Obituary was one of the most brutal death metal bands to emerge at the genesis of the genre. Like Death and Possessed, Obituary relied on terrifying tempos, crushing riffs, and gut-punching high-gain guitar tone.
Although Obituary first hit the scene back in the late 1980s, the band endures to this day, thrilling audiences around the world with their distinctive brand of powerful death metal.
The major feature of Obituary’s legendary sound was the chunky, searing guitar tone of axeman Trevor Peres. Armed with, surprisingly, a Fender Stratocaster, a Marshall stack, and a ProCo Rat, Peres unleashed a furious, churning guitar sound that came to define death metal as we know it.
If you want to set up your high-powered Marshall to channel the unique sound of Trevor Peres and Obituary, this is the article for you.
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Some might argue that the Fender Stratocaster isn’t a metal guitar. Trevor Peres would disagree.
Peres has wielded a humbucker-equipped Stratocaster since he helped found Obituary. It’s important to note that this isn’t an ordinary single-coil Stratocaster. When playing at the levels of gain Trevor Peres does, single-coil guitars can be far too noisy, with feedback and hum rendering the music unlistenable.
Like many hard rock and metal guitarists of the 1980s, Trevor Peres was partial to the “Superstrat” style, complete with humbucker and locking whammy bar. Although Peres once used active EMG pickups in his guitars, today his main touring guitar is a Fender Elite Stratocaster with passive Tim Shaw humbucker.
The Elite Strat was discontinued, but fortunately for Obituary fans there are plenty of shred-ready Strats available. The Ultra Luxe is probably the closest modern equivalent to the Elite Stratocaster, complete with humbucker and Floyd Rose tremolo system.
For a more accurate pickup, you can buy the Fender Shawbucker separately and install it in your Stratocaster.
The Fender Player Stratocaster is a more affordable alternative if you’re very interested in installing an aftermarket pickup and saving some of your budget for the Shawbucker.
With that said, probably the most affordable alternative is the Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Stratocaster, as it has a built-in humbucker.
As an important footnote, much of Peres’ tone comes from his choice to roll the tone knob on his Stratocaster all the way down. That’s where the majority of his abrasive, scooped sound comes from.
When I think of the classic Obituary sound, I think of the solos from “Chopped in Half.” For the otherworldly flutters in the first solo, you’ll need a reliable tremolo system like the Floyd Rose. For the sweet, almost bluesy tone of the closing solo, you’ll need single-coil pickups.
Any HSS-style Stratocaster with a reliable tremolo will get you both sounds.
Trevor Peres Amps
Like most metalheads of his era, Trevor Peres was a massive fan of the high-gain tones offered by the Marshall JCM800.
Of course, these days, few of us have the budget, space, or inclination to wield a full Marshall stack when there are so many affordable, and more reasonably sized, alternatives.
It’s hard to look past Marshall amplifiers for that thick ’80s metal sound.
I am a huge fan of the Marshall Studio series, including the Studio Classic, which is for all intents and purposes a downsized JCM800. I’d recommend this amp to most guitar players looking for saturated 80s metal tones without the requisite ear-shattering volume.
The lower wattage (20 or 5, switchable) allows you to hit the tube-driving sweet spot without bothering the neighbors.
However, the amps Trevor Peres used didn’t have enough gain on tap despite their advanced (for the time) gain staging, necessitating the use of the legendary ProCo Rat, one of the most
Trevor Peres Amp Settings – Obituary Guitar Tone!
I’ve based the below amplifier settings on my favorite Obituary song, “Chopped in Half.”
Trevor Peres’ aggressive picking technique naturally adds quite a bit of bite and treble to the tone. Peres’ choice to play with his tone knob all the way down accounts for much of the muddiness of his sound.
For this sound, you want minimal treble and high frequencies, with as much snarling midrange and thudding low end as you can get.
It should be no surprise that you need a lot of distortion to get the Trevor Peres tone. I’d set the gain knob at 8 as a starting point, but much of your distortion will come from the ProCo Rat, not the gain stage of the amp.
You need a lot of low end, but not so much that you can’t hear the chunk and thud of your palm muting. 6 is a good starting point.
You want enough nasal midrange for your non-muted notes to stand out from the palm-muted ones. 8 is a good place to start, but you’ll need to tweak it from there depending on your amp.
This is not a bright, jangling guitar tone. Too much treble in this sound will be thin and brittle, not thick and powerful.
If your amp has a master volume knob, you’ll need quite a bit of volume to get it to sound the way Obituary does.
Trevor Peres Pedals
The main pedal for the Obituary sound is the one and only ProCo Rat. It’s a rugged, affordable pedal designed for the kind of nasty, angry distortion that so defined the Florida death metal scene.
Set the Rat’s Distortion knob to about one or two o’clock, the Filter to about 11 o’clock, and the volume flat, or 12 o’clock, for the Obituary sound.
As much as I love the Rat tone, I’ve always disliked it’s top-mounted input jacks and massive footprint. It takes up valuable pedalboard space.
For a similar-priced pedal with a virtually identical tone, the EHX Flat Iron Fuzz takes up much less room and is, for all intents and purposes, a Rat clone.
Feedback and noise could be an issue here, so it’s worth considering a Boss Noise Suppressor to keep feedback under control. Otherwise, that’s the only pedal you need to make the Redneck Stomp.
Jamming along to Obituary’s brutal, timeless riffs is tremendous fun. Sometimes, genius exists in simplicity, and the simple rig of Strat, Rat, and JCM800 is more than enough to get you over the line into Obituary tone heaven.