These Northern Cal nomads have propagated the "stoner rock" mythos for a long time now. What else would you expect from three hairy behemoths who are the most ominous-looking triumvirate of mugwumps since vintage Blue Cheer? Nebula never fails to make the rafters shudder, and the sheer force of its live act is enough to have a person on his or her knees begging for the rapture to come. There's been a sizable progression in their five-year career, and Atomic Ritual is glorious evidence of their quantum musical evolution, combining the two major elements of Nebula's bipronged attack: On the one hand, they slug it out with the best of the '70s dinosaurs with their swamp-bred brand of rocking ooze (see "Carpe Diem"), and on the other, they evoke the full-throttle toke of the Stooges in a non-readymade way.
But Nebulacal forcefulness goes a lot further than merely aping the Stooges or Black Sabbath: "More" riffs with almost Hendrixoid ferocity, and "The Beast" is crypto-mythological, like the best Led Zeppelin, but at least Nebula croaker Eddie Glass doesn't sound like a castrated gnome, à la Robert Plant.
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One of Nebula's gifts is its ability to work wonders with the slower stuff, which in lesser bands' hands would be an exercise in monotony. A perfect example is "Electric Synapse," which builds to a hypnotic groove based on a slow bluesy riff (featuring organ). "Strange Human," perhaps the album's best track, shifts midstream into a lulling bluesy section evoking nothing less than the druggy undertow of the Stones' Sticky Fingers -- that is, until it erupts into an intense Hawkwind-meets-Mott the Hoople elephantine stomp before switching back to the main Sabbathian riff.