It’s fun and surprisingly easy to compare bands from the Palm Desert scene with the Pacific Northwest’s grunge comeuppance: Kyuss is Melvins, wise godfathers revered by young pups who followed in their footsteps. Queens of the Stone Age and Nirvana became the faces of their respective niches by embracing pop songcraft; meanwhile Hole and Eagles of Death Metal both made great albums that were often overshadowed by incestuous relationships with their multi-platinum peers and off-the-stage controversies.
By the same criteria, Nebula is definitely the So Cal stoner Mudhoney. Both bands date back to the earliest days of their respective scenes, have huge discographies that lack any real mainstream breakthroughs, but the bands maintain sizable cult followings nonetheless. They were even Sub Pop labelmates briefly in the early aughts.
The similarities end, because Mark Arm has continuously fronted Mudhoney, whereas Eddie Glass put Nebula on hiatus for nearly a decade. You wouldn’t know it when listening to Holy Shit, the band’s release since 2009’s Heavy Psych; however, the album picks up where the band left off with an explosive sense of urgency.
A lot of Nebula’s peers embrace the space, but Holy Shit is not psychedelic slop. It’s a lot more grounded and organic. To the point, it’s got riffs.
“Messiah” and “Tomorrow Never Comes” are hefty Sabbathian odes to all things Iommi, which is a requisite for this sort of thing. However most of the record—most notably the garage stomp of “Witching Hour,” the lackadaisical, thrashed-out fuzz of “Man’s Best Friend,” the Spaghetti Westernized “Fistful of Pills”—harken back to Motor City proto-punkers such as MC5 with a reliance on amped-up, freaked-out, loud-as-fuck, super-distorted blues.
Throw in palpable hints of psychedelia (evidently you can take the band out of the desert, but you can’t take the desert out of the band), and Holy Shit is like a long-lost Blue Cheer album, only heavier, more consistent, and even catchy to boot.
That phrase about not knowing what you got until it’s gone didn’t apply to Nebula, since it ultimately took the band’s reemergence to show how badly they were needed. There aren’t many bands that can make the most consistent album of their career two decades down the line, but Nebula pull it off.