The Iron Cross SW features a very memorable white finish with three back stripes across its top, black scratch plate and the large, metal Iron Cross attached to the back behind the tailpiece. The single cut body is bound with a double black line around its circumference that adds an extra level of class to the design. It’s certainly a memorable look, although I can see a number of buyers being put off by the use of the Iron Cross. The fretboard features some very well executed flag inlays that culminate in a further Iron Cross design across the 11th, 12th and 13th frets.
As with the KH-WZ model, this James Hetfield signature features a very subtle JH logo on the headstock that doesn’t scream ‘signature model’ and thus limit the potential market for the guitar too much. This more subtle approach to artist branding looks far more classy and widens appeal far more than a name sprawled across the neck or 12 fret ever would!
The body design is more compact and modern looking than a traditional single cut shape and seems very sleek and contemporary, especially when matched with the wave topped headstock design.
Construction quality is right up there with the best of the LTD range and the Iron Cross SW certainly feels like a much more expensive guitar. As with the KH-WZ, all aspects of the guitar are flawlessly finished with fantastic paint and fret work, matched with a great setup and hardware fitting. Everything is tight and well put together with a feel that lines up well or even better than the price of the guitar suggests. As such, playability is very good indeed with a fast thin, U-shaped neck and XJ frets allowing for easy and effortless technique application, perfect for power chords or lead work across the whole range of the neck. Obviously, upper fret access isn’t up there with the double cut KH-WZ but reaching the 22nd fret isn’t an issue and the addition of the belly cut on the back of the body allows for more comfortable playing experiences than with a traditional LP-style guitar.
Tonally, the Iron Cross SW is a beast thanks to those great sounding (and great looking) EMG JH humbuckers. The JH pickups have a lot of output thanks to the active design but they aren’t just about their bark and bite and can quite happily handle lower gain and clean tones with style. Heavily overdriven tones retain lots of clarity and tightness, perfect for low tuned power chord chugging or palm muted single notes and lead tones are just as silky smooth as the EMG81 in the KH-WZ model. Of course it can scream too if required and can really push a lower gain amp into impressive break up tones by pushing the front end hard with the volume all the way up!