Review Summary: Older, grittier, heavier and more no-nonsense.
The album title is quite apt: I think that’s the two words most stoner rock fans said, upon learning that Nebula, one of the genre’s lesser known yet consistent and prolific group has finally made their return. Led by former Fu Manchu guitarist Eddie Glass, the Los Angeles-based trio started out very much in the same vain as their contemporaries. Heavy, buzzing guitars with dry, thick riffs, psychedelic breakdowns, a mixture of blues-like mid-tempo accords with faster punkish rhythms. The years went on, and Nebula kept on chugging with more varied songwriting and other influences mixing into their desert rock roots, before they finally came to a halt with 2009’s short but excellent Heavy Psych.
Exhausted by the continuous cycle of recording and touring, Glass put Nebula on hold for seven years, until 2017 and right now after more than a decade, the fans received their new collection of drugged up, crazy, hazy riffs. That would be more than enough for most fans, but with "Holy Sh*t" a band not only using their old tricks but also packing new surprises on the way as well.
Nebula’s music while groovy and heavy on its own, always had a relaxed charm to it very much like Fu Manchu. You could easily identify it and now what to expect, but "Holy Sh*t" also shows a much starker, different side of Nebula. The opening track “Man’s Best Friend” already surprised me with its tight, march-like riffs and cleaner guitar tone, with the mid-paced galloping accords and shouty vocals making a song almost like a cross between classic heavy metal and stoner rock. The tone and feel is more reminiscent of bands like Orange Goblin, which also like to interject the desert rock aesthetics with the flair and fury of NWOBHM. Of course, the spacey, airy middle section instantly reminds that no, we’re not listening to a different band, just the same one with some changes.
In fact one of the major positive things throughout Holy Sh*t, is Nebula’s conscious efforts to make every songs unique sounding and different form the other. “Messiah” with its slow, plodding and super-athmospheric space grunge is a total 180-change compared to the opener with lingering, screaming vocals then it transitions into the psychedelic fuzz and doom of “It’s All Over”. The switches between the clean/acoustic guitar parts and the distorted ones are sharper than ever, thanks to the excellent production which channels all the stylistic changes with maximum fluidity and efficiency.
“Witching Hour” with its twisted, evil riffs brings out the old-school, Black Sabbath-vibes better than Electric Wizard entire last record (right down to the Ozzy-like vocals) while the short but sweet “Fistful of Pills” combines Eastern guitar licks with gang vocals, sounding like a spin on Ennio Morricone’s work. The second half of the album is much closer to Nebula’s older work with cool and laid-back pschy-rock with grooves, flying solos and expanding soundscapes. The tumultuous built-up of “Tomorrow Never Comes” or the pure jam heaven of the last track “The Cry Of A Tortured World” are sure to satisfy every dedicated fan of the genre.
Before you ask, no "Holy Sh*t" does not reinvent the wheel, but you know what? I don't need that, because this wheel works well. It has enough modifications to be energetic, exciting and rocking hard. More wheels like this Nebula, please.