Conventional wisdom is valuable because, as a metal band, time is valuable. We don’t really get much money from gigging- it’s a labour of love, which means we all have dayjobs. Our spare time is at a premium, and it’s terribly easy to sink a lot of time and money into finding sounds, methods, and setups that we enjoy.
This is where conventional wisdom comes to the rescue- we can apply some broad rules to narrow down our search massively. We can safely assume single coil pickups aren’t a good fit when you’re playing through a massively overdriven amp. A boost pedal drives the tubes a bit harder and tightens up a downtuned chug very nicely- and if you don’t know what to go for, you can’t go wrong with the trusty Tubescreamer.
The thing with these conventions is that they change over time. While metalheads were piling on the gain a few decades ago, you’ll now see most modern metal guitarists advocating less gain, and with good reason- we’re tuning lower than ever, and we need to maintain clarity as we approach bass-guitar pitch. Bass guitarists are wise to the problems of distortion at low tuning already- most bass fuzz and distortion pedals employ octavers to offer more controllable fuzz tones, or blend controls to allow a dry signal through to maintain the clarity and punch.
What’s more, our amps have gotten hotter- meaning we don’t necessarily need to have ultra high-output pickups to drive them as hard anymore. Oftentimes, a medium-output humbucker will be paired with a hot-as-hell preamp to get some precise brutality from your rig.
However, I’ve been presented with a pickup that reminded me that, sometimes, it’s amazing fun to break away from the norm. For your consideration, I present the Seymour Duncan Slug:
It doesn’t even fit in a regular pickup ring. My Duncan Distortion, often cited as an almost-too-hot pickup, has a DCR of 16.6k. This particular Slug is rated at a whopping 52.2k!
We can’t directly equate DCR to output, but it gives us a definite idea of what the slug’s about- it is excessive, and defiantly so. The Seymour Duncan custom shop has used some clever trickery to make sure the pickup doesn’t lose as much treble as you’d expect from such a grossly overwound monster, so we end up with an incredibly compressed & percussive monster- it can muddy up if you need it to, but with less gain, it’s infectiously relentless.
I’ll be uploading a review of the Slug in the coming days, but I just wanted to make a post about the fact that I like the slug, even though conventional wisdom says I really shouldn’t. It’s touted as a doom/sludge machine, but in my brief time with it, it’s proven itself as a slightly dark, very compressed pickup, that makes single notes ring out like power chords, and turns palm mutes into gunshots. It lets me dial back the gain on my amp slightly, lowering my preamp hiss without sacrificing sizzle.
I’d like to try and wedge it into a brighter guitar, but for now I have managed to squeeze it into my trusty old Ibanez Xiphos, but only just- the guitar now has stretch marks.
Yes, I wouldn’t use it for massive, ringing chords, but for single-note fury, I’m loving this oddity. Don’t always let conventional wisdom dictate your direction!