Best Distortion Pedal For Metal

Guitar Pedals on a Band Performing During a Show

When rocking out, it’s important to be equipped with the right type of distortion for you. This goes particularly true especially when you’re playing metal. You need to consider gain, volume, and of course, the build of the pedal to last you a lifetime. 

Here are some of the best ones available out there today.


It’s almost inevitable to be introduced to the aggressive chugging sounds of metal in your journey as a musician. There may also be some of you who have been inspired to pick up the guitar because of metal!

There have been a lot of greats who have influenced a generation of modern metal guitar players. Think Kirk Hammett of Metallica. Think Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath. Think Brian Welch and James Shaffer of Korn


I know. You can almost hear their tone just by reading their names!

These are just some of the artists who paved the way for current players to explore the interesting world of metal and its subgenres.

Metal has already been around for quite some time now, and it shows no signs of stopping! It’s a genre that helped shape the way people view and appreciate music, and has been around to be called one of the most popular genres there is.

Now, rarely do we hear the word “metal” and not think of growling vocals, dark riffs and pinch harmonics! It’s simply that dynamic!

These are just some of the reasons why metal is popular among musicians.

If you’re reading this article, then you’re probably already wondering how exactly players get that high gain tone and that saturated output.

Well, my friend, you’ve come to the right place!

Sure, your favorite artists rely on their personal gear – whether it be their guitars or their amps.

But there’s another key factor that helps these metal masters achieve their tone – and that is through the use of a high gain distortion pedal!

I like it when my distortion pedal gives me that grit and dirt without really turning my tone muddy. High gain pedals often have that bad rap, and it’s important to find good gear without sacrificing tone quality.

If you’re new to guitar playing and the world of effects pedals, no need to leave just yet! We will be talking about some of the fundamentals of the distortion pedal, and how it helps your music heroes get their signature saturated tone!

Who knows?

You might also be encouraged to get a new pedal for yourself at the end of this feature!

Let’s get into high gain tones territory with these guitar pedals and start shredding!

What is Distortion & How To Use It?

Paint a mental picture of this one.

Imagine you have in your hand your favorite guitar, and along with it, your favorite amplifier.

You plug it in, turn it on, and start playing your favorite tunes.

When you play a clean note on your guitar and observe sound waves, you notice that the said waves produce a calm and steady motion. This is the sound and the wave of an unaffected guitar signal.

As you can also notice, it can be quite difficult for you to appreciate the sound of a dry or clean signal from a guitar being plugged into an amp. This can be most especially true if you’re aiming for that rock and metal tone. Regardless of what you do with the volume and equalizer knobs on your amp, it just feels and sounds completely different.

This is because amps have a certain threshold in which it allows your overall sound to retain what is known as your “clean tone”.

Now, as you engage a distortion pedal, things get much different. It can still be rounded but your signal is getting pushed higher above your usual threshold. This is also equivalent to your tone having more sustain and more compression. It also produces certain overtones that help you get more out of your sound. This is also the effect responsible for giving you that saturated sound as you play the guitar. This is what makes the distortion pedal popular (if not a staple) amongst metal guitarists.

For practical application, some guitarists use distortion to thicken up the rhythm section during song parts. Some guitarists even use it as an always-on pedal to give them that gritty tone during live gigs or studio sessions. Some can even engage a distortion pedal to cut through a mix, especially during solos!

Whatever type of musician you are, a distortion pedal can help you be more creative.

Best Distortion Pedals For Metal Buying Guide

It helps to know that not all distortion guitar pedals are designed the same. And yep. They are different from an overdrive pedal!

Some are designed with more knob controls than others. Some also offer more high gain tones options. And some come in smaller packages! So it’s important to know what you’re going for before purchasing your pedal.

First off, consider your budget. There are hundreds of clones available out there today, and it’s important to have a general overview of what this pedal can do for you and your music.

Next up is the size of your pedalboard. It’s a good thing that a lot of companies already offer micro-sized pedals. This simply means that your high gain tool can fit into even the smallest of spaces on your rig.

Another thing to consider is the equalizer options. Since metal distortions are often going to give you a plethora of saturation, then it’s important to have all the necessary knobs you’ll be needing to boost or cut certain frequencies. This will also help you in shaping your tone according to your preference. Gain and tone settings are also things you should be on the lookout for.

Where does it go on a signal chain?

Since a distortion pedal is considered a dirt effect, you’re going to want to put it in front of your chain. This can either be after or before your overdrive, but not after your modulation pedals and time-based effects.

While there’s no general rule on where you have to put it, distortions work best when put in an unaffected slot on your signal chain. This helps the player achieve the most out of a distortion pedal’s overtones and sound characteristics.

Now, let’s get right into some of the best distortion pedals for metal available on the market today!

Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal

Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal

Spearheading our roundup is from a company that made the Stratocaster and the Telecaster famous.

Fender incorporates tone and control in the Pugilist distortion pedal. It’s a pedal that houses dual high gain engines labeled A and B. This makes it possible for you to mix in certain tones from each parameter. Another good thing is that if you are a fan of dual amps, you have the option to engage both channels!

Another cool feature is that you have designated control knobs for each section, making this pedal a tone tweaker’s delight. It can be difficult to dial in for some, but give it some time and it can be your rig’s best friend.

You can also utilize the Pugilist as a good old overdrive, but if you’re given all that control, might as well crank the settings up, right?

It can be powered by a dedicated power supply or a 9V battery.

MXR Fullbore Metal

Next up on our list is another distortion pedal giant that brought us some of our favorite classics, such as the Phase 90, the Distortion +, and the Carbon Copy Delay!

MXR M116 Fullbore Metal Distortion

With a true-bypass circuit, the MXR Fullbore Metal lives up to its name by offering players a plethora of tone-shaping options. It boasts 6 knobs with two additional buttons for a variety of sounds. It offers a three-band equalizer, allowing you to cut or boost some preferred frequencies. The other control knobs are for volume, frequency, and setting high gain.

What makes this pedal extra special is that it has a built-in noise gate, and a dedicated scoop button for that extra oomph!

It can be powered by a dedicated power supply or a 9V battery.

ProCo RAT 2

Pro Co RAT2 Distortion Pedal

Being the sound of the underground, the ProCo RAT 2 definitely deserves a slot in our distortion pedal roundup!

This classic offering has been seen on many pro boards over the years, and it’s proving to be something that future players will staple on their rigs as well.

It offers three knobs – distortion, filter, and volume. It has this distinct saturated yet still clear sound that a lot of rock and metal players love!

Unlike some of the pedals on this list, however, the RAT doesn’t particularly do well in the light overdrive territory. But then again, that’s not what this beast is intended for!

Try it out with some of your high gain riffs and instantly recognize the metal tone and sound from the RAT!

It can be powered by a dedicated power supply or a 9V battery.

BOSS DS-1 Distortion Pedal

Arguably the most affordable offering on our list is this classic unit from BOSS!

BOSS Distortion Guitar Pedal, Single Mode (DS-1)

The DS-1 needs no introduction to some. Kurt Cobain’s legacy can definitely attest to this!

This DS 1 unit boasts BOSS‘ classic enclosure with three simple knobs – tone, level, and distortion.

One of the things that make the DS 1 pedal stand out is that most pedal makers and geeks find it easy to modify. This means that you can add more options whenever you feel like it.

But overall, the tone structure present in the DS 1 is definitely something you could check out. It’s also an ideal pedal for those of you who are just starting out with pedals!

It can be powered by a dedicated power supply or a 9V battery.

KHDK Dark Blood Distortion Pedal

KHDK Dark Blood Distortion Pedal

If gain, gain, and even more high gain is your thing, then this pedal from KHDK could just be the thing for you.

Being the signature pedal of Metallica axeman Kirk Hammett, the Dark Blood embodies what modern metal tone sounds like. With knobs like Gain, Volume, Doom, and Treble, you are offered a plethora of tone-shaping options right off the bat. You have the option to shape your low-end frequencies thanks to the Doom knob, with treble control options being equally present.

The Dark Blood also offers a Hi/Lo selector switch, making you have access to control over sustain and compression.

It also offers a built-in noise suppressor to preserve your precious tone without all that hiss!

It can be powered by a dedicated power supply or a 9V battery.

Wampler Dracarys

Wampler Dracarys High Gain Distortion Guitar Effects Pedal

Wrapping up our list of high gain metal tools is made by the company that brought you the Tumnus, the Ego, and the Pinnacle!

The Dracarys spit out fiery tones perfect for the chugging nature of metal guitarists. It offers five control knobs with a toggle switch. The knobs are dedicated volume and gain knobs, with a three-band equalizer for those of you wanting to tweak your tones.

This pedal also offers you the option to control your compression via the Open and Tight toggle switch.

Being one of the go-to pedals for musicians seeking that high gain territory, the Wampler Dracarys can definitely work wonders for you and your metal tone needs!

It can also be powered by a dedicated power supply or a 9V battery.

The Wrap Up

If you’re only starting out in the effects pedals world, then you’re in a much better position than some of your guitar heroes! A lot of options are made readily available for you to try out today, such as dual gain and single configurations, and there are just a lot more avenues and platforms for learning nowadays.

If high gain metal is your thing, then you should definitely check out some of the units mentioned in this roundup. Just remember to focus on improving your skills and use these pedals as inspiration to be creative!