In this ‘first look’ review, I look at the new Epiphone Adam Jones Les Paul Custom Art Collection with Mark Ryden’s The Veil of Bees artwork. Then compare it to my 1977 Gibson Norlin-era Les Paul Custom. How close is Adam Jones’ new more affordable signature model to the classic late ’70s models it is based on?
The Veil of Bees
By now I would hazard a guess that most Tool and Adam Jones fans would be aware of his signature model Les Paul Custom guitar from Gibson. These are based on Adam’s favourite original 1979 Silverburst model that he is known for playing in the band, both live and also in the studio.
More Affordable & More Art
This week we saw the release of a new “more affordable” Epiphone version of these Norlin-era Les Paul Custom models. And just to make it even more interesting, they decided to make it a limited release, which is sold in batches of 800 guitars at a time.
Each of the first 7 batches has a piece of artwork emblazoned on the back of the guitar. Each piece of art was chosen by Adam from artists Mark Ryden, Frank Frazetta, Julie Heffernan, Korin Faught and Ernst Fuchs.
The first release featuring Mark Ryden‘s The Veil of Bees is the one that I have for review. Currently, we know that the second release will be The Berserker by Frank Frazetta.
That model is rumoured to be released on 14 February 2023 and so we can estimate a 2-3 month gap between the batches over the coming year.
I’m sure some people will attempt to buy the whole set, as they are quite ‘collectable’ and so prices on these earlier models could skyrocket.
Tool fans can get quite obsessive with collecting anything officially associated with the band. Plus, some previously limited edition Epiphone signature guitar model runs have also doubled or tripled in price in recent years. Check out some of the used prices on previous Joe Bonamassa, Brent Hinds and Richie Faulkner signature models to see examples of this phenomenon.
We know that the last release will have plain backs with no artwork, but as yet we don’t know all the artwork available and in what order they will be released.
Korin Faught, who is Adam Jones’ wife, has provided the artwork on the rear of the guitar’s headstock, though we know her work will also appear on the rear of one of the upcoming batches as well.
- Bound mahogany body with a maple cap
- Three-piece bound maple neck with Adam Jones Custom profile
- Ebony fretboard
- Reverse-mounted Epiphone ProBucker Custom humbucker in the neck position
- Seymour Duncan Distortion pickup in the bridge position
Adam Jones’s tweaks to the formula
This Epiphone Adam Jones model comes with a Seymour Duncan Distortion in the bridge position and as he is known for reversing the neck pickup on his own guitar, they have added a reverse-mounted Epiphone ProBucker Custom in that position.
It gives you a fairly high output bridge pickup, and this is paired with a more vintage voiced almost PAF-like neck pickup that works well for playing cleaner parts.
They do a good job of getting you in the ballpark for your Tool inspired guitar parts. Though, you can easily work them into different styles of music, especially if you use your volume and tone controls to adjust them.
Epiphone have included a decent set of CTS potentiometers and Orange Drop capacitors in the guitar’s wiring loom, you can tweak your tones without any issues. The wiring job on my review example is neat and the job looks well done, so no fears of dry solder joints or bad wiring with this guitar.
My 1977 Gibson Les Paul Custom weighs over 10 lbs and is a solid chunk of mahogany with a maple cap and a three-piece maple neck and an ebony fretboard. I like that this Adam Jones model follows the same formula and has the exact same recipe for the guitar’s construction.
Though my example is a little lighter than my old guitar and weighs in at 9 lbs 12 oz which I think is pretty reasonable for this type of construction and combination of woods.
Long Neck Tenon
Another very nice added bonus on this signature model is that they have used a full-length long neck tenon which is a huge upgrade. And one you would pay extra for on many US-made guitars. It will keep that glued-in neck joint rock solid and should also help with sustain.
The neck has a volute on the rear and this is era correct for a late ’70s Les Paul Custom. I will say that the volute on this Adam Jones is slightly larger than my original guitar and also in a slightly different position. Though, I know Adam’s original guitar is a 1979 and so there could no doubt be variations over the years anyway. I have played a lot of Norlin-era guitars and there are always some variations anyway.
It has a set of decent-quality unbranded tuners which look a lot like a Schaller-style machine head. Schaller originally provided Gibson-branded tuners for the guitars in the Norlin years and so these fit the aesthetic well. These unbranded ones work well and hold tuning as you would expect. I guess having a Graph Tech nut on this Epiphone really helps with that tuning stability as well.
I also like that they have included a set of PosiLock strap buttons as they really help keep these heavier guitars on your guitar strap. And the Black Speed control knobs come with nickel dial pointers which is what you would expect on these models.
The Adam Jones neck profile of this guitar is deeper than on my 1977 guitar and feels really nice in the hand. Not too large and the shoulders aren’t huge, which makes it a comfortable playing experience. I found the Medium, 18% Nickel Silver frets are also finished well and make it easy to get a good clear note with no intonation issues. My old guitar has had a re-fret and had jumbo frets installed at some point in its life and so I couldn’t compare these properly.
The fit and finish on this guitar are both very good and I think that they have nailed the vintage Silverburst colour scheme. Plus, the Veil of Bees image on the rear works very nicely with this finish. Overall, it is a high-quality job and the binding around the body, neck and headstock is very neat. It is probably a better binding job than on my old ’77.
Apart from those unbranded tuners, there is also an Epiphone LockTone Tune-O-Matic bridge and matching Epiphone LockTone Stop Bar both finished in nickel. I already own an Epiphone Brent Hinds Signature Flying V Custom that uses the bridge same hardware and I have no complaints about them. They work well and they intonate with no issues, so a solid piece of hardware.
The Adam Jones is an expensive guitar for an Epiphone. But you get a unique fairly accurate Norlin-era construction that includes the correct tone woods, including a three-piece maple neck and a volute. I have always been a huge fan of maple necks on Les Paul Customs and so for me, it is the perfect formula and adds some snap and definition to your notes. Especially when paired with an ebony fretboard.
This guitar has a much higher output bridge pickup than on my old Les Paul Custom, though my guitar has more vintage voiced Bare Knuckle pickups these days and so that makes sense. It sounds great with some drive and that is exactly what I would want from an Adam Jones signature guitar. The neck pickup is perfect for those clean picked quieter passages and the two work well together.
Finally, the Epiphone Protector Series Hardshell Case which is included in the price is fantastic and a really nice touch, I feel it adds value. Having a decent case like this one is a really great idea and just adds to the Norlin-era vibe of this guitar, as they had the option of coming with a ‘Chainsaw’ Gibson Protector case as an upcharge back in the day.
Yes, they are expensive and yes they have already sold out. Would I recommend them though? Definitely, if you want a Les Paul Custom with some great tweaks to the formula and quality hardware, pickups and extras, then you should check these models out.
We know there are 6 more batches with artwork on the rear coming, plus one plain back version and so if you want one there will be a chance to find them soon.
MSRP – USD 1299 / GBP 1149
What artwork to expect next…?
The artwork sleuths have been working on the blurred images and below are the ones they believe they have worked out.
Make sure to let me know which one you like best in the comments section below.
Many thanks to all the people over on the Adam Jones Guitar Collectors group on Facebook, who provided extra detail and information on the model and upcoming iterations of artwork. Click the link or scan this QR code to join the group, as they are a wealth of knowledge and can help you out if you need to know anything about these guitars.
I will be adding more details and images to this ‘first look’ review over the coming weeks. As this run is, in my opinion, worth looking at more closely over the coming year. Especially, once we know more about the different batches and release dates.