The 5 Best Guitars For Doom Metal: The Heaviest Picks For 2020

Doom Metal goes back a long way, with some people citing Black Sabbath being the pioneers. Every decade has added to the fuzzed-out, psychedelic genre with loads of bands going for the distinct sound. Today we check out the 5 best guitars for Doom/Sludge.


The Best Guitars For Doom Metal


BRANDRATINGPRICEBEST DEALS
Gibson Les Paul Custom100%$$$$$VIEW BEST DEAL
ESP/LTD Viper97%$$$VIEW BEST DEAL
Epiphone SG95%$$VIEW BEST DEAL
Gibson Standard Les Paul P-9095%$$$$$VIEW BEST DEAL
The #1 Best Guitars For Doom Metal – Inc. Price Guide (More $ = Higher Price)

How To Buy An Expensive Guitar (FOR LESS)

Gibson Les Paul Custom | The Master

Used by ALL the greats, including the Melvins and TOOL’s Adam Jones, the Gibson Les Paul is the pinnacle when it comes to all round tone and performance.

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Notes – Best In Its Class | Beautiful Design | Unbeatable Tone | Amazing Pick-Ups | VERY Expensive


The 5 Best Guitars For Doom Metal: The Heaviest Picks For 2020

ESP Viper | The Modern One…

If you want a more modern cut, the ESP Viper is impossible not to love. Taking its inspiration from the SG, the Viper is a badass setup for metal, doom, and sludge.

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Notes – Fairly Affordable | Modern Design | Killer Pick-Ups | Light Compared To Les Paul | Gorgeous Tone


The 5 Best Guitars For Doom Metal: The Heaviest Picks For 2020

Epiphone SG | The Affordable Legend

Used by the daddy of doom metal himself, Tony Iommi, the Epiphone SG is not only affordable and plays like a dream. But it also looks the part too.

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Notes – Great Price | Amazing Tone | Brilliant Pick-Ups | Classic Styling | Flawless Tone


The 5 Best Guitars For Doom Metal: The Heaviest Picks For 2020

Les Paul P-90 | The Mad Man…

Gibson P-90s are pretty famous for not only having a clear tone that can deal with high gain tones, but retain midrange and clarity. Even better, they produce feedback like crazy.

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Notes – Expensive | Sounds Unlike Anything Else | Perfect For Huge Sounds | Delivers Oceans of Feedback


Which Should You Buy?

These are our #1 picks for right now. The top option – the Gibson Les Paul Custom – is a phenomenal guitar.

But it is very expensive.

Although if you’re recording music, it will pay for itself in quality and tone.

If you’re looking for something under $500, go for the ESP Viper or the Epiphone SG – they’re both killer guitars and perfectly suited for doom metal.

The Epiphone SG is a phenomenal guitar, one of our absolute favorites, as it plays beautifully, isn’t too heavy, and has tone FOR DAYS…

It’s also really affordable too.

Alternatively, if you do want an expensive guitar make sure you check out our guide on how to buy expensive guitars for less.


Let’s Talk About The Genesis of The “Doom” Sound…

Doom Metal without a doubt got its roots from Black Sabbath throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s. Doom Metal is known as a genre for having slower tempos and sparse arrangements that are focused on heavy guitars.

While Black Sabbath got the genre started, during the 1980’s many other bands from England started taking what Sabbath did, and made it heavier. Bands like Pagan Altar and Witchfinder General paved the way for many other bands.

Around the same time, in America and Sweden, Doom Metal was catching on with bands like Candlemass, Pentagram, and Saint Vitus. By the end of the 80’s Doom Metal started catching on and lending influence to bands like Kyuss, Melvins, Sleep, and Fu Manchu.


While amps and effects make up a good portion of what Doom/Sludge guitarists use to tailor their sound, it all starts with the guitar. It always starts with a guitar.

We have already discussed tunings in a different article, that you can find here. But what are the best guitars for Doom Metal?

This list is a tough one, since Doom Metal has always been very DIY. What are the best guitars for Doom Metal? What brands? What styles? What shape?

Well, every player has a favorite but there are also some trends that we can follow that covers the entire history of the best guitars for Doom Metal. We can look at the gear the pioneers used, and we can also look at what the new generation uses.

Many guitarists in the genre use whatever guitar they can afford. Some people use rare and difficult to find guitars. But today we are going to check out the ones you can buy just about anywhere.


#5 Gibson Standard Les Paul P-90

The 5 Best Guitars For Doom Metal: The Heaviest Picks For 2020
Gibsons with P90s

Gibsons are used a lot by Doom/Sludge artists. So you may see more than one on this list! When it comes to specs, this is a regular Les Paul, through and through. The difference is the amazing Custom Shop pickups.

  • Mahogany Neck and Body
  • Nitro lacquer
  • 22 Frets
  • Grover Tuners
  • Rosewood Fretboard
  • Classic 50’s neck profile
  • Gibson Custom Shop P-90 Pickups

So it is essentially your basic Les Paul, right?

What sets this model apart from other Les Paul models is the P-90 pickups. Gibson has been making these in their Custom Shop for decades. Originally they were fitted for their semi-hollow guitars, used in Jazz.

The P-90 is essentially a very large single coil pickup. Since so much of Metal music requires copious amounts of gain/fuzz/distortion, having a P-90 pickup adds clarity and high-end. The bridge pickup in particular sounds really dirty. Filthy, even.

Gibson P-90s are pretty famous for not only having a clear tone that can deal with high gain tones, but retain midrange and clarity. Even better, they produce feedback like crazy.

The feedback can be used in some creative applications, or you could dampen it with a noise gate. At any rate, P-90 pickups are a great choice for Doom/Sludge due to their powerful sound, and “cutting” nature.

Clear sounding pickups are a godsend to guitarists that plan on tuning down their guitar. Since most Doom/Sludge is tuned down, the Gibson P-90 is an obvious choice.

Gibson is an obvious choice for Metal musicians everywhere, but what about something a little less expensive?

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#4 Epiphone SG Tony Iommi Signature Guitar

The 5 Best Guitars For Doom Metal: The Heaviest Picks For 2020
Tony Iommi Signature

Here we have the signature guitar of the legend himself: Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath. The Epiphone version of his signature is a much less expensive than it’s Gibson counterpart. We kind of love Epiphone around here…

Tony has played SG models since the inception of Black Sabbath. Tony bought his first Gibson SG in a guitar shop near Brighton in 1967. He had briefly flirted with the idea of using Fender Stratocasters, but ended up using the SG to record with. The rest is history.

Tony put his own touches on the classic model:

  • Mahogany Body
  • 1960’s Slim Taper neck
  • Cross Inlays
  • Ebony Fretboard
  • Gibson Custom Shop Iommi pickups
  • 2 Tone/ 2 Volume setup
  • Nickle hardware
  • Black Finish
  • Bound Fretboard

Being a huge Black Sabbath fan, I needed to own one of these. I had one for a few years, the year after they hit the market. I have owned a fair share of SG guitars over the years, both Epiphone and Gibson. The Tony Iommi signature is pretty amazing value for the money.

The Gibson USA Tony Iommi pickups sound huge and crushing. They are definitely based on the original PAF pickups that Gibson designed. This gives them a warm tone that sound great under high gain. Tony is the only guitar player, so he has to cover a lot of sonic territory.

The bridge pickup sounds great with fuzz or distortion and it definitely chugs hard. The bass and mid response allows the guitar to cut through the mix really well.

The neck is the same as most SG guitars, and practically plays itself. The slim taper is perfect for riffing or shredding. The SG has been around for so long because of it’s versatility. The Tony Iommi signature takes that versatility, and sharpens it for Metal.

This one was an obvious choice. But what about something less obvious?

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#3 Reverend Double Agent

The 5 Best Guitars For Doom Metal: The Heaviest Picks For 2020
The Double Agent

Reverend likes to take a classic guitar idea, and tweak it until it becomes it’s own design. The Double Agent has been around for 20 years now, and it’s the wildcard pick for this list.

Why is it a wildcard? Well I am sure Reverend doesn’t cross many people’s minds when it comes to the best guitars for doom metal. But I have some personal experience with them.

I picked the Double Agent because it is extremely versatile, hence the name. The Double Agent has a hot-rodded humbucker in the bridge and a single coil P-90 in the neck. This creates a “best of both worlds” scenario.

The specs for the Reverend Double Agent are all over the place:

  • 12” radius
  • Korina Body
  • Maple neck
  • Locking tuners
  • Bone Nut
  • Upgraded electronics
  • Comes with or without tremolo

The Double Agent is truly a “jack of all trades” guitar. They are used by Metal players, Country players, and Blues guitarists. If you’re looking for something that can do Doom and everything in between, Reverend has your back.

The upgraded electronics are pretty cool. Most guitars in this price range come with standard controls and wiring. Reverend steps it up a notch using custom capacitors for the volume and tone. This is a mod that the pros use, and it is very nice to come stock on a guitar.

Lots of heavy, innovative players use Reverend these days:

  • Billy Corgan
  • Robin from NIN
  • Shade from Code Orange
  • Bob Balch from Fu Manchu
  • Kyle Shult from THE SWORD

Reverend is not a company that you usually see on these kinds of lists, and I think it’s time Reverend got it’s fair shake. These guys that play Reverend had endorsements with much larger companies before, and still made the switch.

That’s a testament to their quality, and innovation. You can check out their whole roster of artists and models at Reverend Guitars Official to see why they are one the best guitars for Doom Metal.

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#2 ESP/LTD Viper

The 5 Best Guitars For Doom Metal: The Heaviest Picks For 2020
ESP VIPER Standard

Upon first look, it’s pretty easy to judge the Viper on it’s similarities to another popular brand’s design. But I assure you, the features and specs make the Viper a choice for those who want to avoid the big brands, and carve their own path.

  • Mhogany Body and Neck
  • Macassar Ebony fretboard
  • Locking tuners
  • Seymour Duncan/ EMG pickups (depends on the model)
  • Thin U neck
  • Locking bridge
  • Graphtech Nut
  • Three way switch

The Viper often gets unfairly overlooked in ESP’s catalog. Recently, Reba Myers from Code Orange started endorsing the Viper, and even has her own signature model. But she isn’t the only one chugging away on a Viper.

Pepper Keenan from Down and Corrosion of Conformity also played Vipers for quite a while.

The advantage they have over say, a Gibson SG, is all in the features. Out of the box, the Viper is ready for the stage. All of the upper tier models come with brand name pickups and locking tuners. These features are the reason the Viper gets the #2 spot instead of a Gibson SG.

If you want to be more traditional, there is nothing wrong with a Gibson SG, as it is widely used in Rock and Metal. The Gibson is a great guitar with a long legacy. But personally?

I prefer the Viper. It’s darker. Meaner. It deserves a spot with the best guitars for Doom Metal, even though it’s not always associated with Doom Metal.

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Honorable Mentions: The Best Guitars For Doom Metal

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that just about any guitar can be used for Doom metal. That’s the absolute truth, and some professionals have some really interesting choices.

Others are flat out strange.

But that’s the coolest part about playing guitar. You can make your own choices and create your own style. These honorable mentions prove that there isn’t really a specific “box” you need to stay in just because of genre.

The best guitars for Doom Metal are ultimately… any guitar!

What we should always keep in mind when choosing a guitar, is to find the one that suits us personally. You can go by the lists, reviews and forum suggestions all day long.

At the end of the day, what guitar is perfect for you is all that matters.

Chelsea Wolfe: Gibson Semi Hollow Guitars

The 5 Best Guitars For Doom Metal: The Heaviest Picks For 2020
Chelsea with her Gibson

Like I said, some of these are flat-out weird choices for heavy music. Semi-hollow guitars are usually used in Blues and Jazz. However, Chelsea tunes hers down to C standard, and chugs hard.

Chelsea plays a wide array of Gibson semi-hollow guitars, which seems like a really odd choice for someone that plays such heavy music. Her unique blend of Electronica and Doom Metal has mostly been played with these semi-hollow “Jazz Box” guitars.

Lately she has also been seen playing a white Fender Jazzmaster. Which to be fair, is yet another odd choice. As long as she keeps making amazing albums, I don’t care what she plays!

It certainly all works for her, though. This just goes to prove that all guitars are versatile… in the right hands.

Brant Bjork: Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters

The 5 Best Guitars For Doom Metal: The Heaviest Picks For 2020

Fender is not often a name that gets used in the metal community. There is nothing wrong with the company or their guitars at all. They just do not usually get used for heavier music.

Fender generally appeals to Blues and Rock players, and rarely shows up on a list for the best guitars for Doom Metal. People like John Mayer, and Stevie Ray Vaughn used Fender guitars for years. But they don’t exactly play Metal. That’s just not what Fenders are for, right?

Tell that to Brant Bjork.

This is yet another example how you can play whatever you want, and make it your own style. If you listen to any Brant Bjork albums, you know that the guitar tone is out of this world. In the studio its not only Fenders, but Gibsons alike.

Fender guitars have an unmistakable sound that is often regarded as being too “brittle” sounding for Metal. But again, in the right hands…

With all of that said, let’s get to the #1 pick for the best guitars for doom metal. Spoiler alert: It’s exactly what you think it is.


#1 Gibson Les Paul Custom

The 5 Best Guitars For Doom Metal: The Heaviest Picks For 2020
1969 Les Paul Custom

We could spend a ton of time talking about the legendary Les Paul Custom and it’s relationship to Doom Metal. But it’s easier if I just list the players that use one.

  • Matt Pike
  • Buzz Osbourne
  • Priestess
  • THE SWORD
  • Red Fang
  • Mastadon
  • Sunn O)))
  • Isis
  • Sumac
  • Boris
  • Kylesa
  • Baroness
  • Literally everyone.

The Les Paul Custom is favored by Metal guitarists all over the world. Rightfully so, since it is so versatile and easy to maintain. You can easily tune the guitar down to whichever tuning you prefer.

The Les Paul Custom has it’s own sound, and a long legacy of players to go with that sound.

The Les Paul Custom also comes with some of Gibson’s best pickups, and are surprisingly not very hot. This is a good thing. These custom-wound PAF pups are the opposite of your usual Metal designs.

Since the pickup is not very hot, you have more headroom to add fuzz and distortion. Both of which are staples of Doom Metal, Sludge, and Stoner Rock.

The Les Paul Custom is a lot like the Peavey 5150 amp. If you have listened to Metal of any form over the last 30 years, chances are there was a Les Paul Custom involved in the recording process.

It’s legendary for a good reason, and is one of the best guitars for Doom Metal. But if it is too rich for your blood, check our #1 picks for the best Gibson Les Paul Alternatives you can buy right now.

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The Best Guitars For Doom Metal Under $300

best guitars for doom metal

Guitar is… personal. As it should be. And if you need cheaper options of the guitars listed above, check out our guide to the best beginner guitars – most of them retail for under $300.

My personal fave? Simple: Epiphone’s Les Paul range.

Just because the guitars listed above are the more widely used guitars for Doom Metal/Sludge/ Stoner, doesn’t mean you have to use these specific models. This is just a guide of the tried and true guitars that artists have used for years.

Most new players will be fine by anything from Epiphone, however – Epiphone guitars come in all shapes and sizes, from Flying V to Explorer, SG, and Les Paul.

Any genre can be played on any style/brand of guitar. Tone is a big amalgamation of things, including your pedals and amps. The fun part of playing music is crafting your own unique sound.

But it absolutely couldn’t hurt your unique sound to go buy a Les Paul Custom.

Do you need a certain scale length guitar to play Doom Metal?

No, you can tune down with just about any scale length guitar.

Do all Doom Metal guitarists use humbucker equipped guitars?

Not everyone, although humbuckers are popular. Single coils and P-90s are frequently used in Doom Metal.

Christoper Horton

Christopher started playing guitar in 1994 at 14 years old. He has been a part of the Metal community for the last 25 years and has 11 solo albums under his belt. Christopher started his career in Atlanta, Georgia in the late 90's, later securing a major label record deal in the early 2000s under the name IAMSOUND. He worked briefly as a hired gun in Los Angeles before he opened his own studio in 2010 in Savannah, Georgia. Chris has worked with some big names over the years like Tripping Daisy, Kylesa, Baroness, and the legendary Reflux.

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