I can't say that I'm fairly competent (I'm not able to use a lot of different equipment items), but my choice is
ESP LTD EX-307:
LTD, because it is inexpensive
EX series because I like explorers))
307, because I think that 7-strings provides more features for metal
Amps... I like mid-scooped powerful death-metal tone. Well, I've got it with both amps that I tried to use: Peavey 6505+ and it was easy, 5 minutes settings; and Randall rg50tc, but with Randall I had to use additional EQ in loop, and setting takes a long time.
I like to use a Bogner or Marshall amp with an overdrive pedals or a nice warm tubescreamer and I like to use the same mic and cab as the rhythm tone. Though the sound mostly comes from how you play I have noticed that if you use a different amp for lead tones when recording that the contrast helps make the lead sound stand out and can appear more fluid/warm.
Hey guys! Check out my band Zaltana! We're from Brazil and we're making some good music, putting together some different kinds of metal! hope you enjoy it! You can see me soloing at the end of a song last Saturday, I posted a video in my profile! Search facebook and youtube for ZALTANA! #ESP #LTD #EX360