It’s hard to quantify what makes a distortion or fuzz great. What is one person’s gold is another person’s garbage, so when reviewing a fuzz or distortion one has to go off of common or classic circuits, relating them to the gear being reviewed. When asking Roy Zichri of Israeli pedal outfit Greenhouse FX what his Sludgehammer Fuzz is based off of, he gives me a wry grin and tells me “It’s completely original.” Sonically, it can be compared to many different distortions, since behind its knobs it holds its own against many much more expensive boutique fuzzes that try too hard to be one thing or another. While its name may dissuade some classic rock or blues players, (it did for me in the beginning), when I got it in my hands I was decidedly impressed at the amount of tones I got out of this fuzz; more than I was ever able to get out of any Big Muff, DS-1, or Fuzz Face.
VERSATILITY REIGNS SUPREME
The thing that initially took me about this distortion was its versatility. It wasn’t versatile in a way that made it feel like it was having an identity crisis; it had a definite sound on every setting, but the sheer amount of tones I could coax out with a few knob twists and my guitar’s volume control was quite surprising. Setting the Tone at 12 o’clock (The tone controls on the Sludgehammer are active, making them much more powerful and almost surgical), and the Gain at a little above noon, I was able to cop a decent IC Big Muff sound, with a hint of vintage warmth in the low end. The closest relative that I can think of to the Sludgehammer is the Skreddy Lunar Module, which is voiced for more vintage fuzz tones, as opposed to the Sludgehammer which is voiced to be tighter and more modern. The active EQ plays into this role, taking a more surgical approach as oppose to the more “blanket” approach that passive tone controls take. The Body knob, which controls the low mids, is quite useful when paired with the normal tone control that controls the high end amount. The fuzz never gets splatty, and the Body gives the distortion nice low-mid muscle that helps the distortion cut through like a hot jack knife through the air.
DIFFERENT SHADES OF DISTORTION
Flipping the “Vintage” and “Modern” switch gives you access to two different voices. The “Modern” position has a more mid-forward tonality, with the low-mids being brightened and brought to center stage. At lower gain with the volume rolled back, this really lets the natural tone of the guitar shine through. At higher gain it can be a little too bright for my taste, with the almost bell-like mids being a little overbearing. On the “Vintage” mode, the mids are scooped out and the sound is much more Muff-like, with a huge bottom end and top-end air. Rolling back the volume knob of my guitar revealed a dark and thunderous overdrive that maintained its clarity, but not as well as on the “Modern” mode. Usually with distortions that have top end clarity, the pick attack is accentuated, which can sometimes be undesirable for some folks. Somehow, the Sludgehammer manages to stay uncongested at the top end, while accentuating the after-attack of the pick, which means you can still hear the “snap” of the pick, but not the “scrape.” Chords melded together in a gooey and buttery fashion with the guitar’s volume rolled back for rhythm work; even complex chords were enhanced by the extra harmonics. Bringing the guitar’s volume back up for lead work, a veritable sledgehammer of tone (no pun intended) rattled my windows and just about singed the hair off my eyebrows. The sound was clear, solid, and powerful; a true extension of my amp with just that little extra bit of magic provided by the little black box at my feet.
WHAT WE LIKE:
Clear, powerful, with solid low-mids and top-end clarity. Incredibly versatile, maintains clarity and depth with guitar volume knob rolled back.