Does the Metal Zone have a secret ‘suck’ knob that’s been set to max and eluding us all this time? Were we all just terrible players till long after we gave up on this icon of juvenile rockery? New evidence has come to light, hinting that the Metal Zone might not be as god awful as everyone loves to say it is. Is it conclusive? Hell no. Is it substantial? Maybe. Is it intriguing? I think so. To your despair, here are a few videos of Metal Zones not sounding like giant, hairy donkey balls.
I’m sure plenty of us have fond memories of un-boxing our shiny new Metal Zone, plugging it to our shitty little practice amp and turning the gain up to 11 to play sloppy renditions of Mater of Puppets. I’m sure we also remember the moment of clarity in which the joy of having more gain than anyone should use at our toes subsided and we actually heard what we sounded like and subsequently locked that damn pedal away, denying having ever used or even heard of it. Maybe that’s a little harsh, but nonetheless, most of you know exactly what I’m talking about. However, as our friend at Riff and Chugs TV asks: is this really a bad pedal, or are people just using it wrong? I’d say those options are not mutually exclusive and the answer is yes to both.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Metal Zone isn’t completely fucking horrible as far as distortion pedals go, but with most things, musical or otherwise, it is very possible to find a highly musical and effective application for it. As you can hear in these examples, Allan Marcus and Riffs and Chugs TV both manage a very appropriate tones for their respective productions using little more than the ‘Zone to generate the substance of the tone (the Marcus example actually sounds great IMHO). That said, this seems to be an example of a clever use of the pedal as a preamp in front of a cab/power amp modeler than a case for its viability as a traditional distortion pedal. And, for good measure, who’s to say whether there is an endless supply of better (comparably priced) options for either application?
As endlessly profound as it is, let’s up a pin in the unwieldy and ultimately unanswerable question ‘Is it good?’ What’s way more interesting is the ways these guys made it not suck. Two big factors come to mind. First, both examples serve as testament to Two Notes’ Torpedo cab simulators. Second, and more important than anything (ever), is that both of these tracks are well played. An honorable mention goes to the parts being well chosen to showcase the stupid amount of dirt the Metal Zone supplies. With a capable engineer and all the complexity of miking a cab taken care of by capable software on one end and a great performance on the other, there’s not a lot of heavy lifting left for the pedal.
The lesson here is: keep practicing and keep your mind open artistically (and get to know your cab sim software). Any piece of gear is a tool that’s usefulness doesn’t necessarily correlate to its price or reputation and what tool sounds best in any one musical situation is not always the most expensive or prestigious. Sure, Marcus didn’t show us his EQ curve and there’s a solid bass track beefing up the Riffs and Chugs track, but they sound good enough that anyone that isn’t totally neurotic about gear (like us) wouldn’t bat an eye. After all, a great performance through a shitty signal path is still a great performance and a shit performance through a Klon Centaur, a Dumble amp, a vintage SSL board, all with $5k cables patched right into Cleopatra’s pristine vagina, is still shit.