Review: Nebula ‘Transmissions From Mothership Earth’

When I wax nostalgic for my late 90s stoner rock ‘big bang’, I always focus on Monster Magnet and Corrosion of Conformity as my gateway bands. However, sometime in 1999, when I was living in Seattle, I was out drinking at my local watering hole, when a friend of mine, the former bassist for Seattle indie/garage rock legends Love as Laughter, who, at the time were signed to Sub Pop, slipped me To The Center from a band called Nebula. ‘Here man, I think you’ll dig this. It’s heavy, Sabbath-y, spacey, and there’s a Stooges cover on here featuring Mark Arm of Mudhoney, and these dudes used to be in Fu Manchu.’ With that sentence, I was intrigued, and on the first listen I was sold.

Nebula 'Transmissions From Mothership Earth'

To The Center became another cornerstone for me when I refer to my period of ‘re-discovering the riff’. I’d been on a garage rock/punk kick when I suddenly started veering back to Sabbath-inspired riffery, and Nebula were welcomed with open arms. Eddie Glass’s massive, fuzzy riffs, searing, spaced-out, 70’s- throwback-leads, drugged-up lyrics, and laid-back southern California vocal delivery, coupled with co-founding member Ruben Romano’s Bill Ward meets Mitch Mitchell thud instantly hit that aural sweet spot for me.

I’ve followed them ever since, even traveling to see them play live. When the band went on hiatus for a decade following 2009’s Heavy Psych, I often wondered whatever happened to Eddie Glass, who I’d always considered a legitimate, real-life rock star and guitar hero, as well as his longtime partner-in-crime, bassist Tom Davies. Thankfully, for any fan of underground, heavy rock & roll, Glass, and Davies re-ignited Nebula, recruiting drummer Mike Amster, and made their long-awaited return with2019’s killer Holy Shit.

Not surprisingly, as it had been a decade, Nebula explored some different sounds and tones on Holy Shit, Man’s Best Friend and Witching Hour instantly come to mind, and while it took my ears a second to re-adjust, I pretty quickly had this album on the same pedestal as the rest of their discography.

So, after their triumphant return, followed by the 2020 covid/climate/political shit-show and ensuing two years, I was curious what direction Glass and Davies would take Nebula. Would we continue with the slightly-cleaner-tone-than-fuzz, ’70s rock of Holy Shit or would they throw it back to the loose, psychedelic, riff-rock of their earlier records? Well, as always, Nebula never makes the same record twice because Transmission From Mothership Earth, their second in a row now on Heavy Psych Sounds, is by far their weirdest, fuzziest, most out-there release in their long, storied career.

Recorded out at Davies house in the vast Mojave Desert, Transmission From Mothership Earth sounds exactly like its title. If humans were going to launch a stoner/desert rock album into the cosmos for extraterrestrial life to hear, Transmission From Mothership Earth would be that record. Dripping in fuzzed-out, trippy, psychedelic, spacey, fucked-up effects, huge riffs, squalling leads, massive low end, and out-there drugged-up lyrics from the second the needle hits the wax, Glass’s riffs literally sound like their trapped in a gravitational time warp.

Opening with Highwired, first heard on Live In The Mojave Desert: Volume 2, sounds like the song was shot through a space vortex. Glass‘s guitars are WAY fuzzier, as in trapped-in-a-time-warp fuzz, as is Davies rumble, and Amster‘s thud, as swirls of spacey effects layer the song. A slightly cleaner tone introduces the title track, Transmission From Mothership Earth, a multi-layered sonic journey, Nebula seamlessly weaving various movements throughout, so by the time Glass hits the pedal, with the huge riff post bridge melodic breakdown, we’re back in riff-fuzz-city.

Dripping in fuzzed-out, trippy, psychedelic, spacey, fucked-up effects, huge riffs, squalling leads, massive low end, and out-there drugged-up lyrics…

Wilted Flowers, currently my favorite track on the album, begins with Glass’s lost-in-space vocals, as he croons from another galaxy before the absolutely crushing, fuzzed-out, yet total ear-worm main riff drops on the listener. Despite the song’s heft, it’s as catchy as anything Glass has written, and it’s massive, time-portal-riffs are accented by layers of effects, Davies ‘ooooo’s’ and tractor-beam-pull low end.

We’re still trapped in the anti-gravity field with the massive fuzz of Melt Your Head, lava-flow thick guitar and bass move along as Glass‘s tripped-out vocals echo with layers of fuzz and lead squalls. Literally a sound wall of spaced-out Nebula cosmic rifffery.

Weirdness is to be found too, as with the rockin’, Amster-propelled late ’60s heavy psych of Warzone Speedwulf, initially the most ‘straightforward’ song on the album, before Nebula veer off into the next dimension around the midway point and ride that rocket to the furthest depths of space fuzz psychedelic riffery.

Not surprisingly, we get some more drug lyrics with the mega-spacey I Got So High featuring Davies on vocals and it goes without saying, it features the patented Nebula twists and turns with Glass’s shredding fuzzed-up riffing. Existential Blues is another glacier-moving statement to distorted fuzzed-out riffs as Nebula lean into exploring this side of their sound to the fullest, but both Glass and Davies really let it all hang out here, while Amster sits in the pocket allowing the other two musicians to pilot the ship.

The Four Horseman closes the record with a trippy, desert-apocalyptic, spaghetti-western vibe, similar in feel to Holy Shit’s Fistful Of Pills, however, lest you think Glass, Davies and Amster were going to take it easy and trip out on this last track, Nebula can’t resist unleashing one more wave of riffs before Glass brings it down, and asks the listener to ‘ride the waves of the sun, close your eyes and drifty away’ as the transmission from the mothership ends.

I took Nebula for granted by the mid ‘00s. They consistently put out killer, genre-defining records, and toured their asses off. I saw them no less than six times over the course of almost a decade. Then, when they went on hiatus, it came abundantly clear what an essential band they are. Glass himself must be considered a figure head for his work in Nebula, as well as Fu Manchu, to say nothing of his status as one of the genre’s total riff lords, and wizard-level shredders.

Nebula, in this their second incarnation, have now made back-to-back stellar records, both completely different, while showcasing the bands complete grasp of the stoner and desert rock genre.

Label: Heavy Psych Sounds
Band Links: Facebook | Instagram

Scribed by: Martin Williams