Guild Polara Kim Thayil

Get Your Grunge
Guild Polara Kim Thayil
Price: $899 Street

With Soundgarden, guitarist Kim Thayil helped define the grunge movement. His unusual weapon of choice was the Guild S-100 Polara, a solidbody often unfairly compared to the Gibson SG. Soundgarden may have disbanded years ago, but Guild has nonetheless seen fit to honor Thayil with a signature-model Polara influenced by his original ’70s S-100s.

Made in Indonesia, the Polara Kim Thayil has all-mahogany construction, a large vintage-style headstock, and HB-I Guild humbuckers that use Alnico II magnets and are wired with a phase switch that brightens tone in the middle position when both pickups are combined. Its set neck sports a shallow-D profile that facilitates fast movement, a rosewood fretboard with pearloid inlays, and Grover Rotomatic tuners per Thayil’s request.

A three-way toggle, Tune-O-Matic bridge, and compensated tailpiece are standard, along with a truss cover engraved with “King Animal” and control-access plate with “Badmotorfinger.”

Offered only in gloss black with gold hardware, the Thayil is a classy package. But make no mistake, it’s also a serious hard-rock machine. Guild’s full-size HB-1 pickups deliver strong treble and midrange response with pronounced, articulate lows that, when plugged into a ’66 Ampeg Reverberocket, never got woolly when fuzz or overdrive was added. The neck pickup was ideal for bluesy leads and chord work, while the bridge sizzled with any added fuzz or overdrive, as one would expect. Tone cleaned up nicely when rolling off the Volume knob, with no loss of highs. Engaging the phase switch produced a distinct out-of-phase tone that was very nice.

Strapped on, the Polara Thayil is beautifully balanced and exhibits none of the neck dive that plagues similar guitars. Weighing just over eight pounds, it’s neither featherweight nor boat anchor, and most impressive is its ability to accommodate the tunings favored by Soundgarden and scores of other grunge bands – Drop D and Drop C produce great response with excellent stability.

The Polara Kim Thayil deserves attention from any hard-rock player looking for a break from the same-old. Perhaps now, the original will gain the respect it has been denied for so many years.

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

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