Cannibal Corpse Amp Settings – Pat O’Brien & Rob Barrett Tone

Author: Liam Whelan | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

A band called Cannibal Corpse was never going to be easy listening.

Cannibal Corpse has, for decades now, defined (and defiled) the boundaries of music. Their punishing, brutal brand of death metal saw them denounced by Bob Dole and banned in Germany. It also earned them a cameo in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.

There aren’t many death metal bands who can say they’ve shared the screen with Jim Carrey.

These days, the Cannibal Corpse lineup is spearheaded by guitar duo Pat O’Brien and Rob Barrett. Barrett mostly plays rapid-fire machine-gun rhythm guitar while O’Brien’s classical training sees him don most of the band’s lead work.

These distinctions are not hard and fast, however, and the pair often switch roles from one song to the next.

In this article, we’ll look at the modern-day Cannibal Corpse guitar setup, with guitars, amps, pedals, and settings all getting a deep dive.

Cannibal Corpse Guitars

Pat O’Brien’s main choice of guitar is the BC Rich V. This pointy guitar boasts plenty of upper-fretboard access and a Floyd Rose tremolo for all your squealing, dive-bombing antics.

Key to O’Brien’s screaming tone is his use of ultra-hot EMG 81 active pickups. These are a bigger part of the sound than the guitar itself, as the tone of these pickups is very distinctive.

An affordable alternative might be the Epiphone Flying V. You’d need to swap out the stock pickups for EMGs, but this would definitely do the trick.

Rob Barrett uses custom-made Dean Cadillac guitars. Dean’s extreme shapes made them popular in the 1980s, but they’re not as widespread these days.

Barrett uses the Dean Cadillac for its purported similarity to the Gibson Les Paul.

Given that Gibson Les Pauls command premium pricing, for working players on a budget, I’d recommend the Epiphone Les Paul Axcess. This features a Floyd Rose whammy bar, unlike most Les Pauls.

A standard hardtail Les Paul will do the trick, too. If you’re looking for something a little closer aesthetically to the Cannibal Corpse vibe, the ESP LTD Eclipse is a great option with a little more heavy-metal styling.

Barrett, like O’Brien, uses EMG pickups, so you’ll want to make sure to put EMGs in your guitar for the Cannibal Corpse tone.

Cannibal Corpse Strings

Since Cannibal Corpse often tunes their guitars down to G#, C#, or A# and D#, they use heavier strings than most guitar players. The increased tension prevents the strings from feeling “floppy”.

For a six-string guitar, you’ll want 013-.056 gauge strings.

Cannibal Corpse Amps

Both Cannibal Corpse axemen use Mesa Boogie rectifier amplifiers. O’Brien prefers the triple rectifier, while Barrett is a devoted dual rectifier player.

The Mesa Rectoverb is a more affordable version of the Rectifier.

Alternatively, the 20-watt Peavey 6505 is a high-gain amp with a similar voicing at a lower price point with much less punishing volume.

Otherwise, the EVH 5150 combo or mini head has enough gain on tap to get close to the Cannibal Corpse sound if you’re using the right guitar and pedal combination.

Cannibal Corpse Pedals

Unsurprisingly, given Cannibal Corpse’s uncompromising, straightforward approach to heavy metal, neither Pat O’Brien nor Rob Barrett is particularly partial to elaborate pedalboards.

Both swear by the often-disregarded Boss Metal Zone. This is one of the more controversial pedals in the guitar community.

Some players find it too fizzy and unwieldy for practical use. Others swear by the Metal Zone and won’t perform without one.

The Metal Zone was designed to mimic the formidable sound of a cranked stack of amps. That’s amps, plural, not amp, singular.

The Metal Zone is far from a straightforward distortion pedal, so if you want to use one, I’d advise a few tips.

To get the most out of the Metal Zone, you can run it one of two ways. The first is the easiest, which requires you to run the Metal Zone not between guitar and amp, but in your amp’s effects loop.

This allows you to use the Metal Zone to force your amp into saturation.

The other method is to learn how to use the Metal Zone’s complicated EQ. Its twin EQ controls have up to 15dB of cut or boost, a mids control, and variable frequency.

My advice is to start at a low gain setting and use the mids control as an all-purpose EQ.

As a base distorted tone, I recommend the Metal Zone with the below settings. Remember that you’ll want to tweak this depending on your amp’s voicing.

  • Level: all the way up
  • High: flat
  • Low: flat
  • Middle: flat
  • Mid freq: flat
  • Dist: almost all the way down

Cannibal Corpse Amp Settings

Given that you’re mostly using your Metal Zone for tone shaping, the amp settings for Cannibal Corpse aren’t as important as with other bands.

Master – 11, or to taste

Presence – 2-3

Bass – 2-3

Mid – 9-10

Treble – 2

Gain – 2-3

Gain: 2-3

Most of your distortion comes from the Metal Zone, not the amp.

Volume: 10

Turn up as high as you can for the Cannibal Corpse tone.

Mids: 9-10

You want a strong, articulate mid-heavy sound to cut through blast beats and cymbals.

Treble: 2

You don’t need ice-pick treble for Cannibal Corpse.

Bass: 2

Likewise, you don’t want too much low end in your tone lest your tone lose definition.

Final Word

Remember that the main key to the Cannibal Corpse tone is in the EMG pickups, Metal Zone pedal, and high-gain amp.

Knuckle down on your picking technique and be sure to use heavy strings and downtuned guitars to really get in the Cannibal Corpse zone.

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About Liam Whelan

Liam Whelan was raised in Sydney, Australia, where he went to university for long enough to realize he strongly prefers playing guitar in a rock band to writing essays. Liam spends most of his life sipping strong coffee, playing guitar, and driving from one gig to the next. He still nurses a deep conviction that Eddie Van Halen is the greatest of all time, and that Liverpool FC will reclaim the English Premier League title.

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