Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi is an indisputable musical icon. He pioneered an entire approach that defines heavy metal guitar – the riffs, the scales, the solos, the overall tonality - and he’s still cranking out new classics well into his 60s. Iommi has been honoured with Gibson and Epiphone signature model SGs before, but his new Epiphone model is the most ‘Iommi-looking’ Epiphone version yet, and very much in the spirit of his sought-after US-made Gibson model.
THE ETERNAL IDOL
The body and neck of this guitar are both made of mahogany, with a glued-in, deep-set neck joint with a smooth-transition heel. The fingerboard is ebony, and you’ll notice traditional SG features like the Tune-O-Matic bridge and Stopbar tailpiece, the classic two-volume/two- tone control knob layout, bound fingerboard, three-way pickup selector switch and ‘batwing’ SG pickguard. The headstock is the standard Epiphone shape with a ‘pineapple’ crest inlay and premium die-cast 14:1 ratio tuners with metal tulip buttons.
There are several distinctly Iommi touches, including the full crucify x inlays (instead of on only half the neck like his previous Epiphone), and 24 frets compared to the 22 of a standard SG. There’s also a Tony Iommi signature in silver on the back of the headstock as well as an Epiphone Limited Edition logo. This guitar features the metal master’s signature Gibson USA humbuckers, high-output units which combine Alnico II and ceramic magnets, and are much more powerful than the 13.7k DC resistance reading might lead you to believe.
THE GATES OF HELL
This is a very aggressive guitar, as it should be. There’s a distinctive ‘chirp’ in the high end of the treble strings, which you will recognise from Iommi’s lead sound (grab a note on that 24th fret, bend it up while tremolo-picking and you’ll hear what I mean), and when you bend a note and shake it with fast vibrato you’ll notice an unmistakably Iommi-like aura too. Power chords sound fat and heavy with great treble clarity, which is perfect for maintaining definition during those ominous downtuned riffs. The neck pickup setting feels hotter and louder due to its position further along the string (the pickup itself is the same design as the bridge, rather than having two separate models), and it’s great for high-speed solos too, with plenty of sustain and compression and a lot of harmonic activity in the upper-midrange. It’s also great for those super-dark Iommi riffs like ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ or ‘Paranoid’.
WHAT MORE CAN YOU DO?
If you’re a Iommi fan and you can’t get your hands on a long discontinued Gibson Custom Iommi SG, this is as close as you’re going to get. Considering that Iommi is actually using some of these onstage, you’ve got to figure that if it’s good enough for the man himself, it’s good enough for the rest of us too.
For more info on Epiphone products, visit www.gibsonami.com.
Hits and Misses
Classic Iommi styling
Great metal tones
The pickups may be a bit hot for some