The Boss Heavy Metal was interesting in that its circuit was derived not from the DS-1 Distortion, but from the much milder and more natural-sounding OD-1 Overdrive. Part of Boss’s original brief was to maintain the characteristics of the guitar rather than simply clipping it into oblivion, and despite other major selling points such as the high gain and special tone-shaping, they always incorporated the ‘natural’ distortion model into the HM-2’s marketing blurb. This made me wonder whether the design initially set out in a completely different direction, and only ended up in heavy metal territory by accident? Afterall, the heavy metal guitarists of the early ‘80s weren’t greatly concerned about preserving the subtle personality of their clean guitar tone. Indeed, most of them seemed to want the exact opposite. Mind you, some heavy rock players apparently did use OD-1s as part of their setups before the HM-2 was introduced, so maybe Boss thought it was significant enough a component to use as a jumping-off point. Anyway, whether or not Boss did originally intend the HM-2 to end up as it did, the product appealed to a much wider customer base than just the hard rock fans. It could be used for heavy metal, but it didn’t have to be. I didn’t play any heavy metal, but I still chose the HM-2 as my first Boss pedal, and my primary distortion unit for gigs and recording.
But despite the versatility of the HM-2, its distortion wasn’t particularly smooth. I found it benefitted from being fed into an already overdriven channel on a valve amp – just to blur the slightly fuzz-orientated ‘gravel’. I used to do that with a Peavey Deuce amp in the mid ‘80s, and it definitely improved the effect. However, the lack of a dedicated treble control (a proper treble control, which removed fizzy highs rather than scooping the mids) made the HM2 difficult to work with in my view. Obviously, you could take down the treble on your amp, but then your clean sound lost its sparkle when you disengaged the pedal. The two-band tone section did undeniably capture the character of the early 1980s heavy metal sounds, but it left the HM-2 without a way of smoothing what was inherently a fuzzy top end.
|The classic 1992 Boss 'Keep on Trucking' UK ad prominently featured the Boss HM-2 Heavy Metal pedal. Just look at some of the old memorables depicted in the photo, such as the ME-5 and the DR-660 beat box. There are even a couple of Boss batteries.|
Posted by: Bob Leggitt