I have been looking for the "right" fuzz for me for a while. I've bought a few, and found that while some might check some boxes - I hadn't found one yet that felt comprehensive enough to zip-tie to my Holleyboard pedalboard. The more I listened and tried fuzzes, I started to see just how complex and how much variation exists within a fuzz pedal.
I live in South Jersey and had seen tons of YouTube videos of Ryan and his various creations - all sounded great. I was pretty sure that the Grey Stache or the 420 Fuzz would fit the bill, but I really had to try them to know. I checked for the closest dealer on the Fuzzrocious site, and although I have heard that Russo's in Asbury Park is a ridiculously great store, it's a bit of a hike. Also, as a guy that is approaching 50, it kind of sucks going into a guitar store - generally, I've found that I get treated as though I'm a guy going through a mid-life crisis, wanting to prove my virility by learning how to play some Bachman Turner Overdrive, rather than someone that has 30+ years of experience playing the instrument. Don't get me wrong, I laugh my ass off at Rigs of Dad, but there's a point where it bugs me.
So, I sent Ryan an email, and the response was quick. I live about 10 minutes from the Fuzzrocious HQ (I actually work in Mt. Laurel, NJ). He offered that they open up the shop/home for players to try out their pedals for 30 min shifts. Perfect.
I was extremely intimidated going to meet this guy that I had only seen in YouTube clips, but Ryan couldn't have been nicer and made me feel comfortable. As a bonus, I was able to bring my own guitar along to really know how this would sound. It was great to talk about how the drummer from Mutoid Man is on the mend, and that we both knew Blake from The Tone Mob podcast, what it's really like at NAMM... Jesus, this is getting long, sorry... to the review.
I hadn't even considered the Heliotropic, truthfully. The description that it's intended for bass and meant to emulate a specific Failure tone... after about 2 minutes, I quickly realized, this pedal has a TON of flexibility and much more to offer than the descriptions I had read across the internet. The pregain, sustain and tone knobs really unlock an amazing array of sounds. I did try the Grey Stache (awesome), 420 (more gated than I was expecting, had to really provide that guy with some volume), Playing Mantis (super fun, but not quite what I was looking for) - but the Heliotropic won out for me, easily. One of the things I really like about the Heliotropic is how well it takes a gain pedal in front of it in the signal chain.
Also, as a bonus... I got to check out the Afterlife and that pedal is freakin' awesome. I've always dug the Caroline Guitar Company's Meteor, and the Afterlife's momentary does a similar oscillation that sounds amazing.
Thanks again for the time, Ryan - very happy with the pedal and to have had the chance to meet you!
- my pedalboard