A heavily distorted electric guitar is the cornerstone of the metal sound. When it comes to this over-the-top genre of music, having that little bit of extra dirt can go a long way.
With so many different distortion pedals on the market, you might be asking yourself:
“Which of these distortion pedals will work for my bloodthirsty riffs?”
Well, you’ve come to the right place. If you’re looking to invest in amping up your guitar’s sound, these pedals will put your tone to the metal. Let’s dig in.
KHDK Dark Blood
The KHDK a high-gain distortion pedal with the sounds of the legendary Kirk Hammett built in.
It’s an absolutely brutal metal distortion pedal that gives you the sound of a stacked wall of Metallica amps in a portable stompbox. One of the coolest things about this pedal is that it has a built-in noise gate that helps keep that added hum to a minimum.
The Doom knob on the front is easily the most unique characteristic, as it allows you to dial in an insane amount of bottom end, something that Metallica is known for.
The Hi/Lo switch gives you a substantial amount of control over the tone of the pedal, allowing you to boost the top end for presence or boost the low end for extra girth.
Not only is it an insanely powerful pedal in a portable size, but it also has a signature, metal look with the black and red aesthetic. The sounds inside this thing will make even the most badass of metalheads shed a tear.
Bottom Line: With tight, metal-like, high-gain sounds and a built-in noise gate, the KHDK Dark Blood is one of the sweetest metal pedals around. No other pedal will get you as close to the crunchy and low-heavy tone of Metallica.
When Swedish death metal became popular, so did the Boss HM-2. That particular pedal was widely available at the time, meaning it kind of became the signature of that sub-genre.
The team over at Lone Wolf decided to take the Boss HM-2 and give it a major upgrade to bring it into the present. This tuned-up HM-2 gives you a variety of controls, including level, gain, high, and low, similar to the original pedal.
There are two footswitches on the pedal, one labeled “modern” and one labeled “vintage”. The vintage footswitch toggles the bypass on, and the modern footswitch gives you a bit more shimmer with added treble focus.
To bring it into the modern era, Lone Wolf has added germanium diodes or no diodes for the choice between smooth and non-clipped tones. It distorts in the same way that the original Boss pedal did, yet has far less unwanted noise.
Bottom Line: The Lone Wolf Left Hand Wrath is an excellent replication of the Boss HM-2, giving you the same nasty tone with a modern twist. If you play death metal of any sort, it’s an incredibly unique pedal to have in your arsenal.
James Brown, the man who led the engineering team for the iconic Peavey 5150, compiled his experience in rock and metal to deliver one of the best metal-style distortion pedals on the market: The Amptweaker TightMetal JR Distortion.
It’s the junior version of the popular TightMetal pedal and comes with some extra features that make it stand out. For starters, this version of the pedal has a solid noise gate to get rid of unwanted distortion noise, as well as additional EQ control that gives you the ability to dial in that metal “chug.”
Get that djent sound when you engage the tight switch or create powerful, distorted chords without it. Essentially, you get all of the beauty of metal distortion without the overpowering, muddy bass sound that comes from cheaper pedals.
Beyond that, this pedal has a unique, angled design, making adjustments far more intuitive.
Bottom Line: The Amptweaker TightMetal is meant to give you soul-crushing distortion that is perfect for the heaviest metal tones out there. If you’re looking to dig deep and get the most distortion you possibly can, the Amptweaker is one of the best around.
The Boss DS-1 has always been a metalhead favorite when it comes to metal-style distortion. In standard Boss fashion, they decided to take that popular pedal and give it a few upgrades to bring it into the modern era of pedals.
For starters, it has a far more aggressive tone than the original DS-1, perfect for heavier sub-genres. This also means that you get more headroom overall so that you can seriously crank the volume and drive your amp.
Instead of the single knob on the DS-1, you instead get two knobs, allowing you to adjust both the high and low frequencies to dial in the perfect tone.
It is made with multi-dimensional processing (MDP) technology, allowing to adapt to any note in any register, smoothly and effortlessly. This means that you’ll have a steady sound whether you are soloing up the neck or chugging in drop D.
All of this is wrapped up in a sturdy metal casing that is lightweight and portable, perfect for those who need good a metal distortion pedal to take on the road.
Bottom Line: The Boss DS-1X is a clean and modern-sounding distortion pedal for today’s metal. It is incredibly easy to use and totally tour-worthy thanks to the small size and durable design.
Blackstar is known for making some of the most sought after hard rock and metal amps on the market. They also just happen to make one of the best sounding metal distortion pedals out there as well.
The LT Metal pedal is meant to create high-gain distortion that is necessary for that modern guitar sound. On the inside of the pedal is the Infinite Shape Feature, a patented Blackstar circuit that allows you to adjust the tone control characteristics with more versatility.
You can dial in anything from that scooped, modern tone to dirty, British-style heavy metal.
You get valve-style tones and out-of-this-world compression, perfect for almost any style of playing. All of this is wrapped up in a small metal casing that both durable and portable, perfect for taking on the road.
Bottom Line: The Blackstar LT Metal is popular for its versatility, as you can dial in just about any metal distortion tone that you have in your head. It’s a perfectly portable pedal that tours with ease and plays like a dream.
When you see a pedal that uses the words “metal” and “rock” in the name, you can rest assured that you’re going to get some solid tones for the genre you’re playing.
If you’re looking for the sounds of 80s metal, look no further than the Rocktron Metal Planet. If we had to compare it to something, we’d have to say that it sounds most like the Marshall amps that guitarists were playing in that decade.
Don’t worry though; the Rocktron Metal Planet isn’t a one-trick pony by any means. You can get modern-sounding, high-gain tones, as well as softer overdrive and distortion tones, each with their own levels of intensity.
It truly depends on how you decide to dial in the settings. One of those settings is the handy 4-band EQ, giving you the ability to dig into the tone far more than you can with most other distortion pedals on the market.
They rotate from the top and bottom to help save room too.
Bottom Line: While the Rocktron Metal Planet is best for 80s-style metal, it is also a genuinely versatile pedal that fits well within just about any metal subgenre. The design is unique and allows for tons of adjustability to dial in the perfect tone.
The M116 Fullbore Metal pedal is a good pedal for acquiring that modern scooped sound, and they have done it with total perfection.
You get fat tones and low-gain sounds that give you nasty, over-the-top saturation. It’s the perfect pedal for punching right through the center of a mix while retaining that deep tone.
You can load up the noise gate on the pedal too, giving you the ability to get rid of any unwanted noise. We also love that you can disable it if you are trying to get a more natural sound.
Beyond that, there is a three-band EQ that gives you the ability to dial in your highs, mids, and lows. Essentially, you get a ton of settings in one pedal to tweak that you’ll never get bored with.
With unruly levels of gain and a sleek, durable design, it’s a hardcore pedal for hardcore players.
Bottom Line: The MXR M116 is one of the best distortion pedals out there for modern metal. It trims the ends of your tone, as well as gives you a nice scoop, allowing you to procure that modern chug to the likes of Avenged Sevenfold or Metallica.
The Boss MT-2 is a funny pedal. At one point, it fell deep into the depths of the pedal graveyard, as people didn’t really understand how to use it. It’s now back, giving you all the tone you need without any of the unnecessary bells and whistles.
The MT-2 supplies you an all-gain experience thanks to the buffered bypass design. Since you don’t have anything blocking the voltage flow, you get a wildly strong signal compared to the what you’d get from true bypass.
The double tone knobs allow you to access highs, lows, and mids, giving you the ability to dial in almost any sound that you can think of.
In terms of durability, it’s Boss standard. You could tour with this baby for years without having to worry about it breaking. Plus, this pedal is one of the most modifiable out there.
For those electronics nerds out there, it’s easy to pull more out of the pedal than you might have originally thought possible.
Bottom Line: The Boss MT-2 Metal Zone was the sound of metal in the 90s. While it may not be the cleanest or smoothest sounding metal distortion, it does have a character that is like no other, providing you with something quite special.
Moving down into the budget realm of metal distortion pedals, the TC Electronic Fangs gives you a ton of versatility with the ability to dial in a wide variety of tones. You can adjust to total perfection with this baby.
From the thin and nasty thrash-style tones to the massive and thick doom-style tones, you can get it all. Fangs is all about high gain, allowing you to solo hard or chug deep.
There are four knobs onboard, including gain, volume, treble, and bass, providing you a substantial amount of adjustability. They’ve also added a really cool frequency selector switch to help dial in the perfect amount of mids on your guitar.
You can either play the pedal with that iconic, nu-metal style, mids completely scooped, or bump them up to the max to get those sludgy, old-school metal tones.
They’ve managed to pack all of this sonic goodness into a slim and sleek enclosure that is built like a tank.
Bottom Line: The TC Electronic Fangs delivers a monster tone with easy-to-use controls and a small, durable enclosure that supplies you the ability to tour and play with ease. It’s great for players on a budget who still want something high-quality.
Behringer Ultra Metal UM300
Best Budget Option
Behringer is known for making quality pedals at insanely low prices. It’s no surprise that this pedal makes the best budget spot on our list.
This pink beast is perfect for those players who are looking for the most extreme types of distortion for heavy metal and hard rock. Seriously, this thing should not be underestimated.
It’s been made to compete with the Boss realm of metal pedals, and we must say, it does the job well.
It’s made with multi-gain circuitry that provides you with a thick wall of sound. Think tube-style distortion with an endless amount of sustain.
There is a dedicated 3-band EQ onboard that lets you tirelessly dial in tones if you do choose. From the modern, scooped sounds to the thick, wall-of-death tones, it’s got it all.
The best part about this pedal is that it is all wrapped up in a bright, hot pink casing, making it very unassuming as a metal pedal.
Bottom Line: For the major budgeters out there, the Behringer Ultra Metal UM300 provides top-notch metal tones that compete with tones of higher-range pedals on the market. It’s a great distortion pedal for aspiring metalheads and new guitarists who want to experiment with the sound a bit.
Put the Pedal To the Metal
So there you have it, 10 of our favorite distortion pedals for metal. These pedals are the most essential pieces of metalhead pedalboards, and we hope that we’ve helped you to find the one that is most suited for your style.
Though they’re all great in their own right, we’d have to pick the KHDK Dark Blood if we were asked to pick a favorite. It’s quite a special and versatile pedal, as well as the brainchild of Metallica guitarists, Kirk Hammett. You can’t argue with that.
Thanks for reading and keep the metal strong within you.
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