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Review: Rampage, Menace, Spitting Out Fire

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So let me give you the backdrop here. One of the bands I play in is a Nashville group called Bucktown Kickback. There are a cast of musicians that play and  tour with the group and over the years, I have gotten to know many of them. One, in particular, is a guitarist from Ann Arbor Michigan named Alex Anest. I play a gig with him, maybe… once every year or two and over time, I have seen him play through several unique looking guitar pedals. I finally asked him where all these cool pedals came from and he deadpanned “Jay, I make pedals.”

That was 5 years ago.

More recently, I played a two night stint with the group and Alex happened to be the guitarist for the set of shows. He was playing this pretty interesting and large fuzz pedal at the time and I asked him if I could borrow it to mess around with it. He said that was fine and that I could hang on to it for a bit.

Well, it turned out to be a really great and unique pedal and so I decided to write about it. And get this, it’s called the “Rampage Menace Spitting Out Fire”. Yes, that whole phrase is the name of the pedal. I will explain the name, but first you should know that Alex actually has a proper company called Phoenix Custom Electronics and he has made over 500 pedals, by hand. Dude is also a KILLER guitarist, but that is another story altogether.

The “Rampage” is actually three different pedals all combined into one case. It is a combination of the Ranger, the Lady Stardust and a fixed wah pedal.

The Ranger is a boost pedal. The Lady Stardust is a fuzz pedal. The fixed wah portion of the pedal is, as you might expect, like a wah-wah pedal that you don’t crank with your foot. You instead set it at the particular treble frequency you like and leave it there.

What’s In A Name
The meaning behind the name of this unique guitar pedal, while somewhat indirect, is interesting nonetheless. It was first commissioned by a gentleman in Japan who had previously purchased a Lady Stardust fuzz pedal. Apparently, the Lady Stardust is based on the circuitry and sound of the Vox Tone Bender made famous by Mick Ronson (of David Bowie fame among others things) and because of this tonal connection to David Bowie’s sound this gentleman requested that the name of the pedal should be “The Rampage Menace Spitting Out Fire”. The reason for this name is because, in Japanese, the phonetic sounds in “David Bowie” (i.e. Day-Vid-Bow-Eee) translate loosely to  “Rampage, Menace, Spitting Out Fire”. I have confirmed this and apparently it is more like Dah-Beed Boh-Eee.

Whatever you want to call it, this elegant monstrosity – a single pedal with the functionality of three different pedals – is completely rad. I love it. It’s totally analog and ballsy!

The Inner Pedals
As noted above the pedal has three sections: A boost control, a fuzz control and a fixed wah control. Check out the video below for more pedal details and a demo. Also, big thanks to PocketLabworks for sending a copy of PocketAmp (for iPhone) which was the amp modeler I ran the pedal through during the demo. PocketAmp (coupled with the iRig dongle) had a super clean and bright modeled guitar tone. For that reason, I thought it would be a good choice for demoing the “Rampage”.

Pros

  • The pedal is solidly made. Few if any plastic parts (dials of course are plastic).
  • Each section has a distinct LED.
  • Stylish silver sparkle case and lightning bolt/eponymous Japanese character decals are cool.
  • Button spacing is close enough to allow clicking all on at once yet far enough apart to allow easy individual selection.
  • Tone is great. The fuzz can be massive or or subtle. Boost really cuts through.

Cons

  • There are a multitude of  input/output jacks on the back. It looks like you might be able to feed each independent effect out to other effects and back in. This  could be a tad daunting for a noob.
  • Interestingly, the main input is on the right and the main output is on the left which seems backward to me. Plus the other secondary ins and outs are not marked.
  • Complex.

Bottom Line
This pedal is gonna cost you and it will be totally worth it! It’s $450 as a custom order, but this makes sense because you are actually getting three pedals in one. Plus you get a pedal like no other (or almost like no other). While the “Rampage” is complex and you may need to study it a bit to realize its full potential, it is usable by a novice player too. In any event, if you are a guitar player itching for something unique to tailor your tone, this pedal might do the trick.

More info at http://phoenixcustomelectronics.com (don’t put www in front of the URL as it only seems to resolve correctly without www)

Contact: anestmusic@gmail.com for orders

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