Other than being the among the cornerstones of electric guitar design, what do the Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster, Gibson Les Paul and SG (and many more) all have in common? Believe it or not, when they were originally released they were all mocked and laughed at for their then-strange body designs and electronics. They were revolutionary of course, but it took many brilliant axe slingers to prove their capabilities beyond being a weird fad. Great guitar design has always been about the marriage of eye-catching looks, playing comfort and, of course, tone. And without creative people continuing to push the envelope, the world would still be limited to the handful of electrics that were first introduced in the '40s and '50s.
Our list of 10 Most Bizarre Guitars highlights some of the weirdest and off-the-wall guitars crafted in the past several years but it is by no means a comprehensive list. Trust us, if that were the case, we'd be here throwing up guitar after guitar all day for weeks on end. Our selection is comprised of guitars that have recently caught our eyes, and they each show a different take on the unique paths of custom guitar design.
Emerald Guitars Steve Vai Ultrazone
For several years, Ireland's Emerald Guitars have been on the cutting edge of cool and unique guitar creation. Their custom Alien and Bahamut models are both futuristic and unsettling, but their Steve Vai Ultrazone model is among their most jaw-dropping creations to date. The guitar is an exact functional replica of the guitar that Vai is depicted with on the cover of his 2001 album, 'The Ultra Zone'. Vai insisted on paying Emerald Guitars founder Alistair Hay for the guitar, but Hay wouldn't accept payment -- instead, he negotiated for a bottle of Fire Garden honey from the guitarist's bee farm.
Florida-based Electrical Guitar Company has been on a roll for the past few years, crafting some of the coolest-looking aluminum and acrylic guitars the gear world has ever seen. The company's guitars caught the eye of Mastodon's Brent Hinds, who worked with EGC to produce his signature model that's based around Gibson's timeless Flying V. The guitar sports a clear acrylic body, an aluminum neck with aluminum finger board and an old-school Maestro vibrato making it a natural fit for the 10 Most Bizarre Guitars list.
When Five Finger Death Punch's Jason Hook teamed up with Gibson to design his signature M-4 Sherman Explorer, it was a dream come true for the guitarist. Hook has been a long time fan of Gibson guitars -- and Explorers in particular -- so it was only natural that his guitar come from the source that introduced the Explorer to the world in 1958. Hook's M-4 Sherman tank-themed guitar features a pair of Seymour Duncan '59 and JB pickups, Grover locking mini tuners and a specially-designed cutaway and upper body arm scarf.
When thinking of the 10 Most Bizarre Guitars, it's hard to beat Michael Angelo Batio's Dean Armorflame Quad guitar. The Armorflame's extreme look matches the intensity of Batio's legendary shredding ability, and has not one, not two, but four necks that facilitate the guitarist's over-and-under-the-neck fretting techniques. Each of the guitar's four pieces can be dismounted from the back plate, effectively giving Batio the option of having one, two, three or four guitars at his disposal at a time.
Jackson Guitars teamed up with Master Builder Pablo Santana and graphic artist Craig Fraser to create their striking Extreme Zodiac series. Fraser's designs each depict a different Zodiac sign, and Jackson's classic Kelly and Warrior body shapes serve as a basis for Santana's sharp and jagged designs. These models were highly limited -- and they commanded a $7,400 price tag when they were released -- so purchasing one will set you back a pretty penny, if you can find one.
Paul Gilbert (Racer X, Mr. Big) is known the world over for his extreme fretboard acrobatics and humorous personality. His Ibanez Fireman model, which begins with the company's classic Iceman shape flipped upside down, is loaded with three Dimarzio Area '67 single coils, a '70s-style top-loading tailpiece and Gibraltar II bridge, Korina body and large set neck, and a dark Bubinga finger board.
The Misa Kitara is one of the most interesting guitars to hit the gear world in decades. The instrument has an embedded touch interface that displays six virtual "strings" that respond to the player's finger movements and which fret buttons they're playing on the neck. It's expressiveness and open source software give it the ability to produce almost any sound that you can imagine. The Kitara has not only caught the ears of players such as Muse's Matt Bellamy, but has also been featured at CES and by the likes of Rolling Stone and Premier Guitar.
High on Fire axeman Matt Pike worked with First Act's Custom Shop to develop his custom 9-string guitar. The guitar is strung like a 6-string, but the top three strings are doubled like a 12-string guitar, which give them a natural chorus-like sound. The build is based around Yamaha's classic SG-2000 body style, and the body is a half-inch thicker than that of a Les Paul. The First Act Custom Shop is now defunct, but you can read more about their work with Baroness, Mastodon and many, many more artists at Premier Guitar's Builder Profile here.
Fret board wizard and Animals As Leaders guitarist Tosin Abasi chose Ibanez to help bring his signature model to fruition. The TAM100 is an eight-string guitar that's somewhat similar to Ibanez's timeless RG model, but with several changes and appointments that make it stand apart from the run-of-the-mill pack. The natural-finished Basswood body is topped with a bluish-grey quilted Maple top, and the neck is fashioned from five pieces of Wenge and Bubinga with titanium truss rods, instead of more commonly-used Maple construction.
Sometimes the coolest guitars are the ones that you make yourself. James Hutchinson combines his love of guitar and industrial design know-how into his company's incredible designs, and the Molten Diabolic is one of his greatest achievements. The guitar was built to celebrate the release of the video game Diablo III, and the guitar's top and fretboard use recessed LED arrays to depict a scene of molten lava with Black Soulstone. The Molten Diabolic truly blurs the line between art and function -- but beyond that, it just looks totally badass and is a natural choice for our 10 Most Bizarre Guitars list.