19. Victorian Halls

They’re often labeled heavy pop, keyboard rock, or synth core, but actually Victorian Halls embodies all three intoxicating musical subgenres. They may be the catchiest band on the Chicago-based hardcore Victory Records label, though guitarist-singer Sean Lenart keeps the metalheads happy with his occasional guitar breakdown or screamo yell. These popalicious rockers could be at home performing alongside the new-wave-inspired Neon Trees or Buffalo’s favorite hardcore band, Every Time I Die. It seems the Halls’ musical goal is to compose a shimmering pop gem and then smash it with an axe.

Sean Lenart’s Gear
“I am a huge fan of ZVEX Effects. I have a number of them and swap them out depending on the tour, the set, or just to keep things fresh. The Super Hard On has been a staple of my board for the longest time. It is a clean boost/preamp pedal that I absolutely love because it sounds like my tone is running through an old console. The Sonar is more or less used as a noise pedal—whenever we need destruction. Next is the Electro-Harmonix POG, which I really like using because its range goes from lush organ sounds to squealing high-end shrieks. The Pro Co RAT is just a dirty distortion. The Mastotron is an incredible fuzz that was a big part of our new record, Hyperalgesia. The Instant Lo-Fi Junky is a pretty gnarly compression that bounces between a clean and degraded-tape vibe. From my Boss TU-2 Tuner, my signal runs in stereo to the TC Electronic Vortex Flanger, Corona Chorus, and Flashback Delay. I have all TC pedals at this point in my chain because they sound great, they’re durable, and they have a small footprint, plus I can run them in stereo. That’s about it. The Line 6 Verbzilla is atypical for me, but it is an extremely versatile reverb.”

Jordan Dismuke’s Gear
“My worn-and-loved ’57 Fender Precision bass is my baby. It’s been in my arms for the past decade and it’s not going anywhere, anytime soon. Love created this bass."

"My pedalboard is a quick and easy setup—I just have all the essentials you need for a thick, gnarly tone. The classic Tech 21 SansAmp for exquisite EQ and uncanny overdrive. Next I use the ZVEX Basstortion for grittier, fatter, prickly tone. Other than that, I use a Boss TU-2 tuner for that sweet, sultry cohesion.”

20. Ruby the Hatchet’s Johnny Scarps

The subgenres of doom- and stoner-metal are two of the most popular flavors of heavy. Get four greasy dudes and have them play sludgy riffs with drop-tuned guitars and you have yourself a stoner-metal band. Rinse and repeat. But that’s not the case with Ruby the Hatchet. While they do incorporate some of the aforementioned elements, they’re easily able to shake any negative connotations of stale metal. Organist Sean Hur conjures the mystical nature of Deep Purple’s Jon Lord, while dazzling frontwoman Jillian Taylor works the stage and cries out like Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval or Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick. Even the guitarist Johnny Scarps and bassist Mike Parise avoid stoner-rock ruts by melding psychedelic grooves with dense, heavy riffs. The band’s lead single “Vast Acid,” off their just-released LP Valley of the Snake, tells a story of being Bruce Campbell’s demon girlfriend in The Evil Dead while tripping. Let’s rip!

“I play a Gibson SG Special because it’s a cheap, basic guitar. I don’t have to worry about it or make sure it’s locked away in a safe. It’s really great to not have to worry about an expensive guitar while on the road. However, I’m still saving up for a guitar that’s carved from the bones of 1,000 dead warriors and crafted in the deepest halls of the Mountain King by a demon luthier named Astaroth. It’ll have a whammy bar for hellacious dive bombs.

“For pedals, especially on the road, I try and keep it minimal to avoid sound problems and having things break down. I currently use an old Ibanez AD9 Analog Delay that was once my uncle’s. He gave it to me when I was a little guy. I think I had it for almost eight or nine years before I actually used it, but it is my favorite delay because it’s nice and crisp, simple to use, and the color of Pepto-Bismol. I have an Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Reverb—the name says it all. Why use anything else? My fuzzbox is a Russian Big Muff that was modded by our organist Sean Hur. It is my one true love, the one ring, my still beating heart, the sun, the moon, and the sky. I want to be buried with it when I die. Sorry, Sean. I honestly only use the Dunlop Rotovibe to make noise. I love effecting feedback with it. It sounds like I’m riding a tidal wave of blood through a creamy nightmare. And my Dunlop Cry Baby Wah is actually Sean’s that he modded with a volume-boost circuit. He showed it to me one day and I’ve never given it back. Sorry again, man.”