The very existence of many sub-genres of music and countless groups can often rest squarely on the shoulders of a single band. Black Sabbath‘s droning riffage, for example, is single-handedly responsible for birthing the stoner rock scene, although it is Kyuss who have become the true, modern godfathers of the fuzzed-out, lo-fi sound that defines it.
Having spawned Queens Of The Stone Age and Unida as direct spin-offs, Kyuss’s influence is still heard elsewhere a decade on from their demise and the desert rockers are a definite reference point for the groovy tones of Nebula, a Fu Manchu side-project that first emerged in 1997 with the Let It Burn album.
Four albums and two blistering EPs later, we arrive at 2006’s Apollo, with which Nebula are hoping to “reaffirm their reputation as one of rock’s brightest stars- in this galaxy or any other” (groan at them, not me!).
Kicking off with a bass-heavy jam that nods fiercely in Geezer Butler‘s direction, the first track proper Loose Canon follows as a Fu-Manchu B-side, but also raises questions about the limited timbre of American stoner rock. Nevertheless, with a strong chorus and sweet Eastern solo licks, the opener makes for a promising start.
Fever Frey echoes The Datsuns-style garage rock and allays any lingering fears that the stoner rock veterans may have patched together an album of existing sub-standard riff ideas.
Without so much as pausing for breath, Future Days reinforces the earlier hints of Eastern melodies, starting with picked acoustic guitars (and sheep bleating?!) although in true stoner style, as soon as the track kicks in, it plays out as though it was recorded underwater with a dodgy microphone.
Despite the ultra lo-fi approach, Ghost Ride takes things squarely back into 4/4 tight rock formula, which the band do as well as Quentin Tarantino makes a violence-fuelled black comedy.
Other notable tracks include Decadent Garden, which could be Cream jamming with The Doors on less drugs than usual, and The Eagle Has Landed. Predictably, the latter is awash with NASA samples and features wah-filled guitar licks and jaw-droppingly good lazy soloing. However, it tries to cram in far too much with its sudden beat and tempo changes.
Apollo is far from as upbeat as the band’s finest moment Dos EPs (a combination of the Nebula and Sun Creature EPs), which supplied plenty of kick-ass blues riffs while retaining its stoner roots. With this album the Nebula boys have gone some way to a progression in their sound, although with foot-tapping speedy, grooving numbers being all too rare, I’m not sure it’s anywhere near deserving of its god-referencing title.