10 Epically Heavy Gear Choices for Doom, Stoner + Sludge Metal
The past decade or so has proven to be quite a potent one for lovers of heavy rock and metal. One particular genre that’s benefited with a growing fanbase is stoner rock, which is characterized by its incredibly massive sound and heaving, sludgy riffs that are oftentimes drawn out into full-blown compositions that can easily top the 10-minute mark. Bands such as Sleep, Kyuss and The Melvins helped lay the groundwork for a lot of well-loved rock, and it’s really cool that those artists and others in their ilk are finally starting to get the attention and praise that too few realized not too long ago. Plus, the genre has helped reinvigorate interest in the bigger-than-life fuzzy guitar tones of the 70’s, and how far they can be pushed to create the meanest sound possible.
Our 10 Epically Heavy Gear Choices for Doom, Stoner + Sludge Metal list offers several choice pieces of equipment that many rockers have used throughout their careers to create those crunchy riffs. Remember, this is by no means a be-all-end-all list, so don’t limit yourself to just these choices. Try everything at your disposal, and if it sounds killer, go with it!
Matamp’s GT120 is an all-tube, 100-watt amp head that can dish out some of the fuzziest, most gut-wrenching overdrive on the planet. Matamp has existed off and on since the ’60s, and has also produced amps under color names such as White, Black, Purple, and Green — which is what Wisconsin’s Bongzilla are cranking in this tune, an ode to their favorite herb.
Alternatives: Orange OR100, Verellen Skyhammer
ProCo Rat Distortion
Few distortion pedals can claim the kind of longevity in rock as the ProCo Rat. This famous three-knob distortion pedal has been used by everyone from Jeff Beck to Jerry Cantrell, and its simple design and powerful distortion makes it ideal for kicking the front end of your tube amp into total saturation. Goatsnake’s Greg Anderson matched it with an old Sunn Model-T amp for the band’s ‘Flower of Disease’ album, resulting in one of the most crushing tones ever in stoner and doom.
Alternatives: Fulltone OCD, MI Audio Crunchbox, Freakshow Brown Rabbit
Orange OD80 & 120
Orange amps have long been close friends with stoner and doom players, who love them for their deep lows and fuzzy, mid-heavy tone. The 50-watt OD80 and 100-watt OD120 heads of the ’70s are held in very high regard, especially the “Pics-Only” models from the early part of the decade. Guitarist Wata in the Japanese band Boris is a massive fan, and she’s hardly ever seen on stage without her huge backline of Orange heads and cabs.
Alternatives: Orange OR100, Marshall JCM800, Sound City 120
Electro Harmonix Big Muff & Boss FZ-2 Fuzz
There is a seemingly endless amount of choice when it comes to high gain fuzz pedals. That being said, Electro Harmonix’s Big Muff Pi is virtually eponymous with epically heavy stoner and doom metal gear. It’s arguably the most popular fuzz pedal in the genre, due to its naturally burly sound and ease of use. Likewise, Boss’s FZ-2 Fuzz offers a similar sound, but with a lot more control over the frequency ranges. Electric Wizard’s Jus Oborn used an FZ-2 into a Sound City 120 amp with mind-blowing results on ‘Dopethrone’, which is hailed as one of the best albums that the entire genre has to offer.
Alternatives: Way Huge Swollen Pickle, Wren and Cuff Tall Font Russian, Boss FZ-5
Gibson Les Paul & SG
While pretty much any guitar with the proper rig and the right set of hands will work perfectly for stoner and doom styles, you can’t go wrong with a good Gibson Les Paul or SG. Their set-neck construction, mahogany bodies and powerful humbucking pickups make them ideal for producing the sustain and thickness needed for sludgier tones. Sleep and High on Fire guitarist Matt Pike has long been a fan of the Les Paul, and his bludgeoning riffing on Sleep’s ‘Holy Mountain’ album remains one of the landmark moments in all of blues-based stoner rock.
Alternatives: Guild S-100, Gibson Flying V
Sunn amplifiers are among the most popular amps used for epically heavy doom, drone and sludge metal. One of the most sought-after models is the 100-watt Model-T head from the ’70s, which has a tonality similar to a Marshall Super Bass, but with more headroom, low end and visceral punch. Chicago’s Pelican cut some of their best songs with them, such as the aptly-titled ‘Mammoth’.
Alternatives: Verellen Meat Smoke, Hiwatt DR103
Ampeg V4 & V4B
The all-tube Ampeg V4 (and its bass counterpart, the V4B) amp saw a rekindled interest after Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Josh Homme was noted for using them early in the band’s career. Supposedly, Homme was after a tone that was uniquely his, and he succeeded with a combination of the V4B, various Peavey and TubeWorks solid state heads, and an Ovation solid body electric that he bought from a pawn shop during his years with the legendary Kyuss. It just goes to show you that you don’t need to drop a ton of money on name-brand gear to get a cool signature tone.
Alternatives: Marshall Super Bass, Ampeg VT-22 combo, Sovtek MIG100H
The Univox Super-Fuzz is one of the rarer vintage pieces on this list, and for a very understandable reason: the current owners don’t want to give them up! The two-knob pedal produces a velcro-like fuzz with a distinct upper octave effect, and is considered by many to be a holy grail amongst fuzz pedals. Scott Hill of stoner rock icons Fu Manchu is known to be a huge fan of the pedal.
Alternatives: Black Cat Super Fuzz, Wattson Electronics Classic Fuzz
The tone of an amp head is only as good as the cabinet it’s running through. Many players drop serious dough on their amps and guitars, and skimp on the one item that translates the sound into what the player actually hears. Chicago’s Emperor Cabinets build some of the coolest cabs in the business, and their solid construction and big sound are perfect for heavier tones.
Alternatives: Orange PPC412 4×12, Mesa/Boogie Rectifier 4×12, Marshall 1960AV 4×12
Verellen Meat Smoke
Compared to most of the companies on this list, Verellen is fairly new to the game. They make a variety of hand-made tube amplifiers, but the Meat Smoke model is their crown jewel. It’s an absolute beast, packing 300 watts of all-tube power for bass and guitar, along with two channels for clean and roaring, gut-punching overdrive. The Sword bassist Bryan Richie is a convert, and uses one through an Ampeg 8×10 cabinet.
Alternatives: Ampeg SVT Classic, Marshall Major