Best Distortion Pedals for Metal to Help You Create Those Heavy Songs

Not every metal guitarist uses distortion pedals in their setups. Those that do search high and low for a pedal that offers the right tone.

A bad distortion pedal affects the entire song, destroying any semblance of bass sound in the process. Get it right though, and you’ll end up with a pedal that creates a beautiful cacophony of sound every time you slam your foot down.

Best Metal Distortion Pedals - Getting the Grit

You’re looking for a solid crunch that fills out your sound with any distortion pedal you buy. I’ve looked at six that may do the job for any metal guitarist.

Versatility is the key with the Triple Wreck. It offers a really heavy sound, but the vintage switch also makes it useful if you want to try out a more classic rock tone.

As for the distortion effect, it comes with a really high gain as standard. However, there’s also a boost switch that takes things up even higher.

Turn the switch clockwise and you get this really heavy fuzz that envelopes your playing. Turn it the other way, your distortion layers on top of itself so you can hit some really heavy sounds.

It also offers a lot of low end, giving it a really bass-heavy sound. You may find that this means it doesn’t work well on all amps though. A little tweaking of the EQ settings might help here.

It comes with a battery, but you can also run it from a regular power supply. However, it seems to generate some additional noise when plugged into the mains.

  • Versatile enough to suit several playing styles
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    Boost switch creates an even heavier sound
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    Plenty of low end
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    Six knobs allow for plenty of tweaking
  • Makes additional noise when plugged into a power supply

Simple is the way forward with the DS-1X, as it offers four knobs that allow you to adjust gain, level, and distortion. The design mirrors this simplistic approach, which means you won’t end up fiddling around for hours to figure things out.

Boss also includes the Multi-Dimensional Processing (MDP) that made the previous model such a success. This helps you to pick out great tones, regardless of your register.

The MDP may also make this a good pedal for people who play both lead and rhythm. You can adjust for a deep and fuzzy sound for your rhythm playing, before changing things up to get that great solo tone.

Having said that, you may notice that you get a thinner sound when playing high notes. This may be due to your setup, but it’s something to keep in mind regardless.

  • Versatile enough for use in lead and rhythm playing
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    Simple enough for new players to understand easily
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    MDP creates great tones at all registers
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    Sometimes creates a thin sound when you play higher notes

Metal by name and metal by nature, Jim Dunlop uses metal to give this pedal a unique look. Better yet, it means that you get a solid package that can withstand heavier stomps when you’re in the heat of the moment.

It has six knobs, which allow you to control your sound’s range, frequency, gain, and volume. You can tweak those while taking advantage of the three-band EQ.

As for the tone, it’s something of a mixed bag. It creates an interesting sound when played through a low-gain amp, though you may struggle to find a good tone to go with it.

Unfortunately, it’s not the best distortion pedal for metal when played through a high-gain amp. This is likely due to the fact that the pedal itself has a high gain, so the combination of the two doesn’t really make for much.

Still, it may be a great pedal for beginners who are still searching for their sound. It’s a good budget option too, and the sturdy construction means it will last.

  • Solid metal exterior protects against hard stomps
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    Plenty of scope for controlling your sound and level of distortion
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    Works well when played through low-gain amps
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  • You may struggle to get a good tone with the distortion effect
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    May not be the best distortion pedal if you have a high-gain amp

While not specifically designed with the metal player in mind, the OCD can adapt to any type of heavy playing. You can achieve a beautifully smooth overdrive for your solos, before switching to high-gain distortion when you really want to attack the song.

It has three knobs, which control the drive, tone, and volume of your playing. There’s also a switch for changing between high and low pass playing.

I like how the pedal still offers plenty of tonal range when you switch into a quieter passage. Lower volume doesn’t mean you miss out, which may make this a great pedal if you play a lot of songs with peaks and troughs.

It’s battery-powered, with a protective panel that’s screwed into place. However, the small screws can be a nightmare to get back into place if you do have to change the battery. It also has a habit of losing the really low-end bass frequencies.

  • Can handle most types of heavy playing
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    Exceptionally smooth overdrive
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    Maintains its tonal range at low volumes
  • Fiddly battery panel
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    May not be a great choice for a low-end bass sound

This pedal should do the trick for any metal style, from the thrash sounds of 80’s-era Metallica through to the more textured playing of more modern bands. This is all down to the powerful EQ, which does a great job of picking out different tones.

The pedal has seven knobs, allowing you to control bass, gain, and range. There’s also a “Brutality” switch for when you really want to get a deep and dark sound.

What really impressed me was the amount of control you have when playing with lots of distortion. Even on the “Brutality” setting, you won’t lose sight of your guitar’s tone.

The decals have a tribal theme, but they also have a habit of peeling off after a few stomps. I also wasn’t a fan of the sharp edges, which can make this a painful pedal to play around with.

  • Exceptionally powerful EQ
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    Versatile enough to handle most types of metal
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    Offers plenty of control over your sound
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    Maintains an impressive down even in deep distortion
  • Decals peel off a little too easily
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    Design features too many sharp edges

A two-channel pedal, the Blackstar allows for clean playing as well as that heavy fuzz that metal players value. In clean mode, it works as a boost to give your tone an extra layer of richness.

The two channels also offer versatility, allowing you to switch from clean playing to brutal rhythm in a matter of seconds.

It also has a high gain, though you may find that the pedal generates too much noise when using it.

It also has six knobs, which allow for extra tweaking of your sound. I particularly like the ISF knob, which allows you to mess with the mid-range to make it more audible when playing heavy.

The direct out port may make this the best pedal for recording and playing live too.

  • Offers two channels for switching between clean and heavy playing
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    Direct out port makes it great for recording
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    Exceptionally high gain
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    ISF knob offers more control over the mid-range
  • Pedal generates some noise when playing with high gain

What to Look for in a Distortion Pedal for Metal

Finding the Right Tone

Every distortion pedal you use offers something a little different when it comes to tone. Add in different amp setups, your guitar, and your playing style and you have several variables that affect your decision.

When buying without playing first, this can result in you having a pedal that doesn’t match your playing style. As a result, it’s best to look for versatility. The more knobs the better, as this means you can tweak more settings until you find the tone that you’re looking for.

Build Quality

It’s not just powerful distortion that you’re looking for. You also need your pedal to stand up to the rigors of constant stomping.

Any use of metal in the pedal’s build is a positive, as this lends durability to the package. Also, check the knobs. An errant foot can knock a knob clean off the pedal if it’s not connected well.

The Gain

High gain is what gives your guitar that deep and distorted sound. Most pedals should allow you to tweak this setting.

Keeping the pedal set at high gain does the job if you only play heavy riffs. However, you may want to find a pedal that offers lower gain for solos or more subtle playing.


Much like with gain, bass is an essential part of heavy metal playing. You’re looking for a “Low” or “Bass” knob on the pedal. Both do the same thing.

Ideally, your pedal will achieve good lows when you’re playing riffs or trying to achieve a drone-like sound.

Added Effects

Beyond the regular distortion, some pedals offer added effects. The Metal Shaman’s “Brutality” mode is a good example of this.

These added effects can make the distortion even more powerful, though this often comes at the expense of cleaner tones.

The Final Word

My list highlights six of the best distortion pedals for modern metal playing. Look for high gain and a deep low end to ensure you get a pedal that does the job.

Beyond that, it all comes down to your playing style and setup. If you like mixing clean tones in with heavy distortion, ensure your pedal allows you to switch between multiple channels. However, you can go for a simpler option if you just want loud and heavy distortion.

Use this buying guide as a starting point and experiment with different setups. Hopefully, you’ll find a pedal that mixes its distortion capabilities with the tone that you’re looking for.

Gavin Whitner
    Gavin Whitner

    A guitar player, songwriter, composer, and also the lead editor of MusicOomph, Gavin is one of the four musician friends behind this site. Outside of music, he's an avid sports fan and hardly misses anything from football (soccer) to F1.

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