Legendary Southern California stoner rock originators Nebula have had plenty of highs, coupled with a devastating low, since their reformation in 2018. After the release of 2019’s Holy Shit, Nebula reclaimed their rightful spot as not just one of the genre’s original practitioners, but they wound up showing the younger bands a thing or two, as founder Eddie Glass dipped into his bottomless well of riffs and conjured up his usual effortless, wizard-level, shred abilities.
Nebula toured hard on Holy Shit and after some rest, returned with another stellar offering in 2022’s Transmission From Mothership Earth which I thought so much of it found itself at number nine on my 2022 year-end top ten list. Things seemed to be going well for the band, until the horrible news that longtime bassist Tom Davies was diagnosed with Leukaemia, and despite a hard-fought battle, tragically passed away in September of this year.
It is under these conflicting circumstances that Nebula are releasing their new live album Livewired In Europe. Recorded in Sweden and The Netherlands during the band’s European tour in the Spring of 2023, just as Davies was undergoing treatment for his cancer, with touring bassist Ranch Sironi (one would imagine he may be a permanent member before too long?), as well as current secret-weapon, drummer Mike Amster (Mondo Generator). Livewired In Europe showcases the band’s ability to balance their next-level riffing with the feeling that they are going to go off the rails at any moment, seemingly held together by Amster’s underrated pummeling.
The set list is fairly comprehensive, with both Holy Shit and Transmission From Mothership Earth both well represented. Man’s Best Friend from the former opens the recording with Glass’ absolutely killer main riff and mind-bending shred serving as the perfect way to kick things off. Both Messiah and Let’s Get Lost show up towards the end of the record, with the middle breakdown of Messiah being of particular note, as Glass completely goes off with some cosmic lead work and Amster bashes the fuck out of his kit, keeping the low-end thumping along. Let’s Get Lost is also fuzzy, delightfully reckless and showcases some nice bass work from Sironi, helping Amster anchor it all down while Glass blasts off to the 4th dimension.
Livewired In Europe is a glorious, fuzzy, heavy, sometimes quasi-sloppy, testament to Nebula’s skill, power, tenacity, and consistency…
Both Highwired and Transmission From Mothership Earth demonstrate their ability to conjure fuzzed-out riffs that seem to warp the gravitational pull while album closer Warzone Speedwolf allows Nebula to close out as weird and psychedelic as possible. Aphrodite from 2009’s Heavy Psych is a bit of a surprise, but a totally welcome addition, as is Out Of Your Head from 2003’s Atomic Ritual. There’s a pretty rollicking version of setlist staple Giant from 2001’s Charged, that once again is nailed down by the heavy-hitting drumming, allowing Glass to shred to his heart’s content.
However, it’s killer to hear a completely ripping version of Down The (Mother Fuckin) Highway as well as Let It Burn both off Nebula’s debut of the same name, wherein Glass unleashes like a cosmic lava flow, but it’s the inclusion of deep-cut Full Throttle off their split with Lowrider, and on 2002’s Dos EPs, that makes this live album for me.
First, it’s one of Nebula’s best, and older, non-album tracks as Glass’ riff is one of the most rippin’ of his legendary career, but it’s his otherworldly lead work that truly melts the listener’s face off. His tone, and skill, are practically unmatched in this genre, it all seems so effortless for him, and in a live setting, it sounds completely awesome. Listening to him play is truly one of the highlights of stoner rock as a genre, and he shows all over this recording that he hasn’t lost one iota of his skill over the years.
Livewired In Europe is a glorious, fuzzy, heavy, sometimes quasi-sloppy, testament to Nebula’s skill, power, tenacity, and consistency as a stoner rock band, even under the circumstances of missing a longtime member and having a fill-in bassist. And while, curiously, and somewhat disappointedly, there isn’t a single track from To The Center, the setlist is career-spanning enough with older tracks sounding right at home next to their newer material with the end result being a killer, cohesive listen. RIP Tom Davies.
Scribed by: Martin Williams