MXR closed shop in 1984, and Way
Huge left us in 1999, but these brands live
on and are now built in the Dunlop factory
in Benicia, California. On review here are
three of the latest releases from both lines.
Way Huge Angry Troll
Housed in a chunky anodized-aluminum
box, the Angry Troll ($180 retail/$119
street) has just two knobs—Volume and
Anger—which yield a surprisingly wide
range of wicked tones. With the 5-position
Anger control clicked off, the Troll delivers
a squeaky-clean boost with a substantial fattening
kick to the lower midrange—good
for jumping to a warm solo voice to complement
a jangly clean rhythm.
But the real fun begins when you start
messing with the Anger control’s five “fists
of fury” click-stop positions that add overdrive,
but also progressively roll off bass
while increasing brightness. At the smallest
fist setting, the pedal is dark and mellow,
while the biggest fist makes the Troll sound
surly and snarling, like a cross between a
fuzz and a treble booster.
Into a clean amp, I found the Angry
Troll’s tonal limitations frustrating, but
coupled with a cranked tube amp, the unfamiliar
gain/EQ interaction suddenly made
perfect sense, with pedal and amp distortion
melding synergistically for heavy sustain
and hulking lows and mids—all the
while retaining a stringy, toothy, articulate
note attack. Whether pummeling Fender
or Marshall amps, or another pedal, the
Troll thrives on overdrive, but it cleans up
extremely well too, with a clarity reminiscent
of playing a germanium fuzz with the
guitar volume backed down.
If you want “same tone only louder,” look
elsewhere, but for bumping up the gain,
attitude, and vibe of your rig in a natural,
organic way, the Angry Troll is hard to beat.
KUDOS Adds sustain and mass to virtually
any cranked-up tube amp tone.
Way Huge Red Llama
The Red Llama ($180 retail/$119 street)
shares the same boot-proof housing as
the Angry Troll, and lives in the same part
of the tonal zoo as well (fun fact: adorable-
looking llamas enjoy spitting, kicking,
and neck wrestling). So the decidedly
not-so-mellow Red Llama is aptly named,
as it packs an accentuated top end that
bites harder than the Troll, and a deeper
and more forceful low-midrange boost. The
Llama also gets significantly dirtier with
the gain cranked.
With the Red Llama driving a clean
Fender Deluxe Reverb, I found myself immediately
turning down the amp’s Treble and
Bass knobs to compensate for the pedal’s
native EQ curve; a means of taming the
Llama’s highs and lows might be useful for
some players. But this pedal is bright without
sounding thin, and with a little tweaking
I discovered great low- and medium-gain
classic rock sounds with a slightly psychedelic
fuzzy quality that inspired me to channel
David Gilmour’s solo in “Time,” and
Keith Richards’ intro to “Can’t You Hear
Like the Angry Troll, the Red Llama
absolutely rules when chained into an amp
that’s already distorting. The Llama’s big low
end and crisp presence blend beautifully with
natural tube crunch for a tone that’s dynamic
and exciting, and where every nuance of string
attack spits and kicks with aggressive clarity.
The Red Llama cleans up beautifully and can
make your guitar and amp absolutely come
alive, throwing a magnifying glass onto the
subtleties of your playing. My only caveat:
Some players will prefer a more smooth and
forgiving overdrive, and the Llama’s presence
boost may be excessive in some rigs.
KUDOS Stunningly articulate and dynamic
CONCERNS No tone control.
MXR Custom Badass
MXR’s new Custom Badass pedals feature
factory mods of classic circuits, and
with the Modified O.D. ($169 retail/$99
street), the name of the game is EQ: Three
controls shape the voicing of the pedal—
Tone, 100 Hz, and Bump—in addition to
Gain and Output.
The Modified O.D. straddles the line
between overdrive and distortion, offering
enough output to push an amp into saturation,
and enough grit to get heavy with a clean amp
at lower volumes. The 100Hz control powerfully
boosts or cuts low-end thump: crank it
to make a 1x12 combo chug like a stack, or
turn it down to help a boomy rig cut through
a mix. And the Bump control adds fatness to
push single-coils into humbucker land, and
humbuckers into Abraxas-approved vocal sustain.
The Modified O.D. is moderately compressed,
with enough sag for sustaining leads
and enough punch for chunky chords. With
a little experimenting, I was able to dial in
a wide range of tones—from Texas blues to
’80s hair metal to punk to thrash.
With my Fender ’60 Relic Stratocaster,
it sometimes took careful knob twisting to
balance the highs and lows, especially when
pushing some gain. But then I plugged in
a PRS Custom 22, and was immediately
flooded with clear, singing, liquid sustain.
There are great single-coil flavors hidden
in the Modified O.D., but with humbuckers,
finding sweet spots is effortless—the
pedal sounded outstanding pretty much
wherever I set the knobs.
The Custom Badass Modified O.D. can
cover a tremendous range of distortion/
overdrive duties, and it also cleans up
well when gained up (albeit not quite as
brilliantly as its Way Huge cousins). It’s
a real bargain too, especially if you rock
KUDOS Excels at a wide range of dirt duties.
Powerful tone-sculpting options.
CONCERNS Prefers humbuckers to single-coils.