Epiphone Tony Iommi SG Special

Monkey Time
Epiphone Tony Iommi SG Special
Price: $999

Digging into the primordial ooze of heavy metal, players often start with Black Sabbath and their resident guitar necromancer, Tony Iommi. Armed with various Gibson SGs and custom-made copies, he helped forge the genre’s essential riffs 50 years ago, often using a lefty 1964/’65 SG Special dubbed “Monkey.” Now, Epiphone is making Iommi’s iconic guitar available for everyone, in righty and lefty versions.

Like the original, the new Iommi is a cherry-stained SG with two-piece mahogany body and neck, updated with Epiphone Pro P-90 pickups. Electronics include Switchcraft toggle and jack, plus two Volume and Tone controls, CTS potentiometers, and “orange drop” capacitors. An open-book headstock gives the axe a strong Gibson vibe.

Hardware includes a nickel finish on Grover Rotomatic tuners and pickup covers, along with a two-way truss rod, adjustable wraparound bridge, and black “witch hat” knobs. Like many SG models, the Iommi has a big mahogany neck profile, here dubbed the Rounded Iommi C, beautifully set up with a 12″ radius. The 22 medium-jumbo frets sit on an Indian laurel fretboard with cream binding and a GraphTech nut; dot inlays top off the vintage look. The whole shebang comes with a hardshell case and Monkey static cling for bling.

Amped up, the Iommi SG Special does not disappoint. Despite the larger neck carve, its absurdly fast and furious, with low action begging for your quickest licks. Epiphone did a fine job with the fretwork, making it almost effortless to play legato runs. As it has that wraparound tailpiece, you’ll need to unscrew the lugs to raise the action if you require more string-bending functionality.

Tone-wise, the Iommi’s P-90 Pro pickups have a very live, resonant attack that’s perfect for heavy gain or cleaner textures, be it “War Pigs” or “Laguna Sunrise.” As they’re single-coils, there’s more noise with the crunch ladled on, but that’s part of a P-90’s charm – flick the toggle to the combined center position if you want more control, or deploy a noise-gate pedal.

Build quality is excellent for an under-$1,000 axe; knocks include the usual SG culprits like the big neck and crammed cluster of control knobs, but that’s all part and parcel of its history.

If you want a fierce rock axe brimming with Gibson heritage, metal attitude, and as much Black Sabbath as you can handle, the Iommi SG Special is ready for your next voyage to Planet Caravan.

This article originally appeared in VG’s July 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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