Stomp Under Foot Red Menace Pedal Review

Based off of the very first Sovtek Muff, which wasn’t a Muff at all—it was an almost identical pedal, misleadingly named the Red Army Overdrive.

Though they’re a minority in the bizarre community of Big Muff nuts, some consider Mike Matthews’ early Sovtek creations the finest Muffs of all time. The perception is no doubt fueled by David Gilmour’s use of an early Sovtek Big Muff to power his leads on Pink Floyd’s ’94 tour and much-adored Pulse DVD. But they are, by any measure, great fuzz boxes.

Gilmour’s Pulse Muff is nicknamed the Civil War model (for its blue and grey enclosure) and fuzz nerds consider it the first and best of all Sovtek Muffs. But the truth is that the very first Sovtek Muff wasn’t a Muff at all—it was an almost identical pedal, misleadingly named the Red Army Overdrive.

It’s little surprise that Stomp Under Foot, one of the foremost specialists in Muff clones, used this footnote in Big Muff history as the basis for the Red Menace. But what’s cool about their effort to tackle this rare and subtly—but significantly— different circuit is that it results in one of the most well-rounded Big Muff clones on the market.

Red Scare
In terms of controls and construction, there isn’t a whole lot to a Muff-style pedal, and anyone who has ever used a fuzz will know how to navigate the Red Menace. There’s a knob for Volume, one for Tone, and another for Sustain, which is essentially the fuzz control.

Boasting an uncluttered interior, the pedal is beautifully built and flawlessly wired. And while the candy apple red enclosure doesn’t have the visual allure of a Sovtek original (what does?), it looms boldly on a cluttered pedalboard—almost daring you to tussle, like a MiG prowling the edge of international airspace.

Eastern Bloc Rock
Because of minor variations in transistor values, the Sovtek Red Army Overdrive tends to have a little more scuzz to its fuzz and more midrange kick than a Civil War. These are the qualities that Stomp Under Foot emphasized in the Red Menace. The difference is critical, because while the big, round, and smooth low end of a Civil War may sound like Lava Lamp drops from heaven in a spacious arrangement, it can go missing in a raging stoner-rock maelstrom.

I played the Red Menace alongside a Stomp Under Foot Civil War using a Fender Vibroverb and Ampeg Super Jet, as well as a humbucker-equipped Telecaster Custom, a Rickenbacker 330, and an E-series Stratocaster. With Gilmour’s more searing tones in my thoughts, I put the Red Menace between the Stratocaster and the Ampeg. Running through the funk section of Pink Floyd’s “Echoes,” the additional midrange edge and Fuzz Face/ Triangle Muff-style rasp was plainly—and delightfully—audible. The extra presence comes with little sacrifice in the low-end muscle. And while the Red Menace isn’t nearly as wooly as the Civil War at identical settings, the low end is fat and smooth enough for sweet sustained bends and droning, growling power chords alike.

Playing the super-resonant Rickenbacker showcased the Red Menace’s capacity for note definition in a distorted context, and the pedal remained surprisingly clear during fast arpeggio work. Meanwhile, languid, elastic Sabbath-blues bends on the Telecaster’s neck humbucker were a perfect match for the Red Menace’s enhanced midrange and classic, harmonic-rich, and almost octave-like Muff voice.

The Verdict
If you’ve ever longed for a Big Muff or Muff clone but wondered whether you’re a member of the round, wooly, and singing Sovtek camp or the original brutal and buzzier Electro-Harmonix tone family, the Stomp Under Foot Red Menace inhabits an interesting middle ground. While it’s clearly more closely related to the former, you can dial in plenty of high-mid content to achieve the aims of the latter. There are few builders quite as well versed in Muffery as Stomp Under Foot. And in reinterpreting this lost stepchild of the Big Muff family, Stomp Under Foot has crafted a fuzz that’s likely to find fans in less Muff-like contexts too.
Buy if...
you’re equally in love with Sovtek Big Muffs and early Electro-Harmonix versions, but can’t figure out which way to turn.
Skip if...
you think fuzz should buzz like a hornet.

Street $160 - Stomp Under Foot -

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