This article series is about the tools of popular guitarists. What are their favorite guitars and how is it related to them? This time with Jim Barraza (Cirith Ungol).

„I’ve been playing the ESP Ltd Viper series guitars for 6 years now and what I really enjoy about this design is the body shape, the Xtra Jumbo frets, and the thin U-shaped neck. Being a lead guitarist I need a fast smooth neck and the viper series guitars are the perfect fit for my playing style. Currently, I’m playing the Volsung Signature model from Lars Frederickson (distressed black satin). What I am really enjoying is the streamlined thin body shape which makes this guitar much lighter than other viper models. Almost half the wieght.

The Pickups are EMG LF-DMF passive set with Alnico magnet in neck position and Ceramic in the bridge. It is my first experience with ceramic magnet and must say It is exactly as advertised. Excellent articulation, punchy mid-range, and tight low end. It inspires me to practice more often and takes my guitar playing to a whole other level. It’s hard to put the guitar down when you’re shredding effortlessly.

Just prior to Cirith Ungol’s reunion in 2015, And from the moment I heard talk of a potential reunion, I suddenly found myself scrambling to buy a cheap electric guitar. A few years prior, a couple guitars that I had held onto from the Paradise Lost era were stolen. A Fire engine Red Gibson SG and a Black Charvel/Jackson strat with floyd rose tremolo. So, there I was with no guitar and a potential to play quite a few festivals in Europe.

Seriously, It was a once in a life time opportunity for me. I had to find something suitable and quick. I checked out some Gibson SGs‘ at Guitar Center, but didnt like the feel of the necks or really any particulal thing about them. Within a few days I ended up buying a guitar from Guitar Planet, a local music store here in Ventura California. The owner set me up with a sweet deal on a Black ESP/LTD Viper 256.

I had a couple issues in comfort and balance, so i took it upon myself to widdle on it every chance I could while getting ready to play live for the first time in 25 years. Although Gibson SG’s are supposed to be „More versitile than the LTD Viper“, and I’d probably agree in many cases for most styles of music.

But what I really need is „intense, virtuosic, articulate, powerful, and aggressive electric guitar suited for high gain amps“. For the genre of Heavy Rock music I play, The LTD Viper models provide everthing I need and want out of a guitar. And the Price is right.

2015 ESP/LTD VIPER 256 modified

Witch’s Game (2018 Single) I’m Alive (Live Album 2019) Forever Black (5th Studio Album 2020)




  1. ESP Locking Tuners
  2. Walrus tusk/ Ivory nut
  3. Seymour Duncan Pickups JB (bridge) Pegasus (Neck)
  4. Option string thru or tail piece
  5. One Volume knob
  6. Carved body/ reshaped back of neck
  7. Scalloped fretboard
  8. Relocate strap buttons/ add strap locks

2020 ESP/LTD Viper 1000 deluxe Tiger Eye Sunburst

2021 ESP/LTD Viper „Volsung“ signature series by lars Frederickson

  1. Mass Destruction festival, Atlanta Georgia 11/7/2021
  2. Hells Heroes festival, Houston Texas 4/23/2022
  3. The Courts of Chaos festival, Plozevet France 5/7/2022
  4. Frost and Fireland festival, Derry Northern Ireland 6/18/2022


Chris Strieder

Guitar Special Vol.264 with Jim Barraza (Cirith Ungol)


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