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 Me Knocking.”
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 distortion.
CONCERNS No tone control.
MXR Custom Badass Modified O.D.
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 with humbuckers.
KUDOS Excels at a wide range of dirt duties. Powerful tone-sculpting options.
CONCERNS Prefers humbuckers to single-coils.