The Xiphos shape from Ibanez has always intrigued me. A bit like a Warrior, but infinitely cooler, the Xiphos was always the metal axe that wasn’t too sharp to touch. Definitively metal in design, it was held apart from the crasser “troo” metal guitars by virtue of its subtler looks and rounded edges. Like Alan Rickman says as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves: “It’s dull, you twit. It’ll hurt more!”. He was referring to cutting out Robin’s heart with a spoon rather than a sword, and he was right – you can cause more hurt with this stealth bomber than any pointy kvlt BC Rich or Jackson. Kind of like the vampires of Interview with the Vampire vs. the vampires of I Am Legend – one seems more overtly scary, while one is more dangerous under a classier veneer.
The current incarnation of the Xiphos is the XPIR20E – a member of the Iron Label family, it’s a cousin of the former XPT and XP neck-through models, which were similar, but distinct in many ways. I think of the XPIR20E as almost like an RG in disguise. Having owned many an RG, I was instantly at home when I picked up this guitar – the bolt-on Wizard neck, the bare wood underneath my fret hand thumb, the wide, flat fretboard – and yet something was distinctly different.
The balance of the Xiphos body is superior to the RG for sure. The way the massive wings are shaped counters the weight of the neck, making for a more even distribution from tip to tip. I can see why Muhammed Suiçmez of Necrophagist loves it – the last thing you need when ripping insane tech-death is to have to also be countering neck dive with your fret hand.
The Edge Zero II bridge on my guitar was unstoppable. I tend towards hardtail guitars because I’m lazy and don’t like to worry about setup and maintenance even though I enjoy the added expressivity (whammy flutters are my FAVORITE), so a stable trem is a godsend for me. I gave this one all I had to give and it just kept on keeping on in perfect tune. For a $900 guitar, that’s a damn fine deal.
The action arrived set up very low and clean in standard tuning, but I needed to go down to D standard for the song I wanted to play (went back in the old catalog for this one) so I changed out the strings to a higher gauge set and brought the action down even lower (I like it LOW). I was afraid that it might not be the same as when it arrived, but it played like a squeaky clean dream with no dead spots or spanky action.
The murdered out matte black finish (called Black Flat by Ibanez) has a very disavowed ex-military vibe to it that adds to the aura of mystique, and if it weren’t for the binding and natural finish neck, you could easily lose the thing against a black background. This color scheme in combination with the shape inspired the feel of my demo video performance, which is a bit over-the-top, I admit. But it’s the most evil looking guitar I’ve reviewed so far, so how could I not? It was surprisingly light considering the size of the guitar and the fact that it’s made of mahogany, which adds to the performance-friendly character.
The high fret access is very good, not as spectacular as the RGD series, but far better than most. I’m not sure if it’s just the bombardment of guitars with EMGs that I’ve received to review, but I’m starting to warm up to them (or maybe just getting a better idea of how to use them). They’re a tad on the sterile side, but like I said in the video – they’re very dependable for getting a certain tone with little effort.
My only complaints are very small things – the location of the upper bout strap button could come around to the backside I think, for less awkward strap positioning. Also I think the volume knob and pickup selector switch should trade places, or move the volume to the other side of the switch. If you’re presuming a player doesn’t need a tone knob, I think we can also safely assume they’re generally
The XPIR20E is at home in the Iron Label series – a fast, mean metal guitar that works the way it’s supposed to and plays better than the competition, for a lower price. If you’re looking for a cool looking workhorse, look no further. Get more info on the guitar at the official Ibanez website.
Grab one here today for $899.