This article was sparked by the recent launch of the Andy James Signature Revenant Distortion Pedal - made by STL Tones - which are an outfit best known for their digital apps and plugins - this is their first hardware effect and is excellent regardless of a first attempt. It uses all-analogue components to recreate the Andy James tone that STL previously generated via software and DSP means.
Most of the other pedals here have been listed and featured before on this side - and besides those I already have in the collection - the Pushking Alex ’Ironfinger’ Ritt Q-Control Distortion and Wampler Triple Wreck - pretty much everything else is on my wishlist. This certainly includes the KMA Wurm and Rockfabrik Mind Abuse.
Pedals are listed alphabetically by brand as usual:
I've already long since decided that I need an Amptweaker TightMetal pedal in my arsenal - while I've been hung up for a while as to which version would be best for me. You have the large flagship PRO version with its 13 controls, 3 effects loops and separate Boost footswitch, then this medium format ST version with 7 controls and 2 effects loops, and finally the JR version with 6 controls and no effects loop. Obviously if you want the all-singing-all-dancing unit then the PRO is the one to get, but at the smaller sizes - I'm probably leaning more towards the JR version. I really don't need the effects loops here and the key offset is between variable Tight control or variable Noise Gate control. The JR version is supposed to be the best of the PRO and the ST and a mix of the Tight and Fat editions - with its Volume, Tone and Gain Dials, then 3-way EQ and Tight switches - with a mini knob for Noise Gate control. For the ST you have dials for Volume, Tone, Gain and Tight, with 2-way toggles for Mid/Thrash, Gate/Chomp and Gain/High (Vintage/Modern). I have a feeling I will actually most likely start with the JR version and then acquire a PRO version a little later - which leaves this ST editions as the odd one out!
This was frequently slips off the radar - or at least out of my contentiousness. Emma Electronic don't advertise that much, and this has not been promoted of late - while it's still every bit the classic it was when it first arrived nearly a decade ago. It's a pretty modern sounding Metal distortion with full 3-Band EQ and a really satisfying grind and bark to it - really rich and thick and just like most of you would like it to be. There have been other pedals more recently with a few more bells and whistles / clipping options etc. - which may have overshadowed this one a touch - it's still a great Metal distortion though and easily the most appealingly priced of these - you should be able to get your hands on these for a relatively low stake.
The Wurm has been featured several times on this site - in my various Boss HM-2 alternatives articles. Here you get 4-Band EQ with the Mids split into separate Highs and Lows, to go with the Treble Highs and Bass Lows. Lots have and love this - it obviously goes head-to-head with the Lone Wolf Audio Left Hand Wrath which occasionally pips it on account of its extra clipping and dual footswitches. I really love both of those and they remain equally high on my wishlist.
When you think of boutique HM-2 Clones, Lone Wolf Audio is rarely far out of the picture - with several offerings in this area ranging from single knob to large enclosure fully-feature-packed. There is a simplified 6 knob medium version too with just a single footswitch - but in many ways this is the LWA flagship - the medium enclosure 7 knob Left Hand Wrath version with separate footswitches for Modern and Vintage Modes, alongside 2-way clipping - Silicon or Germanium, and the 7th blend knob. In most head-to-heads the KMA Wurm really runs side by side with this one - but there are occasions where you would likely prefer the Left Hand Wrath - they're both great pedals and you should be very satisfied with either. I'm pretty sure I will acquire both eventually - it just depends on prevailing moods as to which gets added first.
The venerable OKKO Dominator comes in 2 different editions - Red and Black, and while the Black version is supposed to be more brutal - it certainly is darker in gain structure - I actually infinitely prefer what the Red version does with the mids in particular - and for me you get a much thicker, richer and more satisfying tone out of the Red, while the Black can occasionally sound too dark and 2-dimensional for me. The Red just seems to have richer harmonics and texture which more appeal to my sensibilities. There seem to be equal numbers of us who prefer the Red or Black editions here - I am certainly still firmly in the Red camp.
I have two pedals that have variable Q-control - this one, and the excellent BYOC Crown Jewel Multi-Drive. The Ironfinger Distortion has a fully variable Q-Dial, while the Crown Jewel has a 3-way bandwidth selector - so you can get more focus from the Ironfinger. Even at its lowest gain - it's still pretty gainey - sort of Eliminator era ZZ Top - and then it goes up from there to pretty much cover every variety of Metal. The combination of Parametric Mids with Q-Control gives this pedal an advantage over all these others, and I snapped one up as soon as I saw it appear on Effekt Boutique - I wasn't particularly familiar with either Pushking Pedals or Grave Digger's Axel 'Ironfinger' Ritt - but recognised something special in this unit from the outset. You get a really handy guide to key Metal tones too - and dialling things in is surprisingly quick and efficient here.
Rockfabrik is one Furkan Torlak, and this is his flagship 3-way Mode High Gain Distortion which has been universally lauded around the world, even though it's not that widely in distribution still - and particularly the later V2 edition with the face-mounted mode-switch - the predecessor had it on the right-hand side. I have had this on my wishlist for a long time now - at least a couple of years - it's a wonderful rich sounding distortion with 3 very usable Modes - Classic / Vintage / Modern - and is an all-round excellent sounding Metal distortion - as aptly demonstrated by both Brett Kingman (above) and Pete Thorn.
This is the most recent entrant into this lineup and the pedal really that inspired this overview - I feel it's always handy to compare and contrast with other leading offerings in the same category. Apart from the Wurm and Left Hand Wrath which are both based on the HM-2 these others are all quite different and distinct. The Andy James Revenant is the priciest on offer here - and like the Wurm has 4-Band EQ with Lo and High Mids in addition to Bass and Treble. You also get a 2-way Shape switch - and EQ-Shift toggle essentially which switches between Modern and Classic profiles. The second Focus footswitch is really a type of boost which adds Gain, Tightness and Compression for a suitable Lead Boost. As with many limited offerings of this ilk the first batch / Pre-Orders are already sold out. Such is the case nowadays with limited pedals that you pretty much need to know in advance if you want them - as they get snapped up so quickly. The quick success of this pedal will surely mean that more of these pedals will be made - I would assume they would still be batched somewhat - so you need to react quickly. I obviously took to long to decide on this one - I will undoubtedly be quicker when it comes around again.
I funnily acquired one of these just as they were being discontinued. I already had the Wampler Dracarys, but actually prefer the sound of this one overall. Obviously based on a similar sounding classic high gain Mesa - this does a great job of capturing that really chunky distortion. You get 7 controls all in - Volume, Gain, Boost Contour, Treble, Mids, Bass and Hard/Brutal Mode switch. It's a really satisfying Metal distortion, possibly not quite as raucous and chunky as some of these others but highly satisfying either way. I had this on my top Extreme distortion slot for a while - having rotated out the Diesel VH4-2, then came the REVV G4, Aleks K Red Scorpion, and finally the Redbeard Red Mist MKIV which is currently occupying said slot. I still rotate the Triple Wreck in on occasion - it's still a great pedal of its kind.
As mentioned in the intro - pretty much all of these have been covered on this site before, several of these many times - and all remain viable choices for me on my acquisition wishlist. My Ironfinger and Triple Wreck have had a lot of rotation this year, but have other pedals in their places/slots right now - of these other 7, I will actually likely go for the dual footswitch types first. A Left Hand Wrath and an Andy James STL Revenant whenever that comes around again - hopefully in the not too distant future. Also - I feel I will get a TightMetal JR pretty soon - those have been recommended to me so many times that I will likely capitulate some day soon.
The others as always will depend on price and availability - If I see an appealing candidate at the right price I would not hesitate to snap up any of these others - while I am very happy right now with my current high gain effects library in this area, and under no pressing need to add anything more imminently. In any case the Andy James Signature seems to stand up pretty well - and as long as you can justify the outlay there it seems a very promising candidate.
As always I will be intrigued to find out the reality of my own situation - things usually don't always pan out as you planned and different needs and priorities can arise overnight. All these here are really decent - and most should be satisfied with any of these - with the proviso of course that they are in your intended ball-park - we do actually have a number of sub-genres covered here so it's not really properly like-for-like besides the aforementioned Wurm and Left Hand Wrath provenance.