Lightweight, devilishly handsome and loaded with fire-breathing pickups and TonePros hardware, the USA Slash Appetite offers more than a signature.
No matter how you look at it, Slash and a Gibson Les Paul are a winning combination.
For many people Saul Hudson remains the last in line for the title of true guitar hero, the perfect combination of playing prowess, attitude and lifestyle.
Apparently though, he can’t draw for toffee – as the doggy graphic on the headstock of this otherwise beautiful Les Paul testifies.
This is a reproduction of one of the most famous guitars ever, the rock machine that propelled Guns N’Roses’ Appetite For Destruction to become the best-selling debut album of all time: 28 million copies worldwide and counting.
According to rock folklore, just as GN’R saved rock’n'roll in the ’80s, Slash single-handedly caused a Les Paul revival.
It’s ironic, and totally in keeping with Slash‘s controversial image, that both his guitars were Gibson copies – fakes by any other name – complete with bogus headstock logos.
Which of the two ’58/’59 knockoffs, the one made by Kris Derrig or Peter Barrett/Max, was actually used on the album is a source of controversy which Slash doesn’t seem to want to get involved with.
However, the combination of Seymour Duncan pickups and modern hardware were common to both, and that’s what we find here – with the addition of retro-style Orange Drop caps in the tone circuit for added mojo.
So is this a Gibson copy of a Gibson copy? Hardly; it feels exactly like a Les Paul.
Those who claim to have handled the originals say those guitars were not entirely on-specification.
This one measures up in all departments. All the heft of the mahogany/maple body is here, but at a weight-relieved 8lbs it certainly isn’t the heaviest; some of the old-timers went all the way past 9lbs.
Checking neck specifications against an original 1959 we featured a few years back, there’s maybe a millimetre or so less meat under the hand.
The profile is a little more D-shaped than C-shaped – which is in keeping with Gibson‘s claim that this is the ’60s Slim Taper version. It’s a great players’ choice: nice and substantial and yet comfortably easy to get around. The 12" radius rosewood fingerboard feels great.
I’ve heard Slash describe these as jumbo frets, but I’d call this medium-gauge wire. The frets are well dressed and the tangs are hidden under faultlessly-applied binding.
I do wish that Gibson would stop using this faux aged binding; vintage white binding ages beautifully to a rich tobacco-stain hue – this is the colour of weak coffee and that’s going nowhere pleasing.
Both the body and the neck (with the exception of the tiniest slivers for headstock wings) are made from single pieces of mahogany, which is a miracle in this day and age. I can’t help thinking this is contributing to the tone; even acoustically this guitar is snappy, bright and sings loudly.
Maybe the high-density Corian nut and the TonePros bridge hardware all help the cause. The most ‘Slash‘ thing about this guitar are the Seymour Duncan Signature Alnico II Pro Slash pickups, which are modelled after the ’80s originals, but let’s not overlook the fact that the guitar also looks fantastic.
The vintage nitrocellulose picks out the figuring of the maple and the depth of the mahogany beautifully.
The most obvious thing about this guitar when you first plug it in is the fact that it doesn’t sound like a 1959 Les Paul.
The Seymour Duncans have quite a different signature tone to the classic Gibson PAF: less plummy in the midrange with a brighter and better-defined top end, and definitely a bit more oomph.
For most of us, this is the modern tone of rock. The darker, ‘relaxed’ PAF character is awesome but arguably less flexible. The bridge pickup on a clean amp has plenty of pick-edge articulation without being microphonic, and it’s not at all boxy.
However the character is jazzy rather than wiry, so a Strat, Tele or the Les Paul with P90s will still come in useful.
Both pickups together give a rounded, chiming voice that make this guitar really adaptable and much more than just a rock device.
The neck pickup is a surprise in that it has a really strong bottom end. This needs a little taming at the amp but doesn’t represent a problem because all the other frequencies are present and well-represented.
Does this guitar rock? Hell, yes. Wind up the gain and you’re soon into full-on distortion. There’s only a narrow band of adventure for those who like the break-up zone rather than full-forward distortion, so for exploration here a quality amp will be your best friend.
Full into drive mode it’s massive chords, solid riffing and wailing leads all the way.
You’d have to be really picky to be disappointed by this guitar, and though it commands a hefty price tag it feels like good value when compared to some Gibson Custom Shop Les Pauls which swagger around at more than twice this price.
This is a great Les Paul by anyone's standards, and Gibson gets the last laugh over the fakers by reclaiming the legend and delivering the goods. At the very top end of the affordable price bracket it still manages to feel like value for money, because you can see, feel and hear what you are paying for. Materials-wise this guitar certainly gestures back to a bygone era of quality, and the Slash features make it a totally up-to-date electric guitar, but one with enough flexibility not to force you into a limited framework of a Guns N'Roses cover band.