10 Modern Boutique Metal Guitar Builders Changing the Shred Game

In the world of metal guitar brands, you certainly have a lot of options. And the metal world has certainly changed quite a bit since the heyday of Black Sabbath and other New Wave of Heavy British Metal bands. The cool thing about metal in 2018 is that it has never been as diverse as it is now. With prog and djent becoming even more popular among emerging shredders, it's easy to see how a new class of luthiers began to rise and become more prominent in the industry.

In this article, I'll outline 10 modern boutique metal guitar builders that are challenging the status quo of the guitar industry. Be warned in advance—this article contains some seriously killer instruments—and you may walk away needing a new guitar, or three.

Importantly, we first need to throw some love to the big guitar companies that have set the tone for these emerging boutique manufacturers. The metal world has largely relied on companies like ESP, Jackson, Schecter, Ibanez, B.C. Rich, Gibson, Dean, Kramer, Ernie Ball, Charvel, and even PRS.

Now, obviously there are some companies on our list below that have been around for quite some time, with regards to Kiesel especially. However, with their Carvin/Kiesel transition in 2015, we should give them the recognition they deserve, as Jeff Kiesel himself has worked tirelessly to re-envision the guitar-manufacturing side of their business.

Do you have a favorite metal builder you don't see on the list? Let us know in the comments.


Strandberg
Sweden

Nothing like rolling up to the Strandberg booth at NAMM and getting to meet Plini, Per Nilsson, and Yvette Young all in the span of five minutes... Strandbergs are currently some of the comfiest and most lightweight guitars in the boutique industry and they come in some of the coolest finishes imaginable. What's even cooler is they are now partnering with Desert Son Musical Instruments, based out of Scottsdale, Arizona, to bring their fans and prospective buyers a USA select guitar. So now you can have one made in Sweden and one made in the States. Perfect for satisfying even the most discerning G.A.S.

Strandberg Boden Metal 7

Quite simply, Strandberg says, "[our] guitars are known for their light weight, great ergonomics for comfort and a forward-thinking design. But these futuristic guitars also provide a great balanced sound across the entire tonal spectrum with excellent definition, an organic woody character, superb responsiveness, and a strong punch that cuts through the densest mix. Extremely versatile, Strandberg guitars are especially popular amongst the modern djent metal players as well as rock/fusion virtuosos."

You can hear Strandbergs in the hands of Canadian progressive/tech death band Beyond Creation, the almighty U.S.-based prog metal band Periphery, and Swedish metal legends Scar Symmetry.


Aristides
The Netherlands

Sometime in early 2016, I stumbled onto the Aristides' Instagram page and knew that I had to play one of these fantastic-looking guitars. The top, with its twin indents, seemed so unique and so different from every other modern metal guitar design. Upon holding one for the first time, I realized that what I was indeed holding was not quite wood but Arium, a tonal material that took 15 years of research to create. Coupled with their extremely sleek design and a unique back control plate, Aristides' guitars are truly something special.

Aristides 060 model

Aristides says they demand of their guitars "perfect control of tone," "incredible playability," and "innovative design." To that end, they've even collaborated with Frans van Rens, an industrial designer that has created everything from Nike stores to contemporary furniture to train cars.

Aristides are currently being used by Norwegian-based black metal band Emperor (specifically Ihsahn), Brazilian thrash goddesses Nervosa, Canadian progressive metal enthusiasts Intervals, and the American deathcore band Whitechapel.


Mayones
Poland

In 2014, I played my first Mayones Regius 7. I remember being attracted instantly to the cool look of the guitar, most likely because it was the first time I had seen a trans natural fade blue burst over a quilt top the way Mayones does it. Surprised by how light the guitar was, the sound was really on another level (it wasn't until later I realized that that was my first time playing Bare Knuckle Pickups). I was immediately hooked on the Mayones brand and have been following them ever since.

Mayones Regius Core 7

Though founded by two friends in 1982, Mayones is now a family business, run by Halina and Zenon Dziewulski. Every guitar is handmade in their factory and Poland. And while they offer many top-notch production models, you can also work with the company to customize to your heart's content.

You can find Mayones in the hands of bands like British progressive metal band TesseracT, Swedish melodic death metal band Dark Tranquility, and English gothic metal band Paradise Lost.


Legator
USA

One of my dear friends was the first to introduce me to the brand Legator. After we found out the name rhymes with "alligator" and not "Falkor," we slowly began to appreciate even more how unique these guitars are. Based in Southern California, Legator takes their commitment to performance to the next level—these guitars are built for the shred, and shred they certainly do.

Legator Ninja NRA 7-String

Legator describes itself as "a technology-driven guitar company," prioritizing playability over every other function, though their guitars have obvious design appeal.

You'll find Legators played among some American bands like the legendary thrash gods Anthrax, tech death metal band Suffocation, and heavy metal band Shadows Fall.


Kiesel
USA

Kiesel is no stranger to the metal game. Founded in 1946 as the L.C. Kiesel Company, Kiesel operated for many years as the Carvin Corporation. In 2015, Kiesel split from Carvin, where Kiesel now handles the guitar business under the steady watch of Mark and Jeff Kiesel. While currently employing more than 50 people and making more than 4,000 custom instruments a year, these instruments are built in Escondido, California, and each instrument is unique.

Kiesel A6 Aries

Kiesel states that its self-distribution model helps them put more money into the construction of their instruments. "Our guitars and basses are boutique instruments, but they don't carry a boutique price tag," Kiesel says.

Check out any of these tech death bands like America-based Born of Osiris or Rivers of Nihil or the even German-based Obscura to hear Kiesel guitars in action.


Ormsby
Australia

If you haven't heard of Ormsby, you may at least be familiar with the 18-string they just built for Jared Dines that's become internet famous since Winter NAMM 2018. I first heard about Ormsby in Winter NAMM of 2017, as a friend of mine who plays in the Bay Area tech death band Enigma was very excited to check out their booth.

I had the opportunity to meet and befriend the young and immensely talented Jett Waller, who is both an assistant luthier and pickup winder for Ormsby. As we talked about building and repairing guitars, I instantly got to know how much love goes into crafting each guitar they build. While the Goliath might be a more popular axe these days, my personal favorite model is the SX GTR Shark that was limited edition for 2017. Nothing says awesome f-hole like a hammerhead shark.

Ormsby Guitars Goliath GTR Headless Multiscale

Ormsby Guitars may be best known for popularizing fanned-fret, multiscale necks that allow for an extended range of notes to be played with ease. Headquartered in Perth, Australia, they hand make their Custom Shop line of instruments, and in recent years have begun making exceptional production models.

Looking to dive deep into the Ormsby artist roster? Look no further than Australian tech death metal band Psycroptic, Andorran-based progressive death metal band Persefone, or even the lads in Australian-based melodic death metal band Hollow World.


Caparison
Japan

Make no mistake: For your money, Caparison is every bit of a solid manufacturer as any other company on this list. Uniquely, Caparison also has the rare bragging rights in that one of their signature guitars was made in collaboration with The Iron Maidens heavyweight Courtney Cox. It's awesome to see quality guitars continue to come out of Japan, and with a company like Caparison supporting more independent female musicians, they bring a unique angle to the boutique metal guitar world.

Caparison Courtney Cox Signature Horus-MC 33

If you are looking to hear more from the Caparison camp, look no further than American metalcore band Killswitch Engage, American progressive metal legends Symphony X or even Swedish dark progressive metal band Evergrey.


Skervesen
Poland

I was introduced to Skervesen on Instagram, as many of my friends were always tagging me in the photos this company posted of their beautiful instruments. While I have never had the chance to play one in person, it's hard to deny the growing popularity of these cool instruments, as they become more popular in a lot of different genres and sub-genres of metal.

Skervesen Kallisti 6-string

Jarek Konkol, the founder and owner of Skervesen, says, "The story of this brand, which goes back to the 1980s, is inseparably connected with my life's story. The first guitars were handcrafted from scratch in the basement and at that time I found myself constantly searching for knowledge about guitar making and meeting with people I could learn from. It was a wonderful period that enabled me to gain experience and learn traditional guitar making, which—as it turned out—was fairly widespread in Poland. All my experience and love for guitars is now transferred to everything we do at Skervesen Guitars."

Those looking to hear these guitars in action need to look no further than Czech Republic-based djentlemen, Modern Day Babylon, French extreme metal band Betraying the Martyrs, and Canadian heavy metal band Threat Signal.


Dunable
USA

While musicians have long known to dabble in a variety of pastimes, it's unusual for someone such as Sacha Dunable, guitarist for Intronaut, to also create an awesome guitar company on the side with such uniqueness in his line of products. This custom guitar and pickup company, based in Los Angeles, relies on classic design and tried-and-true finishes to appeal to those looking to tap into the magic of the '70s wave of heavy metal sounds.

Dunable Cyclops

Sacha Dunable says they have a "no-bullshit approach" to how they build guitars and work with their clients to customize them. "These guitars are designed and built in California by guys who spend their time off from work playing guitar through loud amps, so we know what works," Dunable says.

Need to hear how they sound? Try out American heavy metal band High on Fire, thrash metal band Power Trip, or all-instrumental band Russian Circles.


Carillion Guitars
England

Another Instagram find for me and one that I really enjoy looking forward to seeing on my feed is Carillion Guitars, which is owned and operated by luthier Chris Delia. Chris specializes in electric guitars for metal players and acoustic guitars for percussive fingerstyle players. No two instruments are the same, which is a treat for those who are intrigued by the brand, as each guitar is unique. Especially cool are all the custom inlay options he offers, which he does completely by hand.

Carillion Enigma

Chris recently let me know what he felt were the strongest parts behind his company, saying that his instruments "are all different, and completely unique from one another."

"As an independent luthier, I tend to approach my work in this way to keep it fresh and interesting for myself—there are thousands of traditional luthiers out there who are happy to make the same guitar their entire career (which is fine) but that approach never really did anything for me to be honest," he says. "I work alone, and I work a lot too, so keeping things new and exciting is the only way to stop myself going mad in the workshop alone!"

You can find a Carillion in the hands of Belgium-based death metal band Aborted, American heavy metal legends Slipknot, and Colorado-based extreme metal band Allegaeon.

Monique Hernandez-Fuentes writes for GuitarTricks.com and 30DaySinger.com. In her free time, she loves researching gear and trying to build even more guitars.


comments powered by Disqus