Wren and Cuff touts that several big-name artists use its pedals, including J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr., Troy Sanders of Mastodon, and Martin Gore of Depeche Mode. Both Mascis and Gore have used the company’s Box of War fuzz. Next up for artist approval is the Irkalla Manifest Fuzz. Named for the underworld of Mesopotamian mythology, the Irkalla delivers a vibrant variety of fuzz with overdrive-like handling. And, what better artist to introduce us to this shady underworld of fuzz than ancient Roman poet Virgil himself? Bear with me, for I will channel him into this article. Come, let us go!
At the lower gain levels of Irkalla, we witness a surprising thing: impressive synth-like fuzz. In fact, this low-level fuzz was so pleasing to the ears, so tender was its grasp on our imagination, that the idea of descending into this netherworld of fuzz did not strike me as unfortunate. A mild man could spend an eternity here, and not complain. True, the signal is a little quieter, and it lacks the compression and sustain of high-gain settings, but its darkness and smoothness did wonders for this god-forsaken soul.
Even at this lower fuzz level, Virgil pointed out the Irkalla’s surprising, overdrive-like response. Indeed, the fuzz signal cleaned up when I rolled back my guitar’s volume. The result was a warm, mellow tone which was heavier on the lows and mids, even after I added some high end to the signal.
Virgil also directed my attention to a bit of heavenly respite: the Irkalla was also surprisingly responsive to dynamics. When I played louder and harder, the distortion increased as if I were playing through an overdrive pedal. The dramatic transition from warm and clear to fuzzy and loud really perked up my ears (and probably woke the neighbors).
When I set my guitar’s volume on full for some serious action, the Irkalla dropped the warm and mellow pretense in favor of aggressive, penetrating fuzz. Again, I could smooth the signal by reducing my High end, or louden it by boosting the Lows, but like Goldilocks in the den of the three bears, I thought the third option—EQ knobs at noon—was just right.
As we descended farther into Irkalla’s abyss, I thought that the low and mid-range Gain settings provided more than enough fuzz for my needs. After all, I was but a simple man who could take only so much fuzz. So, the deepest reaches of the Irkalla surprised me with their ferocity. Like a mama bear who’s discovered a stranger sleeping near her cubs, at high gain the Irkalla roared to life. It produced a wonderfully compressed, vibrant fuzz which was really tight no matter the EQ settings. In other words, I heard no unwanted boominess or sonic sludge.
Because the Irkalla cleaned up so well, and was so responsive to dynamics, I figure that it would make an interesting boost-like addition to one’s signal chain. The Irkalla could overdrive a tube amp, while also adding the characteristic tone of a fuzz to the overall signal. Really, with just a bit of experimentation, some intriguing tones will await the lucky user of this pedal.
My only qualm—and it is a small one, considering that we’re in the underworld—is that the pedal’s knobs aren’t labeled. Then again, perhaps they are, but I simply can’t see the labels. The Irkalla’s cover art appears to be a cross-hatch drawing, but in the complexity of the art, I’m not sure that Wren and Cuff had a chance to add a few simple labels to the knobs. This lack isn’t a deal-breaker, by any means. I simply think that labels are good to have.
Ah, but what is this? Light? My word, we have emerged from the darkness! Virgil was true to his word. So, by all means, do not ignore the call of Irkalla, and do not fear passing through its gates. Read the inscription above the gate. It says, “abandon bad fuzz, all ye who enter here.”
What We Like: Vibrant, expansive fuzz with behavior that’s a bit like that of an overdrive.
Concerns: I wish that the knobs were labeled.