Most are aware that the updated and revived Boss HM-2W Heavy Metal is due for imminent release - I believe sometime around June. In order to celebrate that momentous occasion I’ve been building up a sort of capsule collection of some of the very best HM-2 style distortions - specifically in that Black and Orange colourway. Note that I’ve taken liberties with the Klirtonn Grindstein visualisation which is actually currently Black and Red, while I’m going to try to persuade Carsten Pinkle to make a limited run in Black and Orange.
The pedals are arranged in order of size and then by number of controls. I believe I’ve capture a great cross section of great sounding HM-2 style distortions across the different enclosure sizes - Mini, Compact, Medium and Large. I’ve still to track down a copy of the Abominable Pedalboard-friendly Chaotic Evil Ned and the Klirrton Grindstein. It’s obviously a little tricky for me to snag anything from Abominable Electronics as Patrick Emmons is often reluctant to ship product to the UK - moreover the Evil Ned is made in very small and infrequent batches - so that will likely be a longer-term target. Also obviously the Black and Orange Grindstein doesn’t exist yet which poses something of a challenge!
Here follow the key details for each :
Controls - Level, Distortion, Low, High, Clean Blend.
I have a lot of respect for Guillem Vilademunt - am engineer of the highest order who is responsible for both this Angry Swede and the incredible Golden Horse and Golden Royale Overdrives. Guillem utilises extensive scientific method in his circuit development whose sound signatures are exactingly matched to their original inspirations. It's so satisfying to get those killer Death Metal Tones from such a small unit - it almost beggars belief. This latest version of the Angry Swede Distortion has a Clean Blend Mini Knob on the left-side of the pedal - making it really easy to fine-tune and temper your full on distortion.
Controls - Level, Low, High, Distortion, Standard/Custom Mode (Original/Heavier).
Boss have really worked magic with this reissue - with the remit to keep the pedal as original looking as possible - so as not to offend those legions of fans who actually have this pedal as a tattoo! For those reasons it retains the exact same control topology as its predecessor from the front, while the Standard/Custom Mode toggle has been placed on the top edge.
The Boss engineers have had to use slightly different parts as the original pedal was discontinued in 1992, having been in production since 1983. In the process of replicating the original pedal as Standard Mode the engineers were able to achieve a far great signal-to-noise ratio - with a -6dB reduction in the noise-floor, and with less howling/squealing and more volume than before.
For the Custom Mode the engineers expanded the range of the tone-stack and added even more gain and aggression - just as the fans had demanded. I feel that this is absolutely the right format of reissue, and feel that Boss have approached the whole project with the highest integrity and most thorough due diligence. All the choices made I believe are the correct ones. And even though part of me wanted the MT-2 Tone Stack applied - I have to concede that by and large Boss got this spot-on!
Controls - Low, Mid, High, Level, Focus (Twin Peak Shift), Gain.
This has long been one of my favourite compact executions of this circuit - where the killer differentiator is the 3-Band EQ plus the smart 'Focus' control - which lets you shift those legendary Twin Peak Frequencies up and down the scale for different impact and aggression. The Abominable Chaotic Evil Ned applies a few more tone controls, wile I feel that the HMD-1 is a pretty perfect execution of this circuit within compact enclosure. These are produced in fairly rare batches by Russian Dmitry Trofimov - so you need to react very quickly on his Reverb.com store to snag one when the next batch materialises.
Controls - Frequency Low, Frequency Mid, Frequency High, Low, Mid, High, Volume, Distortion.
This is one that has somehow passed me by for a while. I'm mostly aware of Patrick Emmons for his signature Hail Satan Deluxe Big Muff style Fuzz - which of course I own a copy of. The PBF Compact Chaotic Evil Ned adds 3-Band Parametric EQ into the mix - which is highly unusual - and gives you maximum tone-shaping prowess from the surface of the pedal. There's very few Abominable Electronics Pedals on this side of the pond, and Patrick is often reluctant to ship to the UK - to this will sure be a challenge to pin down. Not least because these are also produced rather infrequently and in tiny batches. So likely a long-term project for me with lots of stalking of a variety of pedal resources.
Controls - Volume, Terror (Gain), Highs, High Mids, Low Mids, Lows, 4 x Frequency trim-pots and 3-way Mode dipswitches.
I detailed fairly recently how I staged a copy of this limited edition Wurm Distortion - actually WurHMII to be precise. Externally you have 4 tone controls - Highs, High Mids, Low Mids, and Lows - and each of those has its own dedicated internal trimpot where you can shift the frequency range up or down for those 4 controls. Actually specifically shift the mid-point of each frequency sweep. Moreover there are internal dip-switches which let you select 3 different playback modes - original HM-2, KMA's take on HM-2, and a combination of both. I don't really touch the internal trimmers - I find the tone ranges are set about right for me, and thus have no need to tweak those trim-pots. While I really should experiment more with the different modes - which I've not really done much since my first week with the pedal. In general I tend to be fairly reluctant to keep undoing the back of the pedal to access those internal control tweaks. I may at some stage get someone to do me an external toggle to flip between the 3 Modes - that is surely the logical move here. Tremendous sounding pedal in any case.
Controls - Level, Silicon/Germanium Clipping, Gain, Presence, High, Low, Mid, Been, Vintage Footswitch, Modern Footswitch.
Joe Anastasio's Left Hand Wrath has become a classic of the genre with the current topology being the favourite configuration - or the 7-knob and dual-footswitch edition. In fact even though mine is the most recent addition to this collection - with its cool textured finish, there is another version already in the works with quite a different take on graphics and typology. You get 4-Band EQ essentially with Clean Blend, and Vintage and Modern footswitches of original and beefed up voicings. There seem to be some odd naysayers out the as regards Lone Wolf Audio - while I have 3 of Joe's pedals in fact all acquired from Joe's Pedals - and all are really decent.
Death Metal Circuit Controls - Midcut, Grind, High, Master, +/-.
BottomShaker Circuit Controls - Boost, Gain, Bass, Treble.
Both - Mix.
This clever but truthfully slight over-sized pedal is a really clever concoction of two circuits - the more piercing Death Metal HM-2 Style circuit (top controls), and the more bass-heavy BottomShaker circuit - adjusted via the the lower controls. The Middle Mix knob is the melding of the two circuits - where you can find your own perfect blend of Heavy Metal flavour. So popular in fact was the 'BottomShaker' half that Carsten created the stand-alone 'Oh My Goat' Devil's Distortion based on that circuit. This is most likely the most richly texture variant of the HM-2 - and well worth it if you can accommodate the pedal's larger footprint. I've already had conversations with Carsten about my acquiring one such - while I'm now hoping I can persuade him to make a limited run to suit this theme - we shall see how that goes.
There is no shortage of quality HM-2 derived pedals out there - and this selection sets out to capture the best of that for the different enclosure sizes, and holding to the Black and Orange colourway. I feel I have captured some of the very best here - do let me know if you believe I have overlooked something - remembering that the colourway here is a significant criteria for this capsule.
Each of these is the perfect candidate at it's own size - and you obviously have some options and alternatives. It is of course essential that everyone have the HM-2W, I expect great things of that - and hope it lives up to its promise.
I would hope to have added at least a Klirrton Grindstein before the time of the HM-2W launch - expected in June. Of course we shall have to wait and see how this all pans out, and what the final verdict is!