ALBUM REVIEW: The Earth Below – Nothing Works Vol 2: Hymns for Useless Gods

Deepak Raghu is an extremely diverse, creative entity. His previous forays into Rock and Metal have embraced many outlying elements such as Americana, Folk, and Soul: on Nothing Works Vol 2: Hymns for Useless Gods (Unheard Music), his latest outing with solo project The Earth Below, he melds those traditional sounds with melodic weight, in turn baffling and eventually ensnaring the senses.

Opener ‘Brave Noise’ sees the deep rumble of a bass duel with the odd pluck and cascade of a beefy rhythm guitar. Raghu’s voice is incredibly soulful, as warm and rich as melted chocolate yet versatile: while his leadwork and pedal effects add a wondrous scent of his Indian homeland. The ensuing ‘Crimson Gold’ has a syncopated Jazz feel, noodling keys introducing a lazy jangle which fires into a rasping, lively midsection that nevertheless tugs at the reins skilfully. The formula is repeated in the tune’s second half, producing a tension and vitality that’s hard to resist.

‘Come To Me’ has a Roy Orbison-style gentleness to the tempo and guitar sound, a big 60s vibe oozing from the undertow yet sparked by Raghu’s smoky croon, which exudes that seductive feeling that is almost unique to Easy Listening. This is initially blasted away by the return of the throaty riff for ‘Abydos’, but more of that alluring vocal and sensitive lead play duel with the added weight: the polished production allowing for the slightest fizz of protestation. The Eastern aura is boosted by the early chords of ‘Rhythm of Pain’, Raghu’s languid yet strained vocal helping to create a Desert feel while a layered chorus reeks of that mid-late 60s Haight-Ashbury scene.

The wonderfully warm, involving nature of the music really does heighten the listener’s joy as the album progresses. ‘Ceremony of Ash’ is pure Hippy delight, bongos resonating in low and hypnotic fashion through an easy glide across the twilight dunes: but it’s that glorious sensuality that keeps the senses piqued, here in the form of layered solos and husky intonation. The penultimate ‘Perpetual Prayer’ moves back to the thunderous Stoner crash yet reduces to bass-heavy quieter sections which are in turn enticing and sinister. This leads to closer ‘Strangers At Sea’, the leisurely beauty of which makes one realise that a Clapton-esque warmth has been at work throughout this dreamlike journey. Before you all run for t’ th’hills, however, there’s a mystical variety and energy here: something that dear old ‘Slowhand’ has arguably struggled to exude since Cream. There’s an intangible yet real force, a transcendence, about Nothing Works Vol 2… which makes genre classification, and supposition about who will and won’t like it, thoroughly irrelevant. It’s a generally gorgeous, often uplifting and powerful body of work.

8 / 10

PAUL QUINN