Joey Sturgis, who has some great credits behind him, is generally known for his production and mixing skills when it comes to the heavier side of music. I’ve been testing out out his Toneforge Menace amp simulator. So what’s it like?
The Toneforge Menace is billed as an Aggressive Metal amp. I’m not going to argue with that as that’s a pretty good description of what it does. It’s essentially five stages designed to shape your guitar tone in a simple way. Or as JST say, guitar tone simplified!
I’ll start with the amp section which delivers a somewhat mind-bending amount of distortion (in a good way) and is reminiscent of a Diezel or Engl hi-gain type sound. It has a Gain control, Master Out and a pretty nice EQ section. This then goes into a Cab stage which provides four speaker impulses to further shape the tone. There’s an SM57 (on and off axis), a Sennheiser 421 and U87. So far so good.
After this we get a dedicated EQ section and a Limiter. I’m not sure whether Menace actually needs these two stages as they just seem to get in the way a bit. I can think of other third-party EQ’s and Limiter/Compressors that I’d rather employ instead of these as they aren’t great.
This brings me to the first stage which looks like a Tube Screamer type pedal. Trouble is it doesn’t work anything like a Tube Screamer or any other pedal for that matter. One thing Menace doesn’t do well is clean up at low input volumes (it’s on or off) which makes me wonder why there’s a separate ‘Input’ attenuator too. In fact, reducing its Gain like you would on a Tube Screamer and using it as a clean boost into the front of the amp actually just destroys the sound. This pedal stage should be looked at or binned, sorry!
Other features here are a Noise Gate which does a good job. There’s also a built -inTuner too. Clicking on Signal Path open a page where you can disable stages. There’s one called ‘Magic’ that when unchecked just doesn’t do Menace any favors either. This adds a thickening effect and should just be left on and hidden from the UI.
I did a bit of recording with Menace and I ended up just using the Amp and Cab section for the most part. Now, I know I’ve been a bit harsh on some aspects of Menace but when you just use the Amp part it’s ‘really’ nice to play through. Crisp distorted rhythm parts that have great note definition and some fantastically smooth high-gain lead tones come out of this thing. With the amp Gain down, you can get a nice ‘just past’ crunch tone out of Menace too.
I found when Menace is doing the thing it does well, it really does deliver in spades. That thing is high gain! Menace doesn’t really to pretend to be anything else so it’s doing exactly what it says on the tin.
You can get a tremendous amount of grunt from Menace and if you’re into brutal metal sounds then you’re probably going to love this. For me the front and back end stages of this plugin don’t really do it any favors.
The Amp and Cab stage are quite brilliant and deliver some ‘really’ chunky metal sounds with loads of bite and attitude. If JST were to focus on these two stages and introduce something like more speaker/cab impulse options, they’d have a really formidable product here. Basically ‘simplify’ the plugin to what it does best!
Price: $65 USD (normally $79 USD)
Pros: If you’re after a dedicated Hi-Gain Amp sim with buckets of distortion then Menace performs that task with aplomb.
Cons: Should simplify feature list and work on its strengths.