Built for Thee Oh Sees' John Dwyer, this update of the Fuzz War platform may be the ideal middle ground between a Sovtek Muff and a Tone Bender.
Since its introduction in 2010, Death By Audio’s Fuzz War has fast become the darling fuzz of the underground. Ty Segall, the prince prolific of the S.F./L.A. garage axis, used the pedal with cruel effectiveness on his Slaughterhouse and Twins albums, and during the charged shows that followed. Fuzz fanatics with subterranean music proclivities were quick to take notice.
When the experimentally minded Death by Audio offered to build a Fuzz War for Segall compatriot (and de-facto Frisco garage-scene mayor) John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees, Dwyer had an even more brutal fuzz machine in mind. The Fuzz-War-meets-treble-booster called Thee Ffuzz Warr Overload is the Frankenstein child of Dwyer and DBA’s collaboration
Four on the Floor
The sonic point of departure for the original Fuzz War is the Supa Tone Bender, a Colorsound-branded Big Muff design that was, in many ways, a louder, nastier version of the legendary “ram’s head” Big Muff. In the hands of Death by Audio, the Supa Tone Bender template was twisted into an even more muscular machine. Like most Muff-type pedals, it uses a four-transistor, three-knob—level, gain, and tone—control configuration. DBA’s Thee Ffuzz Warr Overload design, however, employs an oversized and accessibly placed tone knob that facilitates and encourages use of this very effective control. To the left of the Fuzz section, there’s a second footswitch and a single knob for the simple treble-boost section.
If you placed the Thee Ffuzz Warr Overload in a sonic Venn diagram, it would sit prevailingly in the Muff zone. But what makes Thee Ffuzz Warr Overload so effective is the harmonic balance and presence derived from inhabiting Tone Bender and Fuzz Face zones, too. You get just about all the brawn you could ever want from a Muff but with a rich and present midrange that’s almost never strident or overpowering. It’s so gorgeously balanced and complex that barring an Emaj chord at the seventh fret yields the fuzz equivalent of a string quartet pulling across a single droning chord in perfect harmony.
With all three controls at noon, Thee Ffuzz Warr Overload is near perfect for chords or leads—growling and massive for the former, and searing, dynamic, and reactive for the latter.You might make a I-V power chord sound as nasty with another fuzz or distortion, but no pedal will top this thing for attitude.
The tone control is an interesting asset: The fuzz is most even and defined when it’s at noon, but more aggressive tone settings focus the EQ emphasis rather than just adding or subtracting squealing top end, and it has a useful thinning effect when the fuzz starts getting too massive for a particular application. What’s doubly cool is that the size and placement of the knob (big and on the outboard, starboard side) enable on-the-fly adjustments that have the effect of slow-sweeping or cocking a wah pedal.
The interaction between the tone knob and treble boost is fascinating, too, if not entirely intuitive. The hottest, most cutting treble-boost settings come when the tone knob is at high noon. But tone settings that might make the boost toppier and squirrelly on other fuzz pedals actually sound more controlled, enhancing the wah-like filter capabilities of the tone control. It’s tricky to manage at first, but just a little practice uncovers tones and possibilities that would be invaluable onstage or in recording situations.
By itself, the treble boost isn’t super dimensional, and it also works a little more dramatically with vintage-voiced humbuckers. It’s a perfect match for the Fuzz War circuit, however. And when stacked on the sonorous, growling voice of the Fuzz War circuit, it’s a near guarantee that your leads will be audible over the loudest band.
With its brutish-but-complex voice, versatile tone control, and perfectly matched treble boost, Thee Ffuzz Warr Overload can dominate a stage or sit tight in its own little corner of a crowded band mix. For Muff fans willing to deviate a bit from those sacrosanct tones, it’s a near-ideal compromise between a Sovtek’s elephantine, bass-heavy fuzz and something more mid-heavy like a Tone Bender. Given what a good Muff clone and treble booster would cost, it’s a sensibly priced unit, too.