Metal’s roots can be traced back to the 1960s, when the wave of psychedelic rock bands wanted to get a little louder. In its early days, the genre was associated with heavy blues bands such as Cream and Led Zeppelin. This changed with the emergence of bands like Blue Cheer, Vanilla Fudge, and Leaf Hound, which separated themselves and made a distinctively new movement in rock ‘n roll.
However, to get to the true birthplace of metal as we know it, you will have to turn your attention to Birmingham, England. In 1970, Black Sabbath released their self-titled debut album that had much more grim and edgier undertones — thereby setting itself apart from classic rock ‘n roll. Black Sabbath, who these days are synonymous with their iconic frontman Ozzy Osbourne, solidified metal as a genre and a movement in modern music history.
Nowadays, metal is as popular as it’s ever been. For instance, legendary metal band Slayer is currently on their farewell tour, but are still selling out arenas across the world. There have also been new additions that push the genre to its limits, such as Sacramento-based Death Grips. With the genre’s current popularity, it’s no wonder that Rolling Stone reports that guitar sales are at an all-time high. And while guitars are the best place to start, you’ll need a couple more tools to turn your playing up a notch closer to the gods of metal. Here’s a list of the best pedals you’ll want to get to kick off your journey into heavy metal.
MXR Smart Gate
While being loud is pretty much the whole point of playing metal, it’s ironic that one of the most essential pedals that you can get for your rig is the MXR Smart Gate noise gate pedal. The Smart Gate gives you 3 selectable types of noise reduction: Hiss, Mid, and Full. The pedal cuts back on all the unnecessary noise, letting your music shine. If you need any more convincing, Slayer’s very own Kerry King is known to incorporate this pedal into his rig.
Ibanez Tubescreamer TS9
Another thing you’ll have to prioritize is getting that white-hot metal tone. The Ibanez Tubescreamer gives your rig that little push that’ll give your riffs a bit more edge and power. This distortion pedal is a particularly popular one among metalheads looking for that unique tone control, and one notable person who’s known to have a Tubescreamer in his rig is guitar god Kirk Hammet. If it’s good enough for him, it’s surely good enough for you.
The Boss DS-1X gets the job done — no other pedal will give you unrestrained power without sacrificing the quality of sound. The DS-1X is the upgrade of the DS-1, and is preferred by metal players due to its higher gain and output. The Boss DS-1X will unfailingly deliver you clear string-to-string definition no matter the register you choose to play. Guitar virtuoso and Grammy-winning rock artist Steve Vai is known to have this ever-reliable pedal in his arsenal.
Line 6 DL4
The good thing about the Line 6 DL4 is that delay is a somewhat common effect used in all genres of music. This means that it’s a flexible pedal that you can morph and tweak to suit the sound that you’re trying to achieve. The DL4 is equipped with 4 foot switches used for saving and recalling your sounds, and six knobs with distinct assignments, making the DL4 the only delay pedal you’ll ever need. Delay is more prominent in the metal subgenre, nu-metal, as it is a lot less straightforward than heavy metal. Metallica’s Kirk Hammet also has this pedal in his collection of beautiful noise and sound.
MXR M-108 Band EQ
Lastly, you’ll need an EQ pedal to rein your sound in for those face-melting guitar solos that this genre is especially notorious for. With its 12 level sliders — 10 for EQ, one for volume, and one for gain — the MXR M-108 pedal gives you control over every little detail. Used by none other than Guns N’ Roses’ lead guitarist Saul Hudson (better known as Slash), this pedal allows you to get that extra oomph by zeroing in on the sound that you want to achieve.