There is no shortage of so-called “metal” distortion pedals out there. Plenty of companies release guitar pedals that promise raging full-stack tones in a box. But if you’ve ever played some of these pedals, you’ve probably noticed that they often fall short of delivering the promised crushing metal tones you’ve been looking for. But there’s one pedal out there that just might fit the bill: the Metal Shaman from Rivera Amplification.
Where a lot of companies go wrong with metal distortion pedals is by simply releasing a distortion pedal with high gain and scooped mids. These companies often overlook important factors such as feel, response, full-bottom-end, and an articulate harmonic response that combine for an absolutely massive sound. Companies pass off these products on unsuspecting guitarists who later find themselves wondering why their thin and pathetic guitar tones sound nothing like the massive metal guitar onslaught found on songs from their favorite bands.
Masters of Metal
Leave it to Rivera Amplification to get the job done right. Paul Rivera has been crafting some of the finest boutique amplifiers for decades and is known for the punishing metal tones of Rivera’s Knucklehead series of amps. Mick Thompson of Slipknot even had Paul Rivera develop his signature KR7, one of the most brutally heavy amps around. So when a designer of such high metal esteem sets out to design the ultimate metal distortion pedal, metal-obsessed guitarists should definitely take notice.
The Metal Shaman is a high gain metal distortion pedal that just might offer the authentic metal tones you’ve been looking for. If anyone could pull off designing a pedal that delivers real amp-like response and savage metal tones, it’s Paul Rivera. Could this be the best metal distortion pedal available? You’ll find out in our Rivera Amplification Metal Shaman review.
Let’s run down the features before experiencing some shamanic metal.
Gain control knob adjusts overall distortion level.
High control knob adjusts level of high frequencies.
Mid control knob adjusts mid-range for boosted mids or scooped metal tones.
Bass control knob adjusts low-end for articulate and pronounced bass response.
Level control knob adjusts the overall output.
Brutality flip-switch widens the bottom end and creates a bigger “aural picture”.
Sensitivity control knob adjusts the threshold for the Noise Gate.
Release control knob adjusts the release time of the Noise Gate.
Bypass Flip-switch for activating/deactivating Noise Gate.
Disintegrate foot-switch adds an extra jolt of killer gain boost with expanded harmonics.
True Bypass foot-switch for allowing your signal to pass unaffected when disengaged.
Powered by 9-volt batter or 9VDC power supply.
Sound & Performance:
For this review I used a Stratocaster with single-coil pickups and a Gibson SG with a Seymour Duncan Dimebucker in the bridge. I dialed in a flat, clean amp sound and set the controls on the Metal Shaman to noon.
Kicking in the Metal Shaman produces an immediate surge of thick overdrive. With the Gain and Mid knobs at noon the mid-range is more prominent resulting in a sound that has a classic rock vibe with a metal edge. There’s more than enough gain at this level to pack plenty of bite, and the Metal Shaman’s EQ controls will let you achieve a wide range of classic overdriven and distorted tones. While the Metal Shaman shows its versatility in this regard, most people paying the price of entry are probably more interested in the higher gain tones this pedal can produce. Needless to say, the Metal Shaman does not disappoint.
Cranking the Gain up to 3 o’clock brings this pedal to more aggressive territory. The Metal Shaman remains tight and focused, delivering unrivaled clarity and a very amp-like response that is especially noticeable when dishing out heavily palm-muted metal riffs. It’s also worth mentioning that the top-end isn’t too harsh or tinny-sounding like some lesser metal distortion pedals.
Maxing out the Gain delivers some extra punishment to your audience without mudding up your tone. The Metal Shaman is one of the few metal distortion pedals where you can max out the Gain and still retain plenty of definition. It’s often best not to max the gain on your pedals and amps as your tone will turn into a sloppy mess. Not so with the Metal Shaman. The more you crank the Gain, the better – and heavier – it often sounds.
The EQ controls of the Metal Shaman seem to have been painstakingly configured to provide the precise level to control over your tone, especially those all important mid-frequencies. While this pedal could be used as a searing lead boost by bumping the Mid control, it’s when you start cutting the mid-range that the crushing metal tones really start to reveal themselves. Scooped-midrange tones are very characteristic of some of the most sought-after metal guitar sounds ever recorded, and the Metal Shaman really delivers in this department, resulting in some of the most brutal metal distortion ever heard from a pedal. If you want Dimebag Pantera tones or scooped 80’s Metallica, a little tweaking of the Metal Shaman and your amp of choice will produce crushing tones along those lines.
Speaking of brutal, flipping the Brutality switch brings in some room-shaking bass, perfect if you want metal tones with an extended low-end range. This is exceptionally heavy with down-tuned guitars. 7 and 8-string players will certainly appreciate this. I personally like to keep the Brutality on and use the Bass knob to sculpt the overall low-end response of the pedal.
The Disintegrate foot-switch lets you take your tone to even greater extremes. You may opt to use this as a boost function, but again, I find myself kicking on the switch and sculpting my tone around it. The Disintegrate function of the Metal Shaman adds a boost in overall gain for even more aggressive rhythm sounds and pinch harmonics that absolutely scream from your fretboard. This pedal is a monster, a true weapon of massive distortion.
One more vital feature that sets this pedal apart of others is its Noise Gate function. While many metal distortion pedals do offer a Noise Gate feature, I typically find a Noise Gate more effective when it consists of a Threshold and Release control. The Sensitivity and Release knobs take care of these two functions and do so exceptionally well. The Metal Shaman’s Noise Gate allows you to max the Gain and kick in the Disintegrate while still locking out the noise and allowing rapid-fire staccato riff stabs, a must for precise metal rhythm playing.
The Rivera Amplification Metal Shaman is a true metal machine and one of the most brutal metal distortion pedals I’ve heard. Let’s see the final result.
The Rivera Amplification Metal Shaman delivers brutally crushing metal tones that can only come from a pedal made by Paul Rivera. This pedal offers intense high-gain distortion, yet remains tight and responsive even at the most extreme settings. The EQ controls let you sculpt your perfect metal tones while the Noise Gate keeps your sound clear and focused. Many pedals try to capture authentic sounding amp-like metal tones and fail, but the Metal Shaman sets the standard for what a great sounding metal distortion pedal should be. If you’re looking for the best metal distortion pedal, definitely try the Rivera Amplification Metal Shaman.
That concludes our Rivera Amplification Metal Shaman review. Thanks for reading.
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