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While Stomp Under Foot has built clones of nearly every important iteration of the Big Muff, the company’s Civil War may be its most popular. For many, it’s been the last stop in a quest to reliably and authentically replicate the tones of early Sovtek Big Muffs. But just like those original Sovteks, the SUF Civil War delivers burly heaps of fuzz and sustain at the expense of a certain midrange presence. The new Civil Unrest is Stomp Under Foot’s attempt to deliver the oomph of a Sovtek with sharper mids.
Prince of Darkness
Stomp Under Foot’s borderline austere aesthetic is becoming something of a trademark. If the subtle sparkle finish isn’t actually black, it’s just about the darkest shade of gray ever. And with four black knobs for level, gain, mids, and tone, it’s only the blue, Cyrillic-inspired print, the bright blue LED, and the four white marks on the knobs themselves that break up the darkness. This is not an easy pedal to see in a dark rehearsal room.
Inside, the wiring is clean and tidy. On its PC board, silicon transistors perch amidst a sizable array of other transistors, resistors, and diodes. Given both the size of the box and the relative rarity of having a midrange knob, the construction is impressively neat and compact.
Plug in the Civil Unrest and set everything to noon, and you’ll know there’s a Muff at the end of the rope. The rich, nasty crunch and ample sustain that define the type are all very present. That said, differences between the Civil Unrest and the Civil War or original Sovtek are immediately apparent: No matter where you set the tone and mids on the Civil Unrest, you won’t get the growling, tectonic-scale low end you get from a Civil War. Stomp Under Foot says dialing back the mids to about 9 o’clock will get you there, but there is a thickness in the low end of the SUF Civil War and the Sovtek Big Muff I used for comparison that the Civil Unrest can’t quite match. This is not an all-bad thing, however—particularly if you’re the sort of player who would pass over a Civil War because of its bossy bottom end.
The range of tones you get in trade for low end can, in the right hands, convincingly span a very wide range of Big Muff tones and other classic fuzzes. Rolling back the mid control entirely and maxing the tone knob delivers some of the most interesting sounds. Here, the Civil Unrest takes on some of the best qualities of a “triangle”-style Big Muff or a good silicon Fuzz Face: cutting lead tones that split the difference between a hornet’s buzz and the slap-in-the-face dry attack of a cranked Marshall plexi.
The added midrange seems most effective when using neck pickups. Stoner rock fiends and Muff fans looking for latter-period Gilmour sustain will relish the combination of colossal and wooly classic Muff crunch and extra definition. The pedal is also wonderfully sensitive to picking dynamics in this kind of setup, even with the guitar’s tone knob rolled way back. Few fuzzes retain the note-to-note clarity and dynamic sensitivity that keep fleet flatpicking from becoming a blur in these settings, but the Civil Unrest excels at the task.
Stomp Under Foot isn’t the first company to tackle the case of the missing mids in a Sovtek-style circuit, but its take yields unique results. This is more than a Civil War with more presence. It can deliver convincing triangle and ram’s head tones, and cross over into Fuzz Face territory, too. And while it isn’t as fat as a Civil War, it’s no less powerful with the right rig. The Unrest is most at home with 12" or 15" speakers and an amp like a Marshall plexi—something that delivers heaps of low end. With these rigs, the Civil Unrest delivers on the promise of combining Sovtek-style corpulence with an edge.