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Epiphone Signature Series Les Paul Custom Guitars: Bjorn Gelotte Vs. Matt Heafy

Wesman Todd Shaw started playing the guitar when he was 12 years old. He loves nothing more than to pick one up and pluck some strings.

The Les Paul guitar debuted in 1952 as a product of the Gibson Guitar Corporation. The great builder Ted McCarty collaborated with factory manager John Huis and Les Paul himself to develop the initial design and the ongoing process of its production, as various hardware appointments were changed over the next few years.

The essential elements were always a mahogany body with a carved maple top, a mahogany neck, rosewood fingerboard, 24.75" scale length, and two pickups with a volume and tone control for each pickup.

In 1954, the Gibson Les Paul Custom hit the market. The Custom model was upscale in appointments, as it had additional inlay work and gold hardware. Les Paul, the man, had envisioned a guitar which looked like a tuxedo, and he got just what he wanted.

The original Les Paul Custom guitars did not have a carved maple top, but a carved mahogany top. Les Paul had said at one time he'd always thought the entire body of the guitar should be mahogany. Over the course of time, an LP Custom wound up sometimes with a maple top, sometimes with a mahogany top.

Before Gibson purchased Epiphone and made it its subsidiary, Epiphone was one of the biggest competitors Gibson had. Epiphone had fallen into some financial hardships, and Gibson seized the opportunity to capitalize on the use of a great brand's name and eliminate a major competitor at the same time. Today Epiphone is an Asian manufacturing operation exclusively.

The only two brands of guitar who can legally use the name Les Paul are Gibson and Epiphone. Debates rage on the internet among players as to what is better: the less-expensive Gibson Les Paul guitars or the high-end Epiphone models. With either brand, the Les Paul Custom models are among the most expensive. This presentation concerns two of the Epiphone Les Paul Custom guitars made after the instruments used by two of today's premier metal guitarists.

Björn Gelotte and one of his Epiphone Les Paul Custom guitars.

Björn Gelotte and one of his Epiphone Les Paul Custom guitars.

Bjorn Gelotte of In Flames

When you think of music out of Sweden these days, you think of just one type, and that would be death metal music. Bjorn is one of the guitarists for the band called In Flames, and this band is known for its melodic death metal sound. In more recent years, the band has moved into alternative metal.

Bjorn Gelotte joined In Flames as a drummer, and in fact he was the band's drummer for a number of years. With the percussive sound death metal guitar is often looked upon to create, it is not surprising he'd excel as either drummer or guitarist, and so he does. If harmonized guitars and scream vocals are your thing, then you'll love the music of In Flames.

Originally sharing guitar duties with Jesper Stromblad, Bjorn and his bandmates are very fond of drop tunings, and specifically, they use a drop G and a drop A#. In Flames now has 13 studio albums, three EPs, and two live DVDs. Today guitar duties are shared between Bjorn and Niclas Engelin.

In Flames has been a pretty influential band. This may not seem so here in America, but they're also steadily becoming more well known. Expect to hear more from Bjorn and the boys.


Matt Heafy of Trivium

Matt Heafy was born in Japan, but he grew up in the melting pot of Florida. He's a singer and guitarist for the band Trivium, and he's the vocalist for yet another band. He's been an adherent of the "straight edge" subculture of hardcore punk that doesn't drink alcohol or use recreational drugs.

Matt was an early learner of playing musical instruments. He'd been trained some on the saxophone before taking up the guitar at the young age of 11 years. As it happened, a friend loaned him a copy of the self-titled Metallica album, and Matt was off to the races.

Matt joined the band Trivium at 12 years of age. He'd been asked to sing, and he promptly blew out his vocal chords. You could say his enthusiasm overwhelmed his physical self. While he does still do vocals, he has been trained to not hurt himself since doing so, and he is also less frequent a vocalist.

The music of Trivium has been described using lots of different sub-genres of metal. The early music of In Flames has been considered one of Trivium's primary influences. Matt and the boys are all quite young, and we hope to hear much more music from them in the days to come.


The Epiphone Limited Edition Bjorn Gelotte Les Paul Custom

If Lester Polsfuss were able to see this Les Paul Custom, he would be pleased to see an electric guitar that looked like a tuxedo. The only visual thing off would be the Epiphone head-stock, but Lester P. would have been very familiar with those too, and he would have thought this Epiphone looked wonderful.

There's no maple on this guitar, and Mr. Polsfuss had at one time thought there shouldn't be. What would be the point of the maple top on a guitar which would be finished in deep ebony black, anyway? Well, there would be some tonal considerations, but with EMG active pickups, those are obfuscated.

This guitar is also available in white. In this Bjorn Gelotte Les Paul Custom, the white guitar is exactly the same as the black one, except for the color finish. The beautiful binding and gold hardware here make this guitar quite the visual stunner, as any Les Paul Custom should be.

Our EMG 85 in the neck position features close aperture coils loaded with Alnico V magnets for a powerful sound with exceptional organic tone and versatility. The EMG-81 USA active humbucker in the lead position is perhaps EMG's most famous pickup and the one that started the active revolution. Utilizing powerful ceramic magnets and close aperture coils, the tone of the 81 has detailed intensity, incredible amounts of high end cut, and fluid sustain.

The inlay on the head-stock of this guitar is something which is completely unique to it. It employs some of the Epiphone high end head-stock inlay aesthetic along with a hint of the mascot of the band In Flames. The Jester motif and the LP Custom inlays make this very beautiful.

Epiphone Limited Edition Bjorn Gelotte Les Paul Custom Electric Guitar Features:

  • Body shape: Single cutaway
  • Body type: Solid body
  • Body material: Solid wood
  • Body wood: Mahogany
  • Body finish: Gloss
  • Neck shape: Rounded, Custom '59 Profile
  • Neck wood: Mahogany
  • Joint: Set-in
  • Scale length: 24.75"
  • Truss rod: Standard
  • Neck finish: Gloss
  • Fingerboard Material: Ebony
  • Radius: 12"
  • Fret size: Medium jumbo
  • Number of frets: 22
  • Inlays: Pearloid block
  • Nut width: 1.68" (42.67mm)
  • Neck Pickup: EMG-85
  • Bridge Pickup: EMG-81
  • Active or passive: Active
  • Series or parallel: Series
  • Control layout: Volume 1, volume 2, tone 1, tone 2
  • Pickup switch: 3-way
  • Bridge type: Fixed
  • Bridge design: Tune-o-matic
  • Tailpiece: Stopbar
  • Gold Color Tuning machines: Grover Rotomatic
  • Special features: Signature model Pickups
  • Case: Hardshell case

The Epiphone Limited Edition Matt Heafy Les Paul Custom

There are three Epiphone Matt Heafy Les Paul Custom guitars, and I'm only talking about one of those three distinct instruments here. There is a white version of this guitar, but it is not the exact same except for the color finish, for its fretboard is very very different. There is also a seven string version of this guitar.

Why talk about this one? Because it is the most traditional of the three, and I'm a traditional person. Also, this will be the one where there are more models available, as the world tends to favor, by and large, traditional things. Most importantly, this is the only version I've ever had my hands on, and so, I can report concerning this Matt Heafy Epiphone LP with personal honesty.

This Epiphone Matt Heafy has a very different neck from the Bjorn guitar. The Bjorn G. instrument has a 1959 Gibson profile, and this Matt Heafy has a 60s slim taper profile. This is a 'faster,' neck, as they say; but the size of your hand and your comfort are what really matter.

There is a plain maple veneer top on this guitar. What its purpose could be, I'm truly unaware, except that were someone for some odd reason wanting to refinish this guitar at some point, then there would be the maple.

Again we have the EMG 85 and 81 set of pickups. This is the set that most EMG lovers want on their guitar, and it doesn't matter if the guitar is a Les Paul style instrument, or a Super-Strat style instrument. It is truly a legendary set of pickups.

Epiphone Limited Edition Matt Heafy Les Paul Custom Solidbody Electric GuitarFeatures:

  • Body Material: Mahogany
  • Top Material: Plain Maple Veneer
  • Neck Material: Mahogany
  • Neck Shape: 1960's SlimTaper; D profile
  • Neck Joint: Glued In; Deep-Set Neck Joint with "Axcess" heel
  • Truss Rod: Adjustable
  • Truss Rod Cover: 2-ply (Black/White); "MKH Les Paul Custom" in white silkprint
  • Scale Length: 24.75"
  • Fingerboard Material: Ebony with pearloid Block inlays
  • Neck Pickup: EMG-85
  • Knobs: Black Speed Knobs
  • Bridge Pickup: EMG-81
  • Epiphone All-metal 3-way Pickup Selector; White toggle cap
  • Neck Pickup Volume
  • Bridge Pickup Volume
  • Neck Pickup Tone
  • Bridge Pickup Tone
  • (Active) 9V battery compartment in back
  • Bridge: LockTone tune-o-matic/Stopbar
  • Binding Body Top - 7-ply (White/Black)
  • Headstock - 5-ply (White/Black)
  • Fingerboard - 1-ply (White)
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12"
  • Frets 22; medium-jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1-11/16"
  • Hardware: Black
  • Machine Heads: Deluxe Die-cast with metal Tulip Buttons 14:1 ratio
  • Output Jack: Epiphone Heavy-Duty with metal output jack plate
  • Color: Ebony (gloss)
  • Includes Epiphone StrapLocks
  • Case sold separately

Choosing Between Two Awesome Epiphone Les Paul Custom Guitars

Friends, both of these great guitars feature genuine ebony fingerboards at the traditional 12" fingerboard radius. To my way of thinking, these are dream fingerboards, and the necks are not so very different. The '59 profile neck of the Bjorn Gelotte guitar is a bit thicker than the '60's slim profile of the Matt Heafy guitar. While Gibson is shying from ebony, Epiphone is still making it available, and these are not the only two Epiphone Les Paul guitars where you can get an ebony fingerboard either.

We should make it simple here, these guitars will not sound any different from one another. Not a single iota. If you play both of these guitars, as I have, and you somehow hear one sounding different from the other, then you should double check the settings on the amplifier, and try them both again. These guitars will sound as identical as any two distinctly different guitars could.

The Bjorn Gelotte LP looks more traditional for its gold hardware. The Matt Heafy has a bit more of a Gothic look to it. The difference between these two guitars is mostly entirely with the visuals.

What did I think the most significant difference between the two was? There is one thing, and it does matter, and it may matter a lot to you, and that is the Matt Heafy Epiphone Les Paul Custom has an axcess heel to access the upper register of frets more easily.

For some at this point the Matt Heafy guitar may seem the best pick, but let me throw this curve-ball at you, the Bjorn Gelotte guitar comes with a hard-shell case, and the Matt Heafy does not. How much does a case mean to you? Well, it really should mean something significant. The Bjorn guitar costs a tiny bit more for its case, and if you play a Les Paul, your guitar does deserve a case, and you deserve the protection on your investment. You can always pick up a Les Paul case afterwards, and if you buy an Epiphone case for a Les Paul, then so much the lesser strain on your finances.

Speaking of money, both of these amazing guitars go for under $900, and these are Les Paul Custom guitars. They wear the name proud, and if you watch the videos, both artists these guitars are made after espouse again and again how proud they are their signature guitars are so good, and yet so affordable. This is the golden age of guitars, right here, and right now. Thanks for reading.

© 2018 Wesman Todd Shaw