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Boss HM-2W Heavy Metal review

Boss’s best-loved metal pedal gets the Waza Craft treatment

Boss HM-2W Waza Craft
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The ultimate extreme metal distortion pedal returns with extra output and even more gain! Dime it and stand well back.

For

  • There's nothing quite like that chainsaw sound.
  • Lower noise floor.
  • Retains attack at extreme settings.
  • It is the most important pedal in underground metal.

Against

  • Maybe chainsaws make you nervous?

You probably recognise the pedal above. That’s because the distinctive black and orange visuals of a Boss compact pedal can mean only one thing: some of the most ferocious high-gain tones available.  

There have been a few iterations of gained-up pedals with this colour scheme over the years, but none more revered than the Boss HM-2 Heavy Metal. It’s the pedal that since its release has shaped the ‘chainsaw’ sound of Swedish death metal, largely thanks to its association with Entombed’s use of the pedal on Left Hand Path, released a year before the HM-2’s discontinuation.

As many a gear icon, the HM-2 started out life as a relatively affordable filthmonger, before original Japanese versions started to rise in price on the used market, leading to ‘boutique’ clones and copies. So, with a renewed interest in pedals, and originals becoming more scarce, what was once a pedal that made your dad spit out his piña colada while listening to Journeyman has now become an elder statesman of tone. 

That brings us to the HM-2W, Boss’s Waza Craft version of its classic design which not only promises the tone of the original, but aims to surpass it, too. It’s got two modes, switched from the back edge of the pedal. ‘Standard’ mode, which is essentially the original HM-2 with a lower noise floor and an additional 3dB of output compared to the original.

Meanwhile, the Custom mode shifts some of the tonality to give you more gain, more clarity, and more of that all-important chainsaw tone! It’s a relatively straightforward pedal to use, with Dist (drive) and level controls, plus those two Color Mix knobs. 

As you might expect, one covers the low end, one covers the high end, but with your gain and output set, it’s these that really hold the secret to the tones inside. Crank all the knobs to max and that’s your chainsaw tone. 

The low end control focusses around 100Hz, so it delivers punchy bass without becoming too muddy at any point, while the high control is centred around 1kHz, and boosting or cutting reveals a huge amount of tonal travel, similar to sweeping a parametric mid control.

Move through its range and you’re rewarded with everything from that death metal grind to waspy fuzz-like sounds, and most impressively, we never lose our attack. In standard mode it’s plenty aggressive; in the Custom mode, it’s trying to scratch your eyes out. If high gain is your thing then the HM-2 Waza Craft is a goblet of connoisseur’s distortion.

Specs

  • PRICE: $179 / £159 
  • TYPE: Distortion
  • CONTROLS: Dist, Color Mix L, Color Mix H, Level Standard/Custom switch
  • SOCKETS: Input, output, power
  • BYPASS: Buffered
  • POWER: 9v battery/PSU (optional)
  • CONTACT: Boss