Within minutes of plugging into this creation from Black Arts Toneworks, my guitar was tuned down and I was chugging my way through the sludgiest riffs I could muster up. I assume something similar happens with most people, because the Coven just begs you to do that.
Combining two of Black Arts’s most successful designs—the Black Forest Overdrive and Pharaoh Fuzz—and stacking them inside a shared enclosure (with a toggle switch that allows you to change the order of the two circuits), The Coven is a confab of all things dirty and a witch’s brew of filth.
Enter the Black Forest
A few hallowed “rock gods” owe a big debt of gratitude to the Colorsound Overdriver. Without the influential circuit, some of the most iconic sounds ever recorded wouldn’t quite be what they are. (I’m looking at you, David Gilmour.)
That’s where the Black Forest begins. And while you can absolutely nail a lot of those ‘70s overdrive tones—that’s just a starting point. From there, the Black Forest gets bigger and fatter than the original, thanks in large part to its six-way depth control. This knob cycles through different capacitor configurations, changing the gain structure and voicing of the pedal for an array of sounds the original could only dream of.
The decay is a bit splatty—which usually drives me nuts—but honestly, I really like it in this application—it’s very rock and roll. And with the gain up at 9 o’clock or higher, there’s so much harmonic content I didn’t care. Plus, the bass and treble controls allowed me to really dial this side of the pedal to match my amp and guitar.
Bow Down to the Pharaoh
Like the Black Forest, the Pharaoh Fuzz finds its roots in another vintage pedal—the Big Muff. But after all the circuit magic and electrowizardry was done by Black Arts, the result is one of the most highly tweakable Muff-style fuzzes on the planet.
The tones range from a clean-ish boost to enormous fuzz thanks to a pair of great toggle switches. The first, a three-way clipping toggle, gives way to a surprising range of tones and textures. On one side you get aggressive silicon and on the other, vintage germanium smoothness. And in the middle, a setting with tones of headroom and no diodes at all.
The other switch is a Hi/Lo input toggle, much like the one on my favorite Dr. Z amp. Lo mode has more headroom and less clipping and Hi mode, as you would guess, is the opposite. Round those off with standard Fuzz, Volume and Tone controls—and an additional knob that lets players dial the highs back in, even when boosting lows on the tone knob—and it’s clear that this ain’t yer daddy’s Muff pedal.
What we like: The Coven is a lot of fun to play. Whether you’re stacking a low gain fuzz tone into a fat, juicy overdrive or ramming a thick overdrive down the throat of a screaming fuzz, the range of tonal delight inside The Coven is significant and immensely enjoyable. There are a lot of combinations to enjoy together or separately—and they all live inside one enclosure. The price point is a tad high, but the design is pretty tough to beat.
Concerns: This is one of those pedals that really needs to be cranked up to be fully appreciated. So warn your neighbors.