British amp manufacturer Orange may not be a name you associate with high-gain metal sound as the brand’s image is rooted firmly in vintage sixties crunch. However, the Terror Series is certainly geared towards heavy music and the affordable low-wattage Dark Terror amp head offers the highest gain in the series, making it an excellent amp for metal. It’s all sounding pretty good so far – let’s take a closer look…
Just like others in Orange’s Terror Series, the Dark Terror isn’t swamped with controls. In fact, the simple trio of volume, shape (essentially an all-in-one EQ control) and gain may look a little scarce to some players who prefer endless tweaking capabilities. However, the three still offer enough in the way of sound-shaping capabilities. Elsewhere on the front panel, you’ll find the power switch and wattage selector switch (doubling up as the standby switch). All in all, a minimalist, streamlined system, but one that works.
Let’s look at the design of the amp, which fits nicely into the Terror Series and is instantly recognizable as an Orange, using an appropriately black vented steel chassis to offer a robust build. Yet it remains lightweight at 15lbs and very portable, with a solid steel handle on the top and its own gig bag to carry it around in.
As for power, the Dark Terror is driven by two EL84 power tubes and a trio of 12AX7 preamp tubes, offering a maximum output of 15 watts, which is easily switched to 7 watts for when quieter playing is required. The back of the amp also sees a serial effects loop, driven by a 12AT7 tube, allowing you to add in your own effects pedals.
For such a small amp, the tone is jaw-droppingly brutal, with monstrous gain that will happily satisfy even the heaviest of modern metalheads. Yet, despite the insane overdrive, the Dark Terror will still sound familiar to Orange enthusiasts with a juicy midrange and fuzzy highs. Note that the cleans always retain a small dose of grit, so it’s not suitable if you require ultimate clarity when playing clean. With 15 watts, there’s more than enough oomph for jams, rehearsals and small to medium-sized stage performances, providing you hook it up to a decent cab.
From AC/DC and Maiden right up to Metallica and beyond, this amp is a winner. Providing you don’t need crystal clear cleans, the Dark Terror is a killer high-gain amp that will impress metal guitarists breaking into the gigging scene or studio metalheads wanting a dirty but responsive amp to record with.