5 Fuzz Pedals That “Do Metal”

"But will it do metal?"

This simple question, seemingly innocuous when taken at face value, lives in infamy among guitar store employees everywhere. We have heard its refrain echo in our heads time and time again, and at night it haunts us in our fitful, perspiration-soaked sleep. This ubiquitous question has been sincerely posed to us in regards to every product under the sun at one time or another, from strings and chorus pedals to miniature practice amps, usually by well-meaning (if somewhat confused) aspiring slayers concerned that the piece of gear they are considering purchasing may not be able to deliver the "brewtal tonez" they yearn for. As musical instrument professionals we must stifle the screams of agony ringing in our heads and politely attempt to redirect the clueless neophyte before us down a more reasonable path to achieving ultimate brutality, but the pain, frustration, and existential ennui brought on by these repeated traumas can stay with us for decades.

All drama aside, though, metal can certainly be a demanding genre gear-wise. It is true that not every piece of gear will "do metal," and beginner guitarists with dreams of unleashing a maelstrom of aural punishment upon unsuspecting listeners often find themselves disappointed and bewildered when they can't summon the heavy tones they hear in their heads from the rig they have at hand. For many players in this situation an obvious first step is to go pedal shopping, as getting a new pedal is a lot cheaper than buying a new guitar or amp. And a good distortion pedal can often make the difference between a tone that is merely aggressive, and one that is truly, sadistically evil. In the past a youthful shredder looking for a pedal to do some metal would be directed towards something like a Boss DS-1 or the legendary, and legendarily divisive, Metal Zone. For today's metal maniacs, however, the choices are much more varied and colorful.

The metal of today has taken on a fatter, fuzzier quality than it had through the ‘80s and ‘90s, with guitar tones more reminiscent of early Black Sabbath than early Megadeth. Thus, the crispy high-gain crunch of a Metal Zone or similar pedal is likely to sound pretty thin, harsh, and dated to many players. Modern metal up-and-comers frequently seek out thickly-voiced fuzz boxes, or effects that blur the line between fuzz, distortion, and overdrive, for tones that exhibit more low-end, softer treble frequencies, and saturation more like a cranked classic tube head with a treble boost pedal hitting the front end. It is with these tones in mind that we have assembled a short list of our favorite new fuzz boxes that "do metal." Most of these stompboxes will do a lot more than metal, of course, but metal-minded guitarists with a hankering for thick, fuzzy, doom-tinged aggression will find a lot to love about this collection of newcomers.

DOD Carcosa Fuzz

DOD's reboot is one of the most exciting things to happen in the pedal industry in a while, and though the company might have been able to get away with simply reissuing a string of its classic stompboxes, it has boldly charted new paths to tonal glory as well, rather than just sitting back and resting on its legacy. The Carcosa Fuzz exemplifies this philosophy, fusing the raw, buzzy silicon soul of the vintage Maestro FZ-1S to a thoroughly modern internal architecture for a dynamic dirt box that goes from raspy and gated to muscular metallic doom. In between there are shades of classic treble booster and warm overdrive, easily controlled from the guitar's volume knob. Metalheads will appreciated the combination of high end definition and massive low-end the Carcosa generates, as well as the copious gain and volume on tap, perfect for those Electric Wizard-style tones. The Carcosa's big, open frequency response and versatility also make it perfect for monstrous bass fuzz sounds. At under a hundred bucks new, every youthful ne'er-do-well deserves a Carcosa.

Catalinbread Karma Suture (Si)

The original Catalinbread Karma Suture is a variation on the legendary and mysterious Interfax Harmonic Percolator, and like the Percolator, it is based around the unusual pairing of a germanium PNP transistor and a silicon NPN transistor. The new silicon Karma Suture, however, ditches the germanium device for another silicon piece, with the PNP-NPN arrangement remaining intact. The result is a pedal with the same distinct Percolator sonic signature, but with a more hair, snarl, and immediacy in the pick attack. And though this circuit is not often thought of in the context of metal tones, it is actually an ideal fuzz-drive-distortion box for the metal dude looking for something a little different, but still totally brutal. For one thing, the Karma Suture has unprecedented string-to-string clarity at high gain levels, making it excellent for drop tunings, dense chords, and extended range instruments. It also works equally well with anything from ringing, bell-like single-coils to hot, dark humbuckers, and it has more than enough output and aggression to wallop the front end of a high-wattage head. The new Catalinbread Karma Suture (Si) does metal its own way.

Wren and Cuff Elephant Skin

Troy Sanders plays bass and sings in modern metal giants Mastodon, and Wren and Cuff is the industry's foremost purveyor of top-shelf Big Muff recreations. Put them together, and indeed, havoc shall be wreaked. Sanders and the team at W&C recently got together for a signature fuzz-distortion box which is essentially a Wren and Cuff Tall Font Russian with an extra gain stage for taking things to the next level of chaos. The second gain stage can be used by itself for boosting functions or to completely wreck the front end of the Muff circuit. The Elephant Skin's megafaunal metal tones may be intended for bass, but like a lot of bass distortion pedals, it is also excellent for enormous, bottom-heavy guitar sounds and aggressively-voiced humbucking pickups. Like the Tall Font Russian, it has extended clarity in the high end, keeping things distinct and defined even when the strings are tuned low and floppy, and the chords are thick with dissonant harmonic textures. For metal players with a Muff fixation it would be hard to do better than Wren and Cuff's Elephant Skin.

Frantone Cream Puff

How metal is it to have a big pink fuzz pedal called the "Cream Puff" on your board? I'm sure many black-clad, corpse-painted teenage nihilists would disagree, but I think the Frantone Cream Puff's inherent metalness is clearly above reproach. The name and appearance of this ferocious fuzz beast are very deceiving indeed (deliberately so I must think) and even casual listeners will surely be taken aback by its unrelenting high-gain sonic onslaught and raw, massive tones. It boasts an abundance of output and onboard filth, and its Fluff knob can take you anywhere from dark and woolly to absolutely searing, remaining musical and pleasing to the ear throughout the range. Frantone, being one of the original boutique pedal companies, has a reputation for matchless quality and innovative circuitry, and the Cream Puff is one of the company's finest and most beloved designs. And now that Fran Blanche and her innovative stompboxes have returned to the fold, this masterpiece of gargantuan guitar tone is again available to the masses. Get a Frantone Cream Puff, if you're metal enough.

Old Blood Noise Endeavors Haunt Fuzz

Where would modern metal be without drop tunings, 7, 8, and more-string guitars, baritones, and other miscellaneous extended range instruments? Right back in the ‘80s, that's where. The low sounds define modern metal in many ways, but they also create challenges in terms of finding gear that will accentuate and accurately reproduce the extra deep brutality. Old-school distortion and fuzz pedals are often very mid-heavy with truncated low-end, which simply will not do when you're rocking in drop-B. Enter the Old Blood Noise Endeavors Haunt Fuzz. If big, doomy baritone drones are your thing, then the Haunt Fuzz was made for you. It's a very versatile noise generator, so it can do the buzzy, hairy thing as well, but the Haunt really shines when switched into Low mode. The tones are brash, yet big and warm, and the mix knob lets the user blend in some clean signal to keep things tight and remarkably defined (if that's what you're into). The Haunt is a natural companion for bass guitar, baritone, or that custom-made, 18-string, double-dropped-H tuned monstrosity you've been saving up for.

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