I’ve never been a fan of the idea of genres – lumping things together by mere association, which only results in paltry comparisons and false equivalencies. Even things which serve the same basic purpose have their own individual identity, and it serves no one to categorize them so hamfistedly that one is seen only in comparison to the other.
Such is the case with distortion pedals. Real tone snobs will tell you that there’s no substitute for a cranked up tube head and that you shouldn’t waste your money. And to a certain extent, they may be right – most of the time. But I learned something while shooting out 68 distortion pedals this past year – to dismiss them all out of hand would be easy, because I think there are far more bad ones than good. While I wouldn’t put any of them above my favorite tube heads, however, there were a couple that smoked some lesser tube amps for waaaaay less money. Such is the case with the KHDK Dark Blood.
The Dark Blood pedal is the 3rd pedal from KHDK that I’ve tried that is among the best in class for its type. The others are the Ghoul Screamer OD which I reviewed last year and the Scuzz Box which is in our upcoming Ultimate Fuzz Pedal Shootout, both standout designs for what they do. There’s really not a whole lot to say about the Dark Blood in terms of a description – it’s a four-knob distortion pedal with a cool graphic and a (really good) built-in gate. To look at it wouldn’t show you anything out of the ordinary. But the hard work shows in the finely crafted distortion tones within.
For a basic comparison, going straight into the clean channel of my Revv Generator 120, the Dark Blood is most similar to a boosted 5150 flavor. It has a deeply satisfying crunch to it that sounds clear and aggressive all the way through its wide range of gain, which includes a handy Hi/Lo gain switch, This could be an absolutely transformative pedal if you have a single channel clean amp, or if the drive channel on your amp sucks. The Doom knob is the star here, taking you to tight modern prog metal on the left side of the dial, and swampy sludge to the right. It’s the pedal’s most powerful feature – use it with caution. The Treble knob also has a ton of range, although I found that to be less useful just because it can get pretty brash too much past noon.
One thing that I love about the pedal is the built-in gate. Not only does this take a whole pedal off your board, it’s very well designed with the modern tight metal riffer in mind. It’s a very fast and choppy gate if you want it to be, and I’ve had whole dedicated expensive gate pedals that don’t do what I want them to as much as this one little knob.
So the KHDK Dark Blood isn’t just a distortion pedal – it’s a great sounding distortion pedal that doesn’t need to be boosted, with a killer built-in gate, and a massive range of tones for such a little box. Pick one up here or at your local music store, if you want your blood to be dark, too….