||Download Example 1
Neck pickup. Amp set to near clean. Holy Fire settings. Gain: 4, Overdrive: 5, Distortion: off, Hi Cut: full up (set to no-cut
||Download Example 2
Same as 1 but Overdrive at 7
||Download Example 3
Bridge Pickup. Same as Clip 2 but Distortion set at 3
||Download Example 4
Same as 3 but High Cut set to 5 (half-cut) and Gain at 6
||Download Example 5
Amp set to crunch tone. Settings same as Clip 4 but Distortion on 10
||Download Example 6
Amp set to crunch tone. Gain: 10, Overdrive: 7, Distortion: 0, High Cut full (0 position, full cut).
|All clips were recorded with an Epiphone Sheraton with Tom Holmes PAFs, Reissue Marshall JCM800 through Krank 1x12 with Eminence Governor. Shure SM57 1” from cone into Pro Tools HD3.
Every once in a while, a product comes
around that brings something different to the
table. Sometimes, it’s a clever variation on
a common theme done in a way that seems
new. At other times, it’s a radical departure—
something truly unique. In the case of
Creation Audio Labs’ Holy Fire overdrive/
distortion pedal, it’s a little of both.
The Holy Fire comes in a heavy, brushed stainless
steel box with lettering that is punched
through rather than painted or stenciled on. This
lets the fire-orange light inside the pedal backlight
the words, giving it an evil-meets-holy look.
(CAL even cleverly arranged the Gain, Overdrive
and Distortion labels to spell out “GOD” on the
top of the pedal.) They’ve branded the pedal
with “Holy” on the left and “Fire” on the right
side of the stomp switch. Much like a treble cut
control on an AC30, the Holy Fire features a
hi-cut knob, which is signified by a “~” symbol.
It does just what you’d think and backs off the
highs as you turn it up. It also runs on a 48V
power supply that comes with the pedal. Those
48 volts are put to great use in creating a sound
unlike most gain/overdrive/distortion pedals on
the market. Finally, a very cool feature of the
pedal, and one I haven’t seen before, is the dual-colored
LED that switches from red to yellow as
you go from a clean signal to wave-shaped overdrive…
kinda like having a useful but vibey lava
lamp built into the pedal.
The Voice of G.O.D.
I ran the Holy Fire through just about every
guitar and amp I own, and it did an outstanding
job with all of them. One thing that sets this
pedal apart from any other gain or overdrive
pedal I’ve used is that it always makes the
sound bigger. Along with that, there was never
a loss of bass response with an increase of
gain, overdrive or distortion. It’s a very different
experience to have a pedal do this, because
it doesn’t really sound like a pedal at all when
using just the Gain control. With a Strat and
Fender Cyber-Champ, it turned a rather anemic
sound into a bold, SRV-style tone that had a
depth and character the amp never could have
revealed on its own. I’m not sure what CAL’s
secret is, but the company says they use late-
’50 and early-‘60s analog computer technology
to reshape the waveform. They say that it
emulates a tube, but not in any traditional way
that we’re used to with pedals. Whatever it is,
it’s highly addictive. The way the Gain works is
slightly different from a normal pedal as well:
the counterclockwise position is off—as in no
volume at all. This comes in handy, since you
can dial in huge amounts of overdrive and distortion
(more on that in a minute) and then pull
back the Gain so the volume is tailored to whatever
level you desire. I found this helpful in setting
up a lead tone that was just slightly louder
than the pedal in bypass mode but still had all
the overdrive and distortion I needed.
The Overdrive and Distortion controls work
together, and you can easily use one on top of the other.
The Overdrive sound is thick without
being muddy, and you can bring it up to the
highest settings without adding significant
noise. In fact, this pedal has got to be the
quietest OD pedal I’ve ever heard. With my
Les Paul through the Cyber-Champ set to a
clean sound, I was able to get Zeppelin-style
tones just by combining the right amount of
Overdrive and Distortion. The only place where
things got smeared was with both controls
maxed out, but even that sound offered a fuzzy,
stoner-rock tone that was perfect for a track I
was working on. Plugging into my ENGL Ritchie
Blackmore signature head allowed me to hear
the Holy Fire work its magic with an already
great sound. I had the amp set conservatively
on the gain side to establish a solid AC/
DC-style rhythm tone. With the addition of just
a little extra gain (set at about 2 o’clock) the
sound was huge. It’s actually a bit of a spoiler
to take the Holy Fire out of the chain, because
everything sounds small after hearing it the
other way. Bringing the Distortion control up
to about 4 o’clock added an enormous amount
of distortion that once again had all the body
you’d ever need, with endless sustain and no
added noise. Seems impossible, but there it is.
As if all of this weren’t enough, I was pleasantly
surprised to roll off my volume on the guitars
to reveal the amp’s true tone and clarity. It was
as if the rolling off of the volume made the
pedal disappear. Over time, I got very comfortable
with leaving the pedal on all the time and
working the volume knob to expose twice as
much tone from the amp as I had previously
achieved. The fact that the Holy Fire is so quiet
made it feel out of the way until I needed it and
pushed my guitar’s volume past 7.
The Final Mojo
There is a world of tones tucked away inside
the Holy Fire. Not only is it a clever design, it’s
a useful design. It offers up thick and bold gain,
overdrive and distortion with the unique ability
to bring the best out of your guitar and amp.
Maybe it’s the 48V power that gives it the type
of sound I’ve not heard in a pedal before, or
maybe it’s that very different way of using analog
computer technology to create the sounds.
Either way, it’s pure gold, and this one is staying
right here with me.
you want a big sound that’s
natural and new.
you’re 100 percent sure your tone
doesn’t need an upgrade.