Most fuzz pedal manufacturers can nail the vintage sound of the ‘60’s and ’70’s if they use the right increasingly rare high-quality components and simple circuit designs. Unfortunately, many of these pedals are pretty ponies of the one-trick variety: an expensive addition to your board that only serves to produce one specific sound. Enter the Deep Trip Hellbender – a pedal that combines a faithful throwback sound with enough tonal versatility to serve as your primary dirt box. Moreover, the Hellbender features gorgeous aesthetics and rock-solid construction to boot – what’s not to love?
The Hellbender is modeled after the legendary Coloursound MK II ToneBender, fuzz from the ‘60’s made famous by obscure British musicians like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Jeff Beck. The sound is instantly recognizable: warm and fuzzy with a distinct vintage vibe. The Deep Trip Hellbender is a boutique recreation of the germanium goodness that produced these legendary tones, but with important twists.
The Hellbender has three knobs: volume, mood, and fuzz. The volume and fuzz knobs are self-explanatory but effective throughout the spectrum. Most fuzz pedals sound great with the gain cranked, and the Deep Trip is no exception. However, the Hellbender produces a warm and usable overdrive with the gain rolled back. You can go from big sideburns to skinny ties with the twist of a knob.
The mood knob controls the amount of power being fed to the pedal. As the knob is turned counter-clockwise, the pedal receives fewer volts, yielding a sputtering, lo-fi, dying battery sound (in all the right ways). Turn the mood knob clockwise and the attack is sharpened – no more muddy fuzz tone, palm-muting becomes articulated.
Further enhancing the Hellbender’s versatility, the voice toggle switch allows you to move between a treble-boost, bass-boost or classic fuzz settings. I found the treble boost snarling and nasty – perfect with the gain rolled back and pushing an overdriven tube amp. The bass boost fattened up my Tele’s single coils and the classic fuzz yielded everything from Smashing Pumpkins muffiness to the famous Tonebender sound.
Quite simply, if you can find an analog pedal that nails a classic vintage fuzz tone while allowing you to dial up a huge variety of modern settings from light overdrive to healthy crunch to all-out gain warfare – buy it. For every guitarist in search of grit, grain, dirt, and sludge, the Hellbender is heaven sent. – Ed Gross