The Best “Worst” Distortion Tones Ever – Great Death Metal with Disgusting Distortion

On the flip-side to my sweeping generalization that amp distortion is always better than pedal distortion, turns out I do actually like a lot of albums that use distortion pedals. In fact some of my all-time favorite Death Metal bands would sound silly without them. Sometimes the only thing that goes with a pingy snare and a clicky kick is a really, really, shitty distortion pedal.


I mean, distortion isn’t meant to be pretty. But it seems like some bands kick the un-prettiness up a notch. It’s like they just want to punish you with a grinding level of aural discomfort and drive a piercing fizz into your ear canal. Sometimes it is on purpose; a sonic texture that adds to the brutality. Sometimes it’s bands that just rehearse without earplugs and the guitarists have degenerative hearing loss above 4k.

Either way, there are actually a lot of awesome albums with an objectively terrible distorted tone. So, here is a list of some of the best albums with repulsive (but perfectly fitting) distortion.

Warning: these are pretty much unlistenable on earbud headphones or your laptop speaker.

Deicide – Legion

How to get the sound: Boss MT-2 or Behringer UM300. Leave some mids in.

This whole article could be filled up with Deicide’s first 4 albums. Amazing songs, supper fizzer tones. It sounds like they plugged their pedals into a a BBE Sonic Maximizer, then straight into the desk with a HPF at 800hz and an upper mid boost.

If you can get past the grating sound, Legion might be some of the best stuff Deicide ever wrote. Unfortunately, the scratchy distortion hides all the killer riffing behind a veil of obnoxious, high frequencies. All that you’re really left with are chugging rhythms with no discernible pitch.

Cannibal Corpse – Butchered at Birth

How to get the sound: Boss MT-2 or Behringer UM300. Scoop mids, boost highs.

I’ve had this CD for 13 years. I still don’t know what is exactly being played in that beehive-wall of white noise guitar. There’s so much gain and so much treble that you can’t identify individual notes anymore. The guitar lines meld into these indefinite, evolving, waves of unsettling frequencies. Really doe, I think it actually adds to the revolting brutality of this album.

(Sidebar: I used to use my hi-fi system as a morning alarm. One time it glitched out and this song woke me up at FULL FUCKING VOLUME. I shoulder-rolled out of bed because I thought my roof was caving in. The album intro still bugs me out a bit every time I hear it.)

Brodequin – Instruments of Death

How to get the sound: Digitech Death Metal. Scoop dem midz.

This is that brutal shit. If you can make sense of the riffs, it means there isn’t enough gain. You don’t stop cranking that gain knob until your guitar sounds like an un-tuned channel on an old CRT TV. Don’t you dare stop until that gain drills into you ears with all the vigor of a fracking operation.

I’m not even sure if the band themselves know which riffs are which when they listen to this album.

Morbid Angel – Heretic

How to get the sound: ProCo Rat. Boost mids.

While I do love a solid, chunky, mid-range distortion… this is all mid range. Were the bass and treble knobs out of service for this album? Was Trey Azagthoth’s cab a 15w Silvertone practice amp?

You know what I heard? I heard that this guitar tone actually consists of ‘negative-bass’ and owning this album will actually cause other albums in your collection to leech out their bass frequencies. So you have to store it separately. For real. I read it on inforwars.

Exhorder – The Law

How to get the sound: Boss MT-2 or Behringer UM300. Scoop tha mids.

And finally, Exhorder’s The Law. Granted it’s not Death Metal, but it is one of the most atrocious distortions ever on a rad album.

Exhorder (AKA Pantera’s Pantera) are fucking sick. But I can only last a few songs before their tone gets to me. That horrifying Metal Zone gain fizzles and whomfs in a way that makes me feel like my brain stem is being brushed with steel-wool. Still sick though.

Do you have some more info on the guitar chains for these albums? What are your top picks for shitty distortion tones? Disagree with me on these? Leave a hate-filled message in the comments.

Written by

Demigod Zeke studies marketing & economics and produces his friends’ disgusting slam bands.

Latest comments
  • Shout out for including the Brodequin song. 2/3 of the band are from the same middle of nowhere that I’m from. They somehow got more unlistenable the longer they were a band, but in a good way. Dudes were in a band called Hollow before that. They had a couple demos, one recorded by Steve Austin from Today is the Day. I’ve got copies of those digitized.

  • I thought these were all on purpose. Don’t rain on my parade!

  • Well, not sure about that. I think Deicide’s Legion is mixed really smooth compared to albums like “Nattens Madrigal” from Ulver or “Zyklus” by Lunar Aurora. Most of the Finland’s black metal bands are having more noisy, grainy sounds. Look for Horna or Behexen

  • That fucking morbid angel album is ruined by that horrible tone…and the shitty songwriting.

  • wow yeah, that Deicide track sounds like shit. I love Deicide but their early production was an atrocity.

  • That Morbid Angel song you’ve shared here is the best thing on Heretic…getting past the zero bass and the muddy guitar tone, I really dig the attempt at playing two different riff sets simultaneously.

  • Death – human
    Atrocity – todesensuch
    Slash in general has fantastic tones
    Broken hope -swamped in gore

    It’s not hard for me to separate the love of the song from the love of the tone.

    You would have to say that the to eat on metallicas new album is finally where is needs to be

  • If you want to here two of some of the actual worst distortion sounds, there’s Leave Scars by Dark Angel, the first album isn’t the best sounding but it’s fine in my book, I can’t stand how the guitars sound on Leave Scars it’s like sandpaper and not in a good way like those old swedish death metal bands or 90s style brutal death metal, it’s horrible! The first 30 seconds on Time Does Not Heal (Dark Angel’s third album) is massively better than anything on Leave Scars. Now the other one I think is actually kind of bad and takes a lot of getting used to is Molesting the Decapitated by Devourment, it’s so disorted, so downtuned and muddy sounding that it’s often hard to tell what is being played on the guitar, it often sounds like the guitarist is just tremlo picking a heavily downtuned C string over and over, and I listen to brutal death metal, it’s not like most bands where sure it’s gritty, rough and dirty sounding but it’s still quite sharp and it’s pretty audible, and well there’s all the proto black-and 90s black metal bands, that really sound like ass people love burzum, I hate burzum it sounds horrible!

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