KICKIN' THRASH: ESP James Hetfield Truckster signature guitar
By Eric Kirkland
As Metallica prepared to tour for their 2003 album, St. Anger, Hetfield decided he wanted a guitar that would reflect the album’s raw sound. So he and a friend took one of the guitarist’s black 24 3/4–inch-scale ESP Eclipse axes, gave it several coats of color and aged it in the appropriate spots on the body, neck and pickups rings. He also deactivated the topside pickup switch and replaced one of the tone knobs with a threeway toggle. The ESP Truckster (also available in a LTD version) is a faithful recreation of that guitar with respect to looks and hardware.
The Truckster’s beat-up Aged Primer Grey finish and high-performance components give it the appearance of a hillbilly muscle car, while its all-mahogany construction and ceramic-based active EMG-81 and EMG-60 pickups combine to create Hetfield's deep and edgy tone. The Truckster’s separate volume knobs let you individually control each pickup’s output while a single tone pot sets the guitar’s level of attack. Schaller strap locks are standard fare, and the strings are tied to a TonePros satin-chrome locking bridge assembly and locking Sperzel tuners. As with all Eclipse guitars, the neck is rounded but narrow enough to allow even small hands to get a full grip. The 22 extra-jumbo frets make notes loud and easy to fret.
I plugged the Truckster straight into my Mesa Rectifier quarter stack, cranked up the high-gain “red” channel and pummeled its Celestion Vintage 30 speakers with all of the Metallica riffs I know. Predictably, the EMG-81 helped me play blazing solos that were full of sustain and cut. But as all Hetfield fans know, James’ most notable tone begins with the EMG-60 in his guitars’ neck slot. True enough, switching into this pickup produced authentic Metallica tone. All of the intoxicating textures for block-crushing metal rhythm sounds were present: a warm mahogany foundation, a tight and hard crunch (courtesy of the EMG-60) and ripping high gain (thanks to the Mesa). For metal fans, it just doesn’t get much better.