There is an obvious trend in the world of pedals at the moment. I say "at the moment" but in actual fact I mean "in the last five years or so" and that trend is, everything is getting smaller. Much smaller. The old giants have become the modern miniatures. From Big Muffs to Tube Screamers, everything is getting smaller, lighter and generally easy to fit on a board with another 100 or so of your favourite scaled down pedals.
You know the problem with bandwagons though don't you? Eventually the wheels fall off.
Thats why we've got all the time in the world for people like Nathan Hilbish and his company Hilbish Design.
Based in Lynchburg, Virginia, Hilbish don't do small. What they do do however is make pedals that tread their own path sonically, for players that also have no particular interest in following the latest trends. Which players are we talking about? How about Buzz Osborne. Yep, that Buzz Osborne of The Melvins fame. Oh so only one of the most influential rock guitarists of the last 35 or so years then. No biggie. As if not to rest on their laurels, Hilbish also make pedals for the band Red Fang which even if it was just those guys and King Buzzo on their own, would make one serious artist roster!
So why are these aforementioned giants of the industry, drawn to a small builder from Virginia?
Well the answer could be in the influence behind much of the Hilbish line. You see rather than shoot for the classic Marshall, Fender or Boogie sounds, these pedals go after a particular tone produced by big solid state amps of the 80's. Amps like the Sunn Beta Lead. Amps that helped spawn an entire genre of guitarists. Amps that both sludge and doom in equal measure. Hilbish Design actually go as far as reproducing the Beta Leads themselves, meaning they know exactly what they are doing when it comes to getting that distinctive sound from a pedal.
Take the King Buzzo signature Pessimiser. This huge, perfectly finished, green box of goodness sounds EXACTLY like those early Melvins records. Existing in a world somewhere between distortion and fuzz with a massive bottom end and a rasping treble response. Its both instantly different to what you are used to and highly addictive with it. The clean blend knob is perfect for balancing the craziness against clarity for lower tunings or even bass guitar.
The idea is pushed even further with our personal favourite, The Sol Invictus preamp pedal. This is literally the front end of a Sunn amp for your pedalboard, complete with the ability to run both channels at the same time, just like the original! In keeping with the theme, this purple punisher is huuuuuuge and the tones it can produce are even huuuuuuuuuger. Try running each channel into a separate amp, dust off your best doom riffs and wait for the incoming sonic apocalypse. Its that good. Seriously.
That being said, its not all 1980's solid state shenanigans. Buzz Osborne also has a signature compressor. Ha, you didn't see that coming did you? Yep, the amusingly named Compressimiser is as equally massive as the rest of the range and just as well finished in its signature red. Think of this compressor as the bigger brother ( quite literally ) to an MXR Dynacomp. To these ears it has more output and works perfectly going into a dirty amp or fuzz to squeeze out even more sustain.
If searing, spitting fuzzes are your thing then definitely check out the T-Fuzz. This simple two knob design is armed with switchable modes that can cover slightly more stable fuzz tones to spluttery madness and everything in between. With a slight octave up effect that always seems to be lurking in the background like an unwanted uncle at a sweet sixteenth, this is the perfect fuzz box for those Jack White-esque wailing and warbling leads. Oh and its predictably massive and beautiful, like everything else Hilbish make.
Finally, for all you deviant drone fans we have the third pedal in the King Buzzo Trilogy...The superbly named Deathimizer. This nasty nasty fuzz adds to the insanity with a two octave down effect that can be mixed in, to earth shattering effect. This pedal sounds exactly like how I imagine getting attacked by a bear must sound. It's also much smaller and will fit easily on your small board...Of course it's not and of course it won't. We love it.
To sum up our thoughts on Hilbish Design, Nathan has created a brand that is instantly recognisable in both their products and their ambitions. They'll never make a mini, transparent overdrive and the pedal world is an infinitely better place because of it.
Now get off that bandwagon and go and try one out!
See you soon.