The sound of reverb has shaped electric guitar tone from the beginning. Whether a product of a cavernous, reflective studio, a tank, or a pedal, it can make you feel like you’re wrapped in a warm blanket or lost in an underground cave of crickets. EarthQuaker’s Afterneath, dubbed an “otherworldly reverberation machine,” is among the latest creations to emerge the Akron, Ohio-based shop. And like most of EarthQuaker’s stomps, the Afterneath is a forward-thinking design that will deliver the unexpected.
Ghost In the Machine
Typical of EarthQuaker, the pedal is housed in a very rugged enclosure with a busy but comfortably spaced, group of six controls. Right out of the box, the knob that intrigued me the most was the drag control. This knob brings out the stuttering delayed signal that’s buried deep inside. Set the drag to 10 o’clock and a very rhythmic, but not overpowering, delay appears in the mix.
It’s not strong and pulsing enough for Albert Lee-style runs, but it gives droning shoegaze riffs rhythmic punch. As you turn the knob clockwise the delay fades away and an ethereal, lush reverb replaces the stuttering repeats. Moving the knob while a spacey suspended chord rings creates a very cool warping sound that has elements of a revving car engine or a vinyl record slowly rotating to a stop.
Length and dampen control the decay time and tone, respectively. You may need to turn up the dampen control up to about 3 o’clock in order to cut through in louder band situations. And given all the hidden (and not so hidden) nuggets, artifacts and overtones that live within the reverb signal, I tended to keep the length control a bit higher than I would with a normal reverb—giving the Afterneath more room to bloom and reveal its surprises.
The reflect control can be subtle at times and wildly out of control at others. At medium settings, the result is a beautiful ambient wash that hints at the more unwieldy noises lurking at the edges. At 9 o’clock the oscillation gets stronger, and with the control maxed a deluge of sound floods the output. Both the reflect and drag controls beg for expression pedal functionality, though, and it’s tantalizing to imagine how much more effective these controls could be with the extra control.
The subtlest control is the diffuse knob. By adjusting the spread of the reverb it gives the output a bit more edge to it without changing the EQ. On the upper end of the spectrum it gave the already spacious sounding reverb an almost three-dimensional. Think of this as the difference between bouncing sound around a room with no corners and one with plenty of pointy surfaces. I tended to keep this knob and adjusted depending on how much decay I had dialed in.
The Afterneath rewards creative approaches to what a reverb pedal can do. The controls are very interactive and beg you to explore the far-reaching extremes that other reverb pedals simply can’t muster. That said, it’s capable of subtle textures, and while it’s probably not the reverb for someone that wants to replace their old-school tank reverb, if you want to option to take your reverb beyond, the Afterneath is hard to beat.