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PROS: Great sound, excellent gain selection.
CONS: Lower compression settings are a little confusing, and a little dark in the down position.
Kirk Hammett is a huge influence in modern metal, and his signature Ghoul Screamer pedal has now arrived from his own new brand, KHDK. A big part of his sound comes from a Tube Screamer-like pedal (various versions over the years) used not only as a boost, but to adjust his EQ and overall sound, augmenting his already monstrous “scooped” (cranked treble/bass, relieved mids) amp sound.
The three main knobs are are no surprise; drive, tone and volume. But five mini toggle switches offer up tonal enhancement for the bass, highs, body, as well as two variations of compression. Two mini green LEDs let you know that it’s engaged, and the switch is true bypass for clarity when it’s not on.
The drive control has plenty of range; it can do anything from soft clipping to plenty of aggression, far more than a typical Tube Screamer. The EQ is flexible enough to work with single coils and humbucking pickups, as well.
With the mini switches in the up position, it acts like a hot-rodded TS, which in itself is great, but when the mini switches are flipped, it really comes alive. With the bass and high switches engaged, it can really add a lot of tonal color, enhancing the already-smooth EQ. The body switch works more in the mids and tightens up the overall sound, and can help low or darker sounding guitars poke through a band mix. As mentioned, there are two compression switches that range from soft and warm, to aggressive and intense.
In standard mode, it really screams, regardless of the amp. Some die-hard fans might be disappointed that it doesn’t just feature a bog-standard scooped tone (trust us, there are plenty of pedals for that). Rather, it works in a more toneful manner, and responds well to a guitar’s volume control. The mini switches really add to the mix as well, and don’t overpower or over color what’s already going on, even at extreme settings. The compression switches in the up position bring out a bright articulated punch, but in other setting variations, things just tend to get a bit dark, and seem to take away all the other tonal goodness that’s going on.
Run it into an already high gain tube amp, and it can really carve up some excellent sonics, between the gain, and the on-board EQ options. With a cleaner amp, there’s still plenty of grit for rhythm or leads. For a Metallica fan/tribute band member, it’ll make getting Kirk’s sound a bit easier. But even if any KH signature product isn’t a player’s first choice, this is worth checking out; there are comparisons to a “Tube Screamer on steroids,” but it’s more akin to a “Tube Screamer that’s actually a Skynet T-800 Terminator” — considering the power and versatile tonal palette that hides inside it.