Price paid: $ 150
Purchased from: Prymaxe Vintage
Ease of Use: Black Arts Toneworks may be relatively unheard of by some and raved on about by others. Black Arts Toneworks are a fairly new boutique effects pedal company that seem to so far really specialise in fuzz based effects pedals. They have their most popular and widely spread pedal the Pharaoh and then of course the LSTR and more recently the Sarcophagus which combines the Pharaoh and the LSTR into the one pedal. On top of making great, versatile sounding pedals they also look awesome with their unique Egyptian themed designs. All you need to do is have a look at the Pharaoh for one example, after a quick glance at the gold and black version of the Pharaoh you immediately find yourself looking for your credit card or at least I did anyway.
However there is one other pedal that Black Arts Toneworks make that won me over in the end, enter the Black Forest. The Black Forest is a overdrive/fuzz based effects pedal that can function as a light 60's overdrive, a treble/bass boost all the way to a more saturated fuzz sound that also feels of the same 60's era. The pedal is based heavily on the old Coloursound Overdriver circuit so it functions in a similar way but with a few differences. // 10
Sound: So what are these differences? First of all control. There are quite a few parameters you can control as opposed to the simple volume, gain and tone that is so typically found on most pedals. You have the standard volume and fuzz dials but with an additional separate low and high dial so you can really sculpt your tone. Lastly you have a 6 way tone shaping dial called depth. This seems to thin out or fatten up your sound dramatically from one notch to the next and changes the gain structure slightly giving you a little more gain or a little less depending on where it is set.
What I found really great about this pedal was that all dials are completely usable from 7 o clock through to 5 o clock. The unity volume on the pedal depending on where the fuzz dial is set comes in around 9 o clock, so you'll find this pedal gets loud, really loud. The low and high dials were also very function-able in that there was a lot of use in their sweep. These two dials are essentially bass and treble. You could set the pedal so that it was extremely dark and muddy or you could find yourself a nice middle ground with the mid range frequency a little more present or you can make it ear piercing bright. The fuzz dial was also great in controlling how much gain you wanted to add to your sound. It ranged from acting like a treble boost with the gain set very low through to a nice warm slightly Vintage Overdrive which was great for some Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin and then further again a full on fuzz sound that feels more like a 60's era fuzz.
I was able to easily dial in some very usable and enjoyable sounds with this pedal. In fact I use this to play some of Jimi Hendrix' songs quite often. I also found myself lowering the fuzz dial and using this as a straight up Overdrive pedal for other styles of music. The other notable aspect of the pedal was that it cleaned up very nicely when used in conjunction with the guitar's volume control. I tested this particular pedal through a Squier Classic Vibe 60's Stratocaster into a Bugera V22 all tube amplifier. You can only imagine how much better it would sound through the shimmering cleans of a Fender Deluxe or even coupled with a Gibson Les Paul or a Fender Telecaster but even on this basic benchmark it produced some excellent sounds, it truly is a very versatile pedal that will fit many roles on your pedal board. // 9
Reliability & Durability: The finish on this pedal is truly spectacular. It is one of the nicest pedals I have ever seen. The way it has been designed to look is as if you are in a thick forest at night looking up at the stars. It is a little dark in most photographs so it's likely you won't see that level of detail but if you ever get your hands on one you will see this intricate work immediately. The pedal is a little larger then most standard enclosures so it will occupy a little more room on your pedal board. It takes a 9 volt battery or standard centre negative 9 volt power supply. Last but not least the pedal features true bypass switching. The pedal is very sturdy and could easily handle any gig that was thrown its way, however I don't know how long that beautiful finish would last being bashed around on a dark stage or if drinks are possibly being spilled on it if you are in a pub gib or something similar. I can see the pedal lasting a long time just not that nice finish it comes with. // 8
Overall Impression: This pedal is truly one of the finer pedals in the boutique pedal market and should be given serious consideration if you are looking for Vintage overdrive/fuzz sounds. I can't really compare it to a real Coloursound Overdrive but I can attest to the pedal definitely covering the tonal ground it claims to. Black Arts Toneworks have really delivered a fine pedal. You can find these pedals at Pro Guitar Shop or Prymaxe Vintage. // 10