Meddling with Metal Tones – Hardcore

Part II: For All the Hardcore Kids in the Pit

Metal tones may seem static sometimes, but listen closer and you’ll realize it’s not all the same old distortion. Revered metal bands and their guitar players have specific ways to get their specific sounds. Be it a certain type of pickup, an important pedal in their chain, or the right amplifier, each of these guitarists has a method to achieve their sonic character. If you want to emulate some of their greatness, check out these explanations of each band’s guitar rig(s).

Drawing on the inspiration of legendary thrash bands like Slayer, Metallica, and Anthrax, the next wave of metal heads took that sound, got a little bit more abstract and a-lot-a-bit heavier.

The line between metal, thrash, and hardcore was blurred by these relentlessly heavy, mosh-centric behemoths, who brought more breakdowns, more dissonance, and almost no clean vocals to the table. The anthem style hooks, painted in heavy, raspy screams, made music a full-contact sport—and you can bet their guitar tones had plenty to do with that.

Lamb of God

If you’ve come up listening to metal in the past 20 years, you might agree that Lamb of God bridge the gap from the bands that started it all to the next generation. Their guitar attack is incredibly powerful, with chugging rhythms, blazing solos, and alluring melodies.

To achieve their sound, Lamb of God’s lead guitar player Mark Morton uses his signature Jackson Dominion model, complete with DiMarzio Dominion pickups. He has multiple versions of his signature guitar, which when playing live, he’ll switch out for different tunings. While his body design strays from the average Jackson, he wanted it to reflect the classic guitar models which he personally appreciates.

On the other end of the rig, Mark uses Mesa Boogie amps with Mesa 4 x 12 cabs. He builds some more mids into his live sound for a lighter lead tone which differentiates itself from guitarist Willie Adler’s tone.

As for effects, there are a few flavorings in Mark’s signal chain. He’s got an MXR GT-OD which works as a boost when he’s playing leads. He also has an MXR Phase 90 and Carbon Copy Delay, which gives a nice ambiance to his heavy tone. There’s also a Boss NS-2 Noise Gate in the chain, as well as another gate— the DVX 266XL compressor/gate, to temper the high-gain of his sound. For some extra dynamics, Mark uses a rack Cry Baby that allows his guitar tech to work the wah if he can’t get to it.

Will Adler has had a few iterations of his ESP signature model. Currently, he’s got the ESP LTD Will Adler Signature WA-Warbird (as well as a Distressed Warbird model) with Fishman Fluence Signature Series Will Adler pickups.

For amps, Willie currently uses and endorses the Mesa Boogie Triple Crown TC-100. He runs his signature guitar through a Mesa Grid Slammer OD pedal and Mesa 5-Band Graphic EQ. Previous rig setup info indicates that on stage he formerly played through a Samson Wireless 6 unit. In his signal chain, he was using an MXR Stereo Chorus into a Boss Noise Suppressor, which split into two Mesa Boogie heads, one going to dual 4 x 12s and the other an iso-cab.

Bottom Line: To sound like the shredders in Lamb of God you can use either of their signature models— Jackson Dominion for Mark Morton or ESP Warbird for Will Adler. Both guitarists seem pretty set on Mesa Boogies—the Mark IV or V, and more recently the TC-100. To really nail the Lamb of God vibe, you also may want to add some delay, as well as a noise gate to handle all the power.

Every Time I Die

Andy Williams from ETID has cited Slayer’s Jeff Hanneman as one of his inspirations. When we take a look at his gear, we can see the similarities to Jeff’s setup. Both Andy and co-guitarist Jordan Buckley keep their rigs simple and powerful, with the focus on their relentless playing.

Live, Jordan plays an ESP Eclipse with EMGs. He has some similar versions of this ESP as well. He plays a Marshall JCM 800, which he’s had for a while, and replaces the tubes when necessary. Overseas he’ll use an EVH 5150 or an Orange head. His pedal rig is bare bones, with a DL-4 from Line 6, a Tube Screamer, and a Boss Noise Gate.

Andy has a few more variations in his lineup. He has a Les Paul Custom “Black Beauty” which he used quite a bit on stage around the time of Ex Lives release. During the recording of that album, he used a Tele Deluxe reissue with an EMG 60 in it and an old Les Paul Studio with an EMG 81. In recent years, Andy’s been playing a number of ESPs, including the ESP Viper with Fishman Fluence pickups. He currently uses Ernie Ball strings, which he’s an endorser of.

As for amps, Andy mostly uses a 1986 Marshall JCM 800 live, which he has come to find he’s set to the same settings Jeff Hanneman used. He has somewhat recently added a PRS Archon to his rig. Andy also uses an amp made by a local Buffalo friend—a Bison Electronics AW-77 (Andy Williams 1977). While he used Orange 4 x 12 cabs in the early ETID days, more recently he switched over to Marshall cabs.

On his pedalboard, Andy has a Tube Screamer which is sometimes replaced by a Robin Trower Overdrive pedal. He’s also got an NS-2 Boss Noise Suppressor, DD-3 Delay, Boss Pitch Shifter, Octave Clang, and a Phaser.

In the studio, there’s a lot going on, and neither Andy nor Jordan can quite be sure what sound comes from where. There’s a Soldano, a 5150, a Marshall, but where and when, who knows? Well, they’re both sure there’s always a JCM 800 there, so bet on that to be a good chunk of what you hear on the records.

Bottom Line: If you want to sound like either of the dudes from Every Time I Die, get yourself an ESP, or a Gibson stocked with EMG active pickups, put a Tube Screamer on your pedalboard, and plug into a Marshall JCM 800.


Hatebreed’s about as hardcore as it gets. The band came up in the New England scene and clearly never forgot their roots.

Lead guitarist Wayne Lozinak has a setup suited to their stripped down, low-end chug, and on-the-fly song selection. Wayne has used both Jackson Soloist models and Gibson Les Pauls. Most recently on tour, his main guitar is a 1986 Les Paul Custom with EMG 81/85 pickups. His other guitar is a 2012 Les Paul Studio tuned to B with a Floyd Rose bridge, which is handy for one song they play. He’s also got a 2006 Les Paul Custom with EMG 81/85 pickups and gold hardware. Wayne has signature guitar strings from SIT, gauged .11-.58, since Hatebreed is mostly playing in C Standard tuning.

To keep free during the live set, Wayne uses a wireless system. He previously used a Shure ULXP4, but more recently has been using a Sennheiser system. He then runs into his pedal chain which consists of an MXR Wylde OD pedal, a MXR Smartgate and a wah pedal (which may not even get used). The pedals are fed into a Marshall JCM 2000 TSL100 and plugged into Marshall 1960B cabs.

Guitarist Frank Novinec is a Gibson lover. He plays SGs, Explorers, and Les Pauls. Like his band mate, He also stocks his guitars with EMG pickups and plays through Marshall amps.

Bottom Line: Hatebreed’s tone can be achieved with either Jackson guitars or the tried-and-true metal combo of Gibson guitars stocked with EMGs. You’ll want to tune them down of course. You’ll also definitely want to play into a Marshall head and cabinet, but you don’t need much in the way of pedals. You could add a single overdrive and a noise gate if you like.

Break it Down Now

The guys in these bands know how to move the crowd, literally. They’re focused on really heavy, low-end rhythmic playing, with some interesting melodic dynamics speckled in to keep you entranced. If you want to make people mosh like these guys, now you know how to get the sound to do it.

You can check out everything else we have to offer metal heads at