One More Dose of Thunder

SoCal old-school metalheads have been blessed with recent releases by Nebula, Fu Manchu and Queens of the Stone Age. It's a mighty triumvirate, but popular musical tastes are simply running in another direction—metal continuing to merge with rap, always somehow diluting both—and it's a safe bet that Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst makes more money when he sneezes than Nebula, Fu and Queens have earned in years of gigging and recording.

Of the three, Nebula may be the one most deserving of the tag they all try to dodge: stoner metal. Sure, they all say they don't like it, but you know deep down inside they're laughing, thinking it's bitchen to be in a band that Jeff Spicoli would hire to play his birthday party.

Take a listen to Nebula's debut (on Sub Pop), To the Center, in which singer/guitarist Eddie Glass kicks off the album with an Apollo-era promise—”Taking off to the center of the universe!” After the dense chords finish knocking you around, you get this strange feeling that you're space truckin' on a slow ride to some mysterious destination. Take it easy; fear not. Nebula turn out to be much more than a simple, idealized rehashing of '70s FM radio. Glass crams his guitar through huge Marshall amps that sound like they're full of sludge, but with just enough raw power to keep hard rock's sputtering generator churning.

It's nice to discover bands that can blast the hell out of your eardrums without all the fronted bravado and pop slickness that's turning the once-vicious vitality of good metal into cheap thrills and lame poseur attitude.

There's no sense of irony here, either. To the Center is full of meandering solos, a couple of well-played sitars, and such profound lyrics as “Into the rays of the rising sun/You'll find your freedom”—prose only a stoner could fully appreciate. “Fields of Psilocybin” suggests the group wants to be loved by all drug users, not just the Pothead Nation.

To those of you who like your rock pure, we salute you—head to Nebula's Club Mesa show on Thursday, April 27, for proof that real hard rock isn't dead; it's just playing smaller rooms.

Nebula play with Drunk Horse and the Neil Armstrong Band at Club Mesa, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-6634. Thurs., April 27, 9 p.m. $6.

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