Along the shore the cloud waves break,
The twin suns sink behind the lake,
The shadows lengthen
—Cassilda’s Song, “The King in Yellow” | Act 1, Scene 2
Strange way to start a review for a fuzz pedal, right? Well gather ‘round—we’re about to talk about the preternatural origins of Carcosa, an ancient, mysterious city that’s home to The King in Yellow, bringer of madness and doom in Robert W. Chambers’s book of the same name from 1895.
Madness and doom. Now we’re getting somewhere.
A Tale of Whoa
I have this habit. See, when I find a fuzz pedal I like, I can’t stop playing it. For instance, there’s been a single fuzz pedal on my personal pedalboard—the same fuzz pedal—for more than three-and-a-half years. The fuzz pedal before that lasted just as long. I say all this to inform you that I can’t stop playing the Carcosa. It landed with a small pile of other killer pedals for me to review and it’s the only one I care about right now. I can’t stop playing it.
Because it is that awesome.
The first knob on the Carcosa, labeled Before, is a fairly standard fuzz control: roll it right for lots of fuzz, left for less. The overall character of the fuzz is decidedly vintage to my ears, which makes sense, considering that the Carcosa finds its roots in the hallowed Maestro FZ-1S Fuzz Tone. And though you can certainly hear shades of that design, the Carcosa has, well, more chaos in it.
But make no mistake—this is no one trick pony. If you’re a player who likes to ride the volume knob on your guitar for varying degrees of intensity, the Carcosa will definitely let you do that. From meaty overdrive to full-tilt chaos, it has all the sounds.
The second knob, a bias control labeled After, is the key to the pedal. This control changes the texture of the fuzz, ranging from the familiar “wall of sound” type fuzz on one side to splatty, gated textures on the other.
One of my favorite tones in the pedal is achieved with the After control fully cranked and the Before knob set to about 9 o’clock. With the other controls set to taste—I’ll get to those in a minute—I had a fantastic gated overdrive tone and one of those “this is the sound in my head” moments.
The Carcosa also features a Hi-Cut control that gives you a full range of high-frequency detail options. I tend to prefer brighter sounds, but found myself with this knob set differently based on where the Before and After knobs landed.
Bottom line: the dynamic interplay of these three controls allows for plenty of nuance, if that’s your thing.
The Carcosa also features a volume control marked Output and a toggle switch labeled Demhe and Hali that acts as a bass boost and cut. DOD suggests you employ this based on how dirty your amp is—the Carcosa plays nicely into both clean and overdriven platforms—but I found this a nice way to either add fullness to the thinner, raspier sounds available with the bias control up, or to increase the clarity when it’s backed off and the fuzz is raging.
[For reference—and to bring us full circle—Carcosa sits on the shore of a misty lake called Hali. Demhe, also a lake, is less explored in fiction, but acts as a mirror-image to Hali.]
What we like:
Where to begin? Oh, I dunno—how about the price? A hundred bucks?! Are you kidding me?! A hundred bucks?!! In a world full of overpriced fuzz pedals, these lunatics at DOD are seriously rolling out a certifiably kickass pedal for a hundred bucks??! Somebody pinch me. This is too good to be true.
Look, I know some of the more incredulous among you will soon realize that the Carcosa is a PGS exclusive pedal and quickly assume that there’s no way a reviewer for Tone Report—what, with TRW being part of PGS family and all—would say anything but how awesome it is. But in this case, you’d be wrong. I genuinely dig this pedal and can’t wait to plant one on my board. Just wanted to address that before we close this thing out.