Nebula, Holy Shit: Yeah, That About Covers It

nebula holy shit

If nothing else, they gave it the right name. Nebula‘s reunion and new album, their sixth and first for Heavy Psych Sounds, have been a genuine surprise. Their legacy has remained intact over the decade since they released the Heavy Psych (review here) LP in 2009 on Tee Pee Records, growing by social media word of mouth to a new generation of listeners — maybe not as much as if they were touring the whole time, but still — and their unexpected comeback born on stage and reissues of their past work would seem to culminate in Holy Shit, a new full-length of nine songs and 43 minutes that is both a shock and an inevitability. Of course Nebula were going to do another record. Once the reunion happened, another record was bound to follow — shit, even Eyehategod put out an album eventually — the real question was whether or not it would sound like Nebula.

The Los Angeles outfit led by guitarist/vocalist Eddie Glass always had a looser sound than many of their contemporaries. Looser than Fu Manchu from whom they split off originally, looser than Kyuss/Queens of the Stone AgeMonster Magnet, or any number of Euro bands of the era one might want to namedrop. They took their Stooges influence that much more to heart, and it manifest in their sound in a real sense of danger that the whole thing would come apart, and then they took it further, and when it fell apart, they let it. It was a truer vision of stoner rock than most other purveyors of heavy riffs could conjure, and Holy Shit — recorded with the current lineup of Glass, bassist/backing vocalist Tom Davies and drummer Mike Amster (also AbramsBlaak Heat) with Matt Lynch of Snail at the helm of Mysterious Mammal Studios — plays out like a revival for that sensibility. The initial thrust of “Man’s Best Friend” feels like a callout to The Atomic Bitchwax, but it crashes at the halfway point to layered wah-solos and only makes its way into lyrics in its last minute, letting the audience know immediately to toss expectation out the airlock. Nebula are back.

“Messiah” follows and runs a thread of backing effects behind denser fuzz and repeated lines before turning to more of a shuffle, slowing again and then taking off in stoner-punk fashion en route to a fade and the bass and effects at the beginning of “It’s All Over,” which emphasizes that drift in its verse and digs in more for the title-line hook and then gets more brash in a freakout ahead of the final chorus. The subsequent “Witching Hour” would seem to play out in more straightforward fashion, but that might just be Stockholm syndrome to Nebula‘s quick turns and fuzz-drenched rhythmical nuance as the song resolves in a dramatic course of crashes and a plotted lead then shifts back into the central riff to end and bring about the 1:48 centerpiece “Fistful of Pills,” a Western jangle and chorus chant clearly intended as an interlude or otherwise just a departure from the proceedings thus far. It’s telling that the first four cuts on Holy Shit are all within the four-to-five-minute range and nothing on side B save for the penultimate “Let’s Get Lost” follows that pattern.

nebula

It’s not just about putting the rock songs up front, since GlassDavies and Amster get plenty weird in the opening salvo, but the palette would seem to expand nonetheless in the languid “Tomorrow Never Comes,” which is one of two songs over seven minutes long in kind with closer “The Cry of a Tortured World.” Between them, “Gates of Eden” reimagines sunshine psychedelia as motorcycle werewolves ravaging some desert town, and “Let’s Get Lost” resounds like a Black Flag moral judgment with Glass‘ rough vocal in an addled preach atop a bounding groove — again loose, again dangerous. He drawls over a highlight solo in the ultimate show of fuckall, and the song seems to fade out as the jam was coming to a natural conclusion anyway, their point well made in the 4:41 run that would seem to be the willful opposite of “Messiah” early — angel and devil perched on opposite shoulders, and so on. I’m not sure who ultimately wins that argument, if anyone.

Nebula‘s ability to make plotted parts sound like off-the-cuff exercises in vibe runs rampant throughout Holy Shit, and that’s much to the credit of the band itself as well as to Lynch as the producer capturing it. The dynamic between Davies and Glass is long-established — the bassist joined in 2003, following the release of Atomic Ritual — but Amster is new in the lineup as of this revitalization, which began in 2017, and one of the questions coming into the album was how his style would mesh with the guitar and bass. One can hear on “The Cry of a Tortured World” as the band sort of desert-dooms out in the chorus and pits acoustics and electric guitars against each other in the verses that the drums are very much the responsible party in terms of holding it together. The key though is to not have that conflict with the strings, and it doesn’t. Amster is a technique drummer, adaptable to different styles, but he balances precision and swing well in this material and Nebula only sounds like Nebula as a result.

In the meantime, Glass and Davies seem to be that much freer to explore effects, noisemaking and melodies as they will. It’s the stuff of classic power trios, so again, very much in Nebula‘s wheelhouse. I didn’t see another Nebula record coming. I’ll admit that. Amid years of rumors of rough addiction and fallouts and whatever else, I just didn’t think Nebula would happen again, but the fact of the matter is they were one of the most essential bands to shape what’s now considered heavy and/or desert rock, and their influence has spread not only over international borders, but over another generation of listeners who’ve emerged since they’ve been gone. They were a special band and they remain one. Whatever Holy Shit might lead to, if they do another record or just tour forever, or break up, or who knows, the fact that it exists only speaks to the band’s utter unpredictability, which has always been one of their greatest assets. You never knew what was coming from Nebula. You still don’t. That’s why it’s fun.

Nebula, “Man’s Best Friend” official video

Nebula, Holy Shit (2019)

Nebula on Thee Facebooks

Nebula on Instagram

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp

Heavy Psych Sounds website

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7 Responses to “Nebula, Holy Shit: Yeah, That About Covers It”

  1. jose humberto says:

    About to arrive to my house , DHL scan says ill have it today!!!

    yesssss!

  2. jose humberto says:

    Those lazy DHL guys ! the courier didnt show up , now I have to wait untill monday or tuesday , to bad, weekend is when I can enjoy it .

    At least will arrive with the Baroness album , I mean if delivery doesnt have any other issue

    :(

  3. Dave says:

    Great album, not what I was expecting. They take that ‘classic’ Nebula sound and really expand on it, especially in the vocal department. Starting around Charged, Eddie Glass kind of got into that speak/sing style, kind of talking the lyrics without much melody that seemed a little lazy at times. This new album has some really great vocal melodies and was surprising for me to hear.

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