Malekko was the first boutique pedal company I ever got excited about. When it first started back in 2007, I happened to be touring with my old compadres The Cheat and we stopped by their shop in Austin to check out two incredible new pedals—the B:Assmaster and the Echo 600. Everything about Malekko was different—the graphics, the tones and the fact that it was run by two non-guitarists. We had a blast making noise with both new Malekko stompers and vintage pedals, putting them through a Marshall four-holer that actually had five, because there was a bloody gun bullet hole in the head cabinet. I also remember being blown away by Josh’s blue SH-101 synth with an Echo 600 built right into the unit; please Josh, pitch this to your new Roland colleagues . . . I digress.
Speaking of synthesizers, the incredible new Sneak Attack carries on the Malekko non-tradition of guitar-friendly stompers inspired by more typically modular-synth-section function. We get a staggering 25 different attack and decay waveform combinations and the digitally controlled analog circuit can cover anything from experimental chirp-and-blurb-stab-dabbing, to smooth volume swells. What’s more is the wide range of vintage and modern never-before-heard tremolo tones on tap. These can go from the clank-dank Repeat Percussion-style blats to smooth optical and bias trem-tones with the twist of a knob. The overall sound is rich, thick and lyrical, leaving lesser swell pedals shackled to the confines of retro redundancy. Let’s go ninja on those pick attacks and ditch those out-of-reach volume knob techniques.
The full control set endowed to the Sneak Attack may initially confuse the non-pedal-savvy guitarist or immediate-gratification tone seeker, but with a brief tweak sesh and glance at the manual, this box is actually a doddle to dial in. The deceptively simple idea of ramping up and ramping down with different waveforms actually displays an entire universe of polymorphic guitar treatments. Let’s read from left to right.
Thinking in isolated sections helps. The curve attack is the initial rise shape of the wave swell and the curve decay is the shape of the taper from the crest. The length obviously controls the times of both the rise and fall of the preset shapes. The level and auto thresh knobs are utilitarian rather that tone-imparting parameters. The former is primarily a simple volume control and the latter can adjust the intensity of the effect as controlled by one’s pick attack and pickup strength. In LFO mode, I was hearing many classic guitar and synth tonal reference points. Who Are You obviously comes to mind—especially with a Les Paul-style guitar patched in. Being an analog circuit, slower sine wave cycles slither out of the speaker cones in serpentine spades. Though I would typically use a pedal like at the helm of the signal path, patching the Sneak Attack into an effects loop would be really interesting for adding vintage trem treatments to more modern amps.
In manual trigger mode, the decay section of the pedal is lopped off which is really handy for hands-free volume swells and faux-eBow violin rubbing. If I were to try to ape Adrian Belew’s animalistic aural guitar mimicry on the Talking Heads Remain in Light, I would find the footswitch unlatching manual trigger mode in Sneak Attack very handy indeed. It can make any guitar purr like a “Big Electric Cat.”
What We Like
To quote David Yow’s statement about the Melvins from the trailer of their upcoming documentary The Colossus of Destiny, “when you take a chance and it doesn’t suck—you are winning.” This sums up the Sneak Attack and pretty much every other Malekko pedal I have ever had the pleasure of abusing. I love everything about this stomper. The graphics, the real-time attack-decay trigger LEDs, the addictive rhythmic cycling and the polymorphic waveshape shifting make it a winner. The expandable Little Buddy swell triggering and subdivision functions are just icing on a very tasty Top Tone cake. This is one for my personal board. Pair this up with the B:Assmaster or Diabolik and get ready for some brutal bottom-heavy chugging.