There has been a pretty big surge over the past 5 years or so in pedal manufacturers. At the same time there have been re-issues of some great classic pedals. Today we look at our top picks for the best guitar pedals for metal.
It’s pedal week, here at Electrikjam.com! Today we are going to talk about our favorite picks for Metal guitar, as well as a wildcard or two. We started the week off with a tutorial on how to build your first pedalboard. So now that you know how to get started, you’re going to need some pedals!
I have set zero parameters for this list. Some of these you will probably want to price check, because they may be pricey. Then again, I am going to throw in some tried and true classics that are pretty affordable. The main thing, is that they do metal really well.
So let’s skip the chit-chat and get to looking at some pedals!
The Best Guitar Pedals For Metal: Distortion/Overdrives
A well crafted distortion tone is absolutely essential in any Metal genre. Distortion is the staple of any metal tone. So let’s start with those:
REVV G3 Distortion
REVV has been a high-end amp company for quite a while and have made some incredibly popular amps over the past few years. So it comes as no surprise that their distortion pedals are high quality as well.
These pedals are made in Canada by REVV and based on the Purple Channel 3 amp tones. The special wiring of this pedal means that it plays well with just about any amplifier.
The RVV G3 is not just an “amp in a pedal” style setup. The G3 can also be used in tandem with your amp distortion to change the tone for the better. This is because the G3 has a ton of midrange and highs that can blend without getting too muddy or cluttered sounding.
This would be a great pedal for giving your amp’s distortion a bit of a boost. I have seen this work really well with the 5150 Series of amps. At the same time, this can also be used in your effects loops as your primary distortion. This versatility is worth the slightly high price tag in my opinion.
This is definitely a “modern” sounding pedal. The REVV is a modern amp built for Metal. So if you are looking for something a little more conservative…
BOSS DS1 Distortion Pedal
BOSS really doesn’t need any introductions, and we are big fans around here. We absolutely adore the Katana series of amps. But where BOSS shines, is where it started…pedals.
No other pedal quite sounds like a DS1. These have been used for the past 30 years by every guitarist you can think of, due to the solid versatility. Not to mention, the price is always pretty low on these little orange creatures.
The popularity comes from being so easy to dial in a great sounding tone with ease, and little to no experience. The DS1 is one of those distortion pedals that you only want to use in front of the amp in my opinion. That being said, I have seen people use them through the effects loop also with mixed results.
Over the years, the DS1 has found it’s way on my pedalboard more than once. I use it to boost the gain on my solos, or to change the distortion tone of my amp. However it also works great as a stand-alone pedal, running through a clean channel. Experimentation will only yield more interesting results!
BOSS has a whole legacy of great pedals, so it was hard to pick just one for this article. The DS1 is a classic, though. It is still used today in studios and stages across the world.
Wampler Dracarys Distortion Pedal
Brian Wampler has been making some really cool pedals for decades. He puts his personal touch on every single pedal he designs. Keeping up with the times, Wampler designed a great pedal for modern Metal players.
The Dracarys is based on the sounds created by modern metal giants like The Haunted, Six Feet Under, and Feared. You may ask yourself what do all of these bands have in common?
They all feature Ola Englund as a guitarist. The master of chug himself.
Wampler’s design is not only based on the aggressive sounds from Ola, as it is meant to be the ultimate Metal pedal for anyone. The tight/open switch on the pedal allows you to switch between two distinct types of saturation. The “tight” being the more modern tone, primed for “Djent” tones.
The Dracarys is another pedal that works best in front of your amp, used on the clean channel. This pedal sets out to replace your amp’s distortion all together. If that’s what you’re looking for, you would be hard pressed to find another pedal that works this well in that kind of setting.
Behringer HM300 Heavy Metal Distortion
Ok…I know what you’re thinking. Behringer looks a little sad next to REVV and Wampler. But what many people don’t realize, is this pedal does something that even those expensive ones can’t.
The HM300 is based on the now discontinued BOSS HM2. The discontinued BOSS Heavy Metal pedal is the secret ingredient for the sound of Swedish Death Metal. Since it is not available anywhere but the sparse used market, the Behringer is a great alternative.
The HM300 is perfect for blending with your high gain amp tones to get that legendary “chainsaw tone” that became the staple of Death Metal over the years. Sure, it works fine as a serviceable distortion all by itself, but that is not where it shines.
When asked at a guitar convention if BOSS would ever release a new edition of the HM2, they said ” Not likely”. So we are left to our own devices to try and get that early grinding, nasty Death Metal tone. With the low price and solid construction, the HM300 is a perfect replacement!
Hey, don’t knock it until you try it!
The Best Guitar Pedals For Metal: Delay/Reverb/Modulation
Now that we have got some of the best distortion pedals out of the way, we can move on to the second section of crafting tone: modulation.
I am only going to list a few of these that I have personal experience with, as many of these pedals in this category do similar things in my opinion. I think it’s more important to list the ones that stand out the most as being not only useful, but essential in some situations.
Digitech Whammy Ricochet
This pedal is absolutely amazing. In every way.
Most of us have different guitars for different tunings. I have my 7 string for B standard, a guitar in C standard, a guitar for half-step down…it starts to add up. But until recently, there really wasn’t a good solution.
Digitech created the original Whammy years ago, and it had a pedal. Dimebag Darrell was famous for using one in Pantera . What Digitech did, was update the technology so you the pedal tracks the notes betters when you are playing. The design is the Whammy Ricochet.
This can go two octaves up in pitch, or two octaves down, and anywhere in between. This allows you to play in any tuning you want, without ever having to detune your actual guitar.
I was skeptical at first, because sometimes these types of effects have a delay between you hitting the note, and the pedal making a sound. Well, I am here to tell you, this thing is almost spot on. This could be really valuable to someone in a cover band!
TC Electronic Flashback 2 Delay Pedal
TC Electronics has been killing the pedal game over the last decade. Their original Flashback Delay was popular with tons of guitarists, including myself.
The Flashback 2 has some really awesome features to help you dial in your best delay sound, starting with a stereo output. This means you can make the delay sound not only thicker, but bounce it between two different amps/speakers to give that slapback effect.
The dial lets you customize your sound further by picking which type of delay you want. The tape echo effect is particularly good, as well as the “loop” function.
Like most of the TC Electronics products, you can use the TonePrint software to download extra features and settings to the pedal, including artist tones and song settings for popular songs. You can do this with your phone or tablet!
Delay is almost a necessity when it comes to big, soaring, Metal leads. So having the versatility to be subtle, or cavernous, is a big win the Flashback 2.
Joyo Atmosphere Reverb Pedal
Speaking of delay and guitar solos, the other ingredient to a great guitar solo is some really deep reverb. It just makes things…bigger.
Joyo makes very affordable pedals that sound really great. They may not be as fancy as some of the other pedals on this list, but they get the job done and more. Joyo’s whole claim to fame is being affordable and easy to buy.
While some of their pedals are just average, and get the job done, the Atmosphere Reverb goes above and beyond in my opinion. The controls give you tons of different reverb effects, and let’s you change them easily on the fly.
All of the different reverb sounds are very different, and will suit just about anyone’s needs. There are deep sounds that tail the reverb on for miles, or more subtle spring type effects. So no matter what you’re going for, you don’t have to pay a $300 price tag for a good reverb.
The Best Guitar Pedals For Metal: Versatility Is Key
These are all just my personal choices when it comes to highly-usable guitar pedals. Everyone is different, and has different needs so maybe you don’t need guitar pedals at all, and use a good modeling amp. That’s a perfectly fine option.
But for those of us that like to experiment a little more, I think this list will definitely send you in the right direction. You never really know what you need until you try it out for yourself.
While it is nice to find a pedal that does one thing really well, I personally like to find pedals that do lots of things really well. Pedal technology has came a long way in the past 20 years, and only gets better each turn around the sun.
Experimentation is what makes music fun. So get out there and try some pedals!