6 Guitar Amps for Some Skull Crushing Metal: Amplification and distortion is an integral part of heavy metal music. Quite frankly, metal without amplification loses a lot of its massive punch. Here are six guitar amps which will help you deliver some skull crushing mayhem.
Marshall JCM800 2203X
With the impact that Marshall has had over rock and metal, it’s obvious that
we are going to start our list with an amp from this legendary firm. The
JCM800 family of heads literally owned the burgeoning metal scene on both
sides of the Atlantic in the ’80s. And the 100-watt 2203, with its trademark
“punch in the chest” roar, was the patriarch of the JCM tribe. In addition to its gloriously aggressive voice, the head fires through one channel of no-
nonsense, all-tube (3 x 12AX7, 4 x EL34) brutality.
This Teutonic titan is built like a tank, and its fearsome tonal firepower made it an instant favourite with metal’s most influential players (including James Hetfield of Metallica and Adam Jones of Tool) from the very moment it first reared its head in the mid-1990s. A quarter of a century later, the VH4 remains iconic in the world of metal.
EVH 5150 III 50W EL34
The eye-catching 5150 III 50W EL34 sounds as good as it looks, and if you’re a fan of Edward Van Halen, that will come as no surprise. The living legend is a self-professed “tone chaser.” The 50-watt tube-driven head is armed with three channels that will take you from beautiful clean to brutal, densely overdriven carnage and all points in between. It also has an effects loop and a MIDI input. Its dual EL34 output tubes give it a distinctly “British” flavour, and if you want to super-size this sucker, it also has a 100-watt big brother. Also, if you prefer the more “American” sound that 6L6 power tubes deliver, EVH sensibly offers those options too, available in ivory and black.
In the world of modern metal where the use of the playing style known as
“djent” is considered mandatory, Misha Mansoor of Periphery is deservedly
heralded as a frontrunner by many. Not surprisingly, Mr. Mansoor has his own signature Peavey head: the Invective.120. This 120-watt tube head is an over- the-top modern metal “djent” machine that’s equally good at old-school metal chugging and some cool clean tones too.
Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier
This amp is loaded with a ton of cool features, including a switchable choice of tube or solid-state rectification, three footswitchable channels with voicing options, an effects loop, a 6L6/EL34 Bias switch, plus a foot-switchable Solo level. As a result, this highly versatile, diamond-plated 100-watt all-tube (5 x 12AX7, 2 x 5U4, 4 x 6L6) head is a monstrous, high-gain force to be reckoned with.
Friedman JJ-100 Jerry Cantrell Signature
In the world of building, modding, and repairing amps for guitar heroes, Dave Friedman needs no introduction — and neither do the fire-breathing heads, such as the BE-100 and the BE-50 Deluxe, that bear his name. One of the many stars he’s worked with is riff and tone master Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains (AIC). Enter the Friedman JJ-100 Jerry Cantrell Signature 100-watt tube head.
Jerry and Dave spent several years perfecting this EL34-powered, 100-watt, 2- channel colossus that captures both the complex cleans and devilishly dirty yet articulate tones that have made Mr. Cantrell’s signature sounds so desirable. The magic switch labeled “JBE” can be found on the JJ’s rear panel, and when activated, that aggressive Alice In Chains’ beast of a tone is unleashed. Add to that Friedman’s critically acclaimed effects loop, custom transformers, plus the aforementioned clean channel, and the hand built JJ is indeed “lightning in a bottle.”