Life imitates art: Gibson unveils Dethklok Thunderhorse Explorer

(Dave Molter | Posted 2011-02-19)

Life imitates art: Gibson unveils Dethklok Thunderhorse Explorer

For many years the eyes and ears of dedicated shredders around the world have been tuned to Cartoon Network's "Metalocaplypse," which features the animated antics of Scandinavian metal band Dethklok. So I guess it had to happen: Gibson has just announced the release of the Dethklok "Thunderhorse" Explorer ($2,799 MSRP).

While the guitar isn't exactly the same as played by cartoon lead guitarist Skwisgaar Skwigelf, the Thunderhorse was specially designed with input from guitarist Brandon Small, who plays the guitars heard on the show.(No, he's not related to Spinal Tap's Derek Smalls.)

The Dethklok "Thunderhorse" Explorer body is crafted from solid mahogany, long exalted for its depth, balance and richness of tone, and is joined to a glued-in neck made from solid quarter-sawn mahogany for superior resonance and sustain. A slim, fast neck profile with a thickness of .800" at the 1st fret and .850" at the 12th fret makes it easy to get your riff on with speed and agility, right up to the 22nd fret of the black ebony fingerboard, thanks to the Explorer's classic easy-access shape.

A dense Corian nut, cut on the computerized PLEK for total precision, enhances the transfer of vibrational energy into the neck, while that classic pairing of ABR-1 Tune-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece at the body end provide the perfect blend of adjustability and solidity—and all of these critical components work together to optimize the guitar's resonance and sustain.

To maximize all of this tonal splendor, the Dethklok "Thunderhorse" Explorer is equipped with a calibrated set of Gibson's popular BurstBucker humbucking pickups, which comprises a BurstBucker 1 in the neck position and a slightly hotter BurstBucker 2 in the bridge position, for the perfect output balance between the two pickup selections. Made with unpolished Alnico II magnets and unpotted coils that are wound to slightly different numbers of turns of 42-gauge plain enamel-coated wire, just like the originals, these are some of the finest reproduction PAF ("patent applied for") style humbuckers available today.

In an interview on the Gibson website, Small explains how the guitar cameabout.

"It was really cool to see one of those made, where we really went with an over-the-top version," Small says. "But my show is a cartoon, and I think in the wrong hands [the guitar] could really turn into a big mess, and I wanted to keep it as subtle as possible. And in fact, it is so subtle that the only reference to Dethklok is the truss rod cover, which says the word “Thunderhorse” on it in the Les Paul font. You have to know the TV series really well to understand what it means. We experimented with a bunch of stuff and every time I looked at it, it looked off-balance or wrong. It looked too cartoony. One of the things I always think about with the show is to treat the music as authentically as possible. Even though there are tons of jokes, when I'm making the music or considering how the music is going to be portrayed on the show I'm not joking. And I guess I'm not joking with this guitar either."

Another change from the model played on screen by Skwisgaar Skwigelf and on stage by Small is the switch from active EMG humbuckers to passive Gibson Burstbucker pickups. "I'm a pickup junkie," Small says. "I've been going crazy over the years with different styles, including EMG, which I love, and Gibson, which I love, and now I'm experimenting with DiMarzio, but when I switched out every pickup that I could, I found that the pickups I kept going back to were the Burstbuckers."

Small says he prefers the more open response of passive pickups in some situations, settling on Burstbucker 2 and 3 models for the “Thunderhorse.” "What I've learned as I grow up with the guitar is I really like EMGs for rhythm guitar playing, because it's kinda nice and compressed, but I also like to hear a little more of the guitar, something a little less compressed and a little less high gain, because if you're amp's doing its job with medium output pickups, you can get a really nice tone out of your guitar. When you play single coils or P-90s, you can hear different sounds out of the guitar and it expresses itself a lot better."

Fro more information on the Thunderhorse, visit

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