business.
This look also tells you what kind of sound you can expect, I feel. The tone is all about being heavy, chunky, and aggressive.
Riffs are thick and punchy. And solos are surprisingly smooth and clear.
That is also pretty much where it’s tone starts and ends. This is a very straightforward guitar. You are only getting a bridge pickup and a volume control.
Versatility isn’t in this guitar’s vocabulary. But for most death metal guitarists, I doubt that is going to be much of an issue.
I think that lack of versatility also counts in this guitar’s favor. It is meant to just be plugged into an amp, with the gain turned all the way up.
And you don’t really need anything else, really. This guitar just sounds great from the get go.
If you want a guitar that is going to sound great in a death metal setting, or any metal really, I think you will be very happy with the EC-Black Metal.
2. Jackson Monarkh SC JS22
The Jackson Monarkh isn’t your ordinary guitar from Jackson. And that makes this quite a special guitar in my opinion.
The first thing you will notice is the body. This guitar has a Les Paul style, single cutaway body. Something that Jackson isn’t really known for.
Once you plug it in, you will notice the second special thing about this guitar: the sound. This guitar sounds great.
I know that might sound strange, Jacksons are known for sounding great, after all. But the reason the sound is special is due to the guitar’s price.
This is a super affordable guitar. Yet, it sounds like a guitar twice its price. This guitar has some serious distorted tone. Riffs are chunky and aggressive, while solos are crisp and clear.
The tone does have quite a bit of dirt to it, though. If you are looking for a guitar with a modern death metal tone, I think you might not like this guitar. But if you are going for a more classic 90s or 80s death metal tone, this guitar is right up your alley.
While this is more of a beginner guitar, I think that even experienced players will have a blast playing with it.
3. Schecter Sun Valley Super Shredder
Schecter is known for making some serious metal guitars. They might not be as well-known as Jackson or Ibanez, but they can absolutely compete with them.
The Sun Valley Super Shredder is one of Schecter’s best midrange guitars. It is not only a cool looking guitar, but a cool sounding one as well.
The Super Shredder looks like someone put a Floyd Rose in a Tele to make some strange Frankenstein’s guitar. It does look a bit odd at first, but it is a look that I think adds to the guitar’s cool factor.
The look also gives you an idea of its sound. This guitar isn’t as heavy as some of the others on this list.
Its tone isn’t as fat and chunky. But what it lacks in aggression, it more than makes up for with attitude.
The Super Shredder has a very old school tone. You will probably be able to get a modern death metal tone with the right amp. But I don’t see it sounding as modern as other guitars.
But if you are looking for that type of sound, I think you will love the Super Shredder. If you want something modern, this might not be the guitar for you.
4. Jackson American Soloist SL3
Jackson’s Soloist series has been their flagship for quite some time now. The American Soloist represents the series’ return to its roots, being the first made in the USA in nearly 40 years.
This guitar is the embodiment of everything Jackson guitars stand for. Fast shredding, heavy riff metal guitars.
When it comes to metal, this guitar can do it all. From blistering 80s shred, to heavy, modern death metal breakdowns. This guitar is more than capable of both fat and chunky riffs, as well as crystal clear solos.
This guitar also looks as cool as it sounds. It has that signature Jackson design, and I really love that they have gone with a color matched headstock. Making the entire guitar look like it was made from one solid piece of wood.
The Soloist SL3 is going to set you back quite a bit. It is more expensive than the Pro Series, which is going to put it out of reach for many guitarists.
One thing I found very interesting is the Allen Key holder at the back of the headstock. If, for whatever reason, you need to make quick adjustments to your bridge or replace a string, you can have two Allen Keys literally within reach.
5. Charvel Pro-Mod So-Cal Style 2
Charvel is another brand that brings a certain sound to mind. The Pro-Mod So-Cal Style 2 challenges those preconceptions to bring something completely new to the table.
This is a guitar that oozes style. With its Tele style body and reverse headstock, few guitars look as cool in my opinion.
It was also made for fast playing. The neck shape is literally called Speed Neck, that says all you need to know.
This guitar lives up to the Pro-Mod in its name. This is one of the most versatile guitars I have played in quite some time.
Besides the coil tap for switching between humbucker and single coil sounds, the Pro-Mod also has a second switch. This switch is to change the voicing of the guitar.
You can switch between a modern PAF and a vintage PAF voicing. In other words, you can choose between a modern or a vintage tone.
Just like the Super Shredder, the Style 2 doesn’t have that much of an aggressive sound. Instead, its tone is more crunchy and growly.
It also has a more vintage tone, even when on the modern PAF voicing. But I do think it is more modern sounding than the Super Shredder.
6. Schecter Keith Merrow KM-7 MK-III
The 7-string guitar has become extremely popular in death metal. They allow guitarists to reach low notes that would be otherwise impossible on a 6-string.
The Keith Merrow KM-7 MK-III from Schecter is a truly outstanding 7-string. And if you are familiar with Merrow’s work, you already know what this guitar is about.
Fat, heavy riffs is the name of the game here. This is a serious guitar for serious death metal guitarists.
This guitar also sustains unlike many other guitars I have heard. Notes just keep going and going on this thing.
This guitar doesn’t just sound serious, but looks serious as well. This is an intimidating looking guitar with really cool circle inlays instead of dots. It also has three on the 24th fret instead of the usual two which I find really cool.
And even though it is a fairly big guitar, technically a baritone, it is really comfortable and easy to play. All the strings and frets are easy to reach, granted your hands aren’t too small.
What really surprised me was the weight. 7-string guitars aren’t exactly known for being light, but light is certainly a word I would use to describe the KM-7. I was actually thrown off a bit when I first picked it up.
7. Jackson Dinky Arch Top JS32-7
Jackson’s Dinky series is already one of the best affordable metal guitars money can buy. The Dinky JS32-7 brings that affordability to the realm of the 7-string guitar.
Yes, the JS32-7 is an affordable 7-string guitar. And an affordable 7-string that still plays and sounds fantastic.
This guitar is pretty much your average Dinky Arch Top, just with an extra string. It plays and sounds about the same as a 6-string Dinky.
Of course, that extra string gives it a lot more weight. This guitar has a seriously fat, beefy tone. If you play in drop B or even drop A tunings, you are going to have a lot of fun with this guitar. It is perfect for 7-string death metal.
It is also quite easy and comfortable to play. And I didn’t feel like it weighs much more than a standard Dinky.
While I do like the sleek white finish, I wish there were at least one more finish option. And I know this is going to turn a few people off since not everyone likes white guitars.
But I wouldn’t let the lack of finish options put you of. If you are looking for an affordable, great sounding 7-string, I would definitely recommend considering the JS32-7.
What Makes a Good Death Metal Guitar?
While you can technically play death metal on any guitar, certain guitars are better suited and will sound better. If you are looking at a guitar specifically for playing death metal, there are a few things to take into consideration.
A good death metal tone is going to require a guitar with a darker, bassier tone. A guitar with a bright tone isn’t quite going to cut it.
Mahogany is generally considered the best tonewood for metal. It produces a warm and punchy tone.
This is important to get chunky and beefy sounding riffs. This allows you to get that sweet chug sound that death metal is known for.
Alder is also a good option. It has a more midrange tone. This can give your riffs a nice snap to make them stand out a bit more.
Another alternative is basswood. Basswood is more balanced, with a nice blend of both lows and highs. It is also fairly light, making basswood guitars ideal for any on stage antics you might be inclined to perform.
Necks come in two flavors: bolt on and neck through.
A bolt on neck is typically the cheaper option. They are also usually made from a different tonewood than the body.
This means you can have a basswood body, with a mahogany neck. The two tonewoods will balance each other out, giving you a darker or brighter tone, depending on which tonewoods the guitar is made of.
Neck through guitars are often where the neck and body are made from one piece of wood. But they can also be made from two different pieces that are then just attached to each other, rather than bolted together.
Neck through guitars are typically more expensive than bolt-ons. The main advantage is that neck through guitars have a much greater sustain, which is important in death metal.
You should also consider the wood that the fretboard is made of. Ebony and rosewood are the two most common for metal guitars.
Rosewood is fairly balanced and is a good choice if your neck and body is made from darker sounding woods. Ebony is darker, but also more durable than rosewood.
Locking Tuners and Nuts
Since death metal is a genre that requires a lot of aggressive playing, you don’t want you strings going out of tune constantly.
For this reason, metal guitars often use either locking nuts or locking tuners. These help to keep the strings locked in place, making them stay in tune for longer.
These are usually standard features on metal guitars, but the guitar you pick might have neither. If your guitar has neither, you can simply replace the tuners with a set of locking ones, like the D’Addario Auto-Trims.
Which Brands are the Best for Death Metal?
As I mentioned above, you can play death metal on pretty much any guitar. But some brands are going to be better, and other brands aren’t going to be as good or good at all.
All of the brands talked about in this article are going to be perfect. But you can also consider guitars from Ibanez and Strandberg, like the Axion Label or Boden Metal NX6.
Brands that you should avoid include Fender, Squier, and Yamaha. Any brand that is more focused on rock, blues, and other contemporary genres.
Gibson can go either way. Plenty of metal bands play Gibson guitars, even a few death metal bands.
If you want a Gibson for death metal, the Explorer and Flying V are going to be your best bets.
There are many more guitars out there that are perfect for playing death metal. These are just some of the best guitars for death metal to get you chugging in no time.
I hope this article has given you a good idea of what to look for. Whether you are an old school Deicide death metaller or a new school Suicide Silence fan, there is sure to be a guitar on this list that fits your tastes.