If you’re reading this, you’re most likely a metalhead who’s looking for a new electric guitar. I’m assuming that you love fat riffs and fast, melodic solos. If that’s your vibe – you’re in the right spot.
Since I’ve been testing out guitar gear for years now, I came up with a list of 10 best guitars for thrash metal. It’s all totally subjective, but there’s a high chance that you’ll like at least some of these models. I had most of them in my hands so I can totally recommend them.
So let’s get into it! I included guitars for pretty much all kinds of budgets so it doesn’t really matter whether you want a guitar for less than $200 or $1000. The sound demos are included below as well, so you can also check out their tones.
ESP LTD EC-401
Let’s start with the guitar loved and admired all around the world! This is a VERY safe choice. It sounds magical, but the high price is the only downside.
ESP LTD is a well-known brand among the metalheads. No matter what kind of metal you’re listening too, it’s very likely that someone from your favorite band is using their gear.
What makes this model so cool? Well, it has pretty much everything you need. You can already tell by the look of it that it’s made for shredding. It has a set of two EMG pickups which are ideal for that kind of music.
But on the other hand, if you’re just a beginner or you don’t want to spend that much, you probably can skip that model and go to the next one. It’s absolutely amazing, but there are more affordable guitars out there.
Here’s the link to my review of EC-401 if you want to read more about it. And of course, here’s the sound demo.
If you’re a fan of Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters, you probably recognize that body shape! He actually plays on a Gibson, but Epiphone Explorer is just a cheaper option – Gibsons tend to be crazy expensive these days.
I actually believe that Explorers are very versatile – you can use them not only for thrash metal but also for all kinds of rock, grunge and punk. And since they look very cool, you can be sure that they will draw a lot of attention on stage (if you’re a performer of course).
What I don’t like about Explorers is that they don’t usually fit into regular guitar cases. Not a huge deal, but you can imagine what it means – it means that you’ll need a case made specifically for that body shape. And that stuff is sometimes more expensive.
But generally, it’s an amazing option. Not too expensive, looks VERY nice and it sounds awesome. What’s there not to like? Feel free to check out the sound demo below.
Time for something really cheap! This is probably one of the most affordable axes on today’s list. I had the pleasure to use it on several ocassions and it was quite good.
Obviously, let’s be real. It’s not a guitar from the highest shelf, but it’s more than enough for beginners. I also think that it has a quite comfortable neck, so it’s a great foundation for modifications.
I’d recommend this one for guitar noobs or more advanced players who know how to modify guitars. Putting new pickups and tuners here would be game-changer.
Generally, Ibanez guitars are great for thrash metal. You can explore more of their models on my blog and my youtube channel. Quite a lot of famous guitar players use gear by this brand, so that’s a good sign.
Here’s a sound demo if you want to hear how it sounds.
Epiphone Les Paul Custom
Of course I could not mention the famous Les Paul! These guitars are also really good for thrash metal (and all other kinds of metal).
Epiphone has a lot of different LPs in their offer, but the Custom one is one of the best ones in my opinion. It’s similar to Gibson Les Paul, but it’s way more affordable. Why spend more when you can spend less?
It’s also available in a few color versions, so if you don’t like that black finish, you can also choose the Alpine White version.
Who will benefit from getting this one? Well, I think that it’s designed for both beginners and intermediate players. You can easily choose it as your first guitar, but if that’s the case – something cheaper may be better.
This is also a fantastic axe for gigs and recording. It’s not a Gibson, but it’s almost like Gibson – and that’s what matters the most in this case. Definitely worth the money!
Here’s the demo.
The JS22 is an another awesome guitar suitable for beginners. There are quite a few color versions available too, so I’m sure that anyone will be able to find the one that suits them.
Let’s be clear – this isn’t the most amazing guitar in the world, but it’s more than enough for any amateur who wants to enter the world of rock and metal. Thin neck makes it very easy and comfortable to play.
I’ve heard that sometimes these guitars come with a poor factory setup, but it’s not always the case – there’s a high chance that you won’t experience that anyway.
Generally, I think that the Jackson JS22 proves that a good axe for shredding doesn’t necessarily have to be overly expensive. Just don’t expect it to be flawless and you’ll be more than happy!
Here’s how it sounds.
Harley Benton SC-1000
The SC-1000 is one of the most popular Bentons with active pickups. This kind of stuff is ideal for thrash metal!
I had the pleasure to test it out on my own and I was really impressed by the overall quality of that axe. I got it as a B-stock from Thomann, so it was even cheaper than usual.
Although I no longer have it with me, I remember that it was an extremely well-made and functional axe. It’s basically a cheap copy of one of the similar ESP LTD guitars mentioned earlier.
So if you’re looking specifically for a cheap guitar with active pickups, you should definitely consider adding it to your collection. There’s a very high chance that you’re going to love it.
The full review of that guitar is available on my YouTube channel.
Harley Benton HWY-25 BKS
The HWY-25 BKS is an another fantastic electric guitar that I had the pleasure to test out on my own. When it comes to cheap guitars, this is probably one of the best Harley Benton guitars out there.
Why do I love it so much? Well, it’s an extremely affordable superstrat. It’s even chaper than the Jackson JS22 and Ibanez GRG121 and to be honest, that price difference is pretty huge.
It’s just amazing that we can get such nice guitars for such low amount of money these days. Obviously, it’s not the best guitar in the world, but if you’re not experienced, you don’t need anything better.
Whether you like Chinese-made guitars or not, once this model lands in your hands, you’ll definitely think to yourself “wow, that’s surprisingly good”.
Feel free to check out my full video review below.
Gibson Les Paul Tribute
There are A LOT of different Gibsons out there. The Tribute Les Pauls are actually one of the most affordable ones. Of course, in comparison with cheaper axes on today’s list, these are still very expensive.
Why do I think that these are the best guitars for thrash metal? Well, LPs are extremely versatile! You can pretty much use that gear for all kinds of genres ranging from blues and indie through alternative rock and post punk to death and stoner metal. There are no rules here.
I’m a big fan of the Tribute ones, because they have a very cool vintage vibe. That satin finish is awesome.
But whether you decide to get a Gibson Les Paul Standard, Studio, Tribute or Custom – you can be sure that it will be one of your favorite guitars.
Here’s a quick sound demo.
This Ibanez is a high quality Superstrat designed for the most demanding pros out there. It’s pretty expensive, but it has pretty much everything you need to play thrash metal.
When you look at it, it’s actually similar to the Harley Benton HWY-25BKS. But the difference in build quality, sound, attention to detail and feel is definitely huge.
Who is it for? Well, I’d recommend this one for advanced musicians. If you play in a thrash metal band and you like to shred, it’s very likely that you’ll fall in love with that guitar.
So if you want to be in love with the guitar and you’re okay with staying broke for a bit, choose this model!
Here’s the demo.
Fender Jim Root Jazzmaster
Who doesn’t love Slipknot? This signature Jazzmaster of Jim Root is an amazing option for everyone who loves heavy riffs.
It doesn’t matter whether you want to play doom, stoner, black, death or thrash metal – it’s perfect for all of that. It’s an incredibly versatile axe.
Personally, I’d say that this is one of my favorites. Generally, Jazzmasters are my thing. But this is the punchiest and the most metal JM that I have ever seen. That says a lot about that model!
Here’s the demo.
Which one would I get?
I want to be honest with you – I think that all of the guitars on today’s list are worth the money. I would struggle a lot to choose just one.
If I were a complete guitar noob, I’d probably choose the Harley Benton HWY-25 or Jackson JS22. These guitars are cheap and they sound good, so they’re more than enough for beginners.
But since I’m a quite experienced guitarist now, I’d probably choose something from the higher shelf – like Gibson Les Paul or Fender Jim Root Jazzmaster. I’m in love with offset guitars, so I’d probably choose the second one!
I’m sure that choosing the right axe for thrash metal should be based on your own personal preferences. Just have a look at these guitars, listen to the sound demos and compare it with your budget. The answer should be pretty simple then!
Metalheads have it very easy these days. Back in the ’70s or ’80s, cheap guitars were associated with poor quality. Things are different now and as you can see, it’s totally possible to find a playable instrument for less than $200.
Remember that this list is based on my own subjective opinion – some people may give you different recommendations. And that’s totally fine! There’s no golden rule for all of that.
If you do end up with getting one of the axes mentioned above, leave a comment down below. Or if you think that I should something else here, let me know too! I’m interested to hear what you think too.