Haunted Labs Witch Hammer Overdrive
By Chris Loeffler |
Haunted Labs Witch Hammer Overdrive
Epic doom in a box?
by Chris Loeffler
Another week, another boutique overdrive. I first encountered Haunted Labs in early 2018, taking notice of their unique, horror-themed graphics and product names. I confess I quickly mentally filed them as a metal/doom focused brand. It is said you should never judge a book by it’s cover (a rule I’d like to believe I generally follow), but the Haunted Labs Witch Hammer caught me entirely by surprise.
The Haunted Labs Witch Hammer is a virtually transparent overdrive with standard Drive, Tone, and Volume controls, true-bypass switching, and is powered by a standard, Boss-style center negative 9v power supply.
What You Need to Know
Given the dark-themed art and name, I was expecting a doom monster, something like the deep, stonery overdriven power section of a Sunn amp. The audience and messaging clearly leans toward the heavy side, so I was surprised to find an incredibly flexible, low-to-mid gain overdrive boost that was uncolored; offering anything from tone sweetening to light crunch to the beginning of chunky thrust depending on where the Drive knob is set.
My experience, confirmed by a conversation with Chris Cozort (owner and designer of Haunted Labs), is that the Witch Hammer isn’t necessarily a pedal meant to create the metal/doom sound on its own; it is for heavy players who already have their basic sound and want to enhance it. That was the “ah-ha” moment for me.
Don’t mishear me; the pedal gets heavy and pulls off tight, warm-but-modern ripping distortion at the max point of the Drive knob, but so much of the range of the pedal is in the light and mid gain levels that I found it to be a top-notch boost and overdrive for jazz, blues, and rock tones as well. The Witch Hammer plays well with both single coils and humbuckers and retains their character for whatever is further downstream.
The gain structure of the Witch Hammer is relatively open for the first half of the knob’s sweep, with gentle, tube-like compression being introduced in the second half of the knob. The drive never quite hits the focused, liquidly lead tones of a high-gain pedal, but that’s where pushing your preamp comes into play. There is no perceived gain nor breakup in the lowest part of the Drive control.
The Tone control seems to follow the standard passive-filter model of the average overdrive pedal, but the highs are airier and there’s significantly more low-end retention. I wouldn’t describe either ends of the spectrum as being exaggerated; it’s more that they are significantly more retained than most overdrive pedals that push the frequency spectrum towards the mids.
There is more than enough volume on tap with the Witch Hammer to punish all but the cleanest of preamps. Unity gain is somewhere in the middle of the range, with plenty of dBs left to throw at your amp in the latter half of the Volume sweep.
More than anything, the Haunted Labs Witch Hammer sounds like the amp it is in front of, but “more”. Into a clean amp, the gainin the middle third of the Drive sweep nails the “just breaking up” sound without altering the color of the amp’s tone. The overdrive character is vintage cranked Fender in how it breaks up, but much more open and even across the frequencies. In the last third of the Drive sweep, things tighten up and start to lean toward Bluesbreaker-style focus and crunch with slightly less mid-spike, a fatter bottom, and punchier treble.
The art and name might disqualify the Witch Hammer from P&W boards.
I walked into the Haunted Labs Witch Hammer expecting epic doom-in-a-box, and instead discovered a tool designed not only to compliment an existing heavy rig but also an amazingly under-the-radar overdrive that is top-of-the-heap when compared to the overdrive du jour for Blues and Rock players. Amp-like, sugary, and crunchy, there are a lot of tones to pull from the Witch Hammer depending on your signal chain and musical tastes, and the one thing they all have in common is they sound like more of what you already love about your signal chain. -HC
Buy Haunted Labs Witch Hammer Overdrive on Reverb ($169.00 Street)
Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer.