Gholas Via Dune Messiah

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After years of putting it off, I finally succame to the will of TovH Power User and all-around rad dude Max; in mid-2016, I began my exploration of the desert world of Arrakis with the Dune series. Thankfully for me, Max is a man of quality and virtue, and his recommendation did not fall flat. In fact, I’d consider Dune one of the best works of fiction I’ve ever encountered. Hungry for more tales of the Fremen and their spartan lifestyle, I voraciously devoured Dune‘s sequel Dune Messiah at the end of the year. Curious to explore Frank Herbert’s universe through other media, I went on my own pilgrimage to discover metal bands that have tackled the heady conceptual world of Dune. There, at the foot of Alia’s Nave, I discovered Gholas.

Gholas, biological clones created by the heretical sect Bene Tleilax, are one of the central spokes upon which Dune Messiah turns. While Dune was a fantastical blend of science fiction and mystery, following protagonist Paul Atreides on his quest for vengeance, justice, and dominance, Dune Messiah tells a very different tale. The second book in the original Dune series focuses less on the momentous actions that come to shape the Empire of Paul’s universe but rather on the machinery of governance and faith that sustains that empire. Dune Messiah follows the Emperor of Dune’s galaxy as he attempts to outwit his nemeses in the Bene Tleilax, the Bene Gesserit, and the Guilds while also avoiding his own terrible fate written on the very fabric of history itself. The sequel trades extended tales of war and violence for sabotage and intrigue, narrative flights for philosophical musings on the nature of identity and destiny. Central to the intrigue in the novel is a single ghola, a reanimated character from the first novel who is infinitely more than he appears.

The appearance of this phantom from his past portends ruin to not just the Emperor’s current reign but also his bloodline. Has this ghola, grown in a Tleilaxu laboratory from the salvaged flesh of a beloved comrade, become a Trojan horse for greater machinations? Is the ghola a tool, or does the Emperor’s old friend still linger somewhere within? What are the greater implications for the soul within a reigning theocracy where rabid faith in the absolute truth of a charismatic leader’s startling prescience causes radicalism and fatalism to clash? What defines a human being? Are we purely biological responses to stimuli, whether evolutionary or pre-determined, or is there something of the self that endures beyond death, perhaps even within the flesh itself?

What futures have those mechanical eyes seen?

These are questions explored in the emotional landscapes carved by the Coriolis winds breathed by New Jersey’s Gholas. Blending desert rock, shoegaze, psychedelia, and sludge into a progressive melange of spice-addled introspective heavy metal, the quartet have sought for years now to carve out a bountiful oasis within the barren wastes of the oft-maligned post-metal genre. Although the band trades in many of the tropes of their forebears, as seemingly unable to break free from the genetic machinations of the Bene Gesserit as Paul Atreides, the band also aims to transcend those norms like a true Kwisatz Haderach. True, the band plays in downtuned measures reminiscent of Neurosis, wanders through vast instrumental plains like Isis, and rides sandworms of emotion-welling crescendos like Russian Circles, but they do it all with such earnestness and skill that you’d believe they’d been wandering the post-deserts for their entire lives.

That prescient experience finds its full expression in the riffs. The bleak, hulking menace of “The Worm” unfolds like the ghola’s plot into an expansive, almost doomy Turbid North-esque riff before completely giving itself over to a recursive, hypnotizing desert riff that leads listeners into a full rapture in “Calls Out to the Supplicants.” The blend of dusty, primitive doom riffs with with tarot-psychedelics and cultic growls finds its full force amid the almost spoken word shouts of desperation and rage and the ever tasteful caveman drums. Gholas sonically craft a rich world of oases and endless sand, interspersed with brief storms of emotional solos and frantic percussion. Just like Arrakis, their most recent album Litanies hides a wealth of culture and expression.

Ultimately it is that dedication to Herbert’s beloved work that makes Gholas stand apart. Every song on Litanies drips with reverence for the intriguing world of faith and violence and passion and despair all bound within the ghola character central to Dune Messiah. Just as the ghola is a threat of violence and terror, Gholas occasionally dabble in pummeling spurts of doom riffs and percussion that grind you down like the merciless winds of a harsh desert landscape. However, like the ghola, there is nobility, ambition, and virtue in the music of Gholas, as evident in the taut swirls of geriatric-spice feedback that yield to an eruption of cascading percussion and heart-stirring leads in “The Sleeper.” It’s as if Gholas are inviting us to take their hands and ride the worm with them. We aren’t sure if the ghola is to be trusted, but we know that fate compels us to see what lies on the other side of the battered shield wall.

“Let the Harkonnen beasts tremble and fret themselves that an Atreides yet lives!”

(Photos VIAVIA, and VIA)

  • Señor Jefe El Rosa

    Without even listening, I love this album already. Exquisitely written, Dubbz.

    The spice must flow.

  • Joaquin Stick

    I know nothing of Dune, but I do know enough about post-metal to say that this is rad.

    The story/universe sounds pretty great though. I’ll need to take a break from epic worlds though after I finish what I am currently working on, but it’s on my list.

  • Waynecro

    This is a mighty fine piece of writing, Dubs.

  • Black Smallbeard

    have the series, just havent been in a reading mood lately

  • Hubert

    Man, I should try that book again. I tried it years ago but bounced off.

  • Kevin Nash’s Jackknife

    Yay, Dune! I have all of the ones Frank Herbert wrote except for the first one and the fifth one.

    • Space Monster W.

      Now you just need to read them!

      • Kevin Nash’s Jackknife

        I’m going to start when I’m finished with Fantastic Voyage 2.

    • CyberneticOrganism

      So you don’t have them all, then?

      • Kevin Nash’s Jackknife

        No I don’t

  • Óðinn

    Thanks. W.

  • CyberneticOrganism

    Great words, Dubs! I’m working on the last Dune novel now. It’s been a great ride, I have no idea what to read next that won’t absolutely suck by comparison.

    • Space Monster W.

      Children of Dune or book 6? I know a lot of folks say to stop after Children.

      • CyberneticOrganism

        Book 6, Chapterhouse. I’m glad I continued reading, book 4 is the weirdest but also the one whose ideas seems to stick with you through the next two.

        • Space Monster W.

          Cool. I think I’ll persist and read all 6. I just finished reading Alamut and plan on tackling The Abominable next, so I’ll hit Children in Feb/March.

    • Lord of Bork

      The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons are fantastic and feature roughly the same level of intricate world-building.

  • KyleJMcBride

    I always give up right in the middle of Chapterhouse.

    • Major Zim

      Loved the first one, gave up halfway through God-Emperor when I realized it wasn’t gonna go back to the way it was at the beginning. I just read the wikipedia synopses to find out how the whole series ends.

  • Guppusmaximus
    • Max

      Unfortunately Frank Herbert wasn’t much of a fan of Iron Maiden, or metal, or rock’n’roll. I know this because in Iron Maiden’s authorized biography, it talks about how Rod Smallwood (their manager) got in touch with Herbert’s publisher suggesting some sort of collaboration, but only got a curt rejection back.

      How this ties in with a rock-star playing Feyd Harkonnen in the movie, I’ll never know.

  • dan

    I’m on the second last book now, I’ve no idea why people love this series so much, it’s poor all around as far as I can see.

    • tigeraid

      Poser confirmed.

      • dan

        No-one gives a fuck.

  • Lord of Bork

    Fucking awesome, W. Well done.

  • tigeraid

    Here lies a toppled god —

    His fall was not a small one.

    We did but build his pedestal,

    A narrow and a tall one.

    Excellent post. And neat doomey tunes.

  • tigeraid
  • Max

    El Presidente! I’m late to the party, but let me express how touched I am at the shout-out and at you taking up my recommendation! I’m really glad you enjoyed Messiah and your immersion in it shines through in your writing here.

    I really should get my arse into gear and write another TovH article…

    • sweetooth0

      The Dune books rule right up until his son took over and my interest dwindled to nothing.

      • Max

        Fair call. About the same for me.

  • Óðinn

    Wonders why he lost his job?

    https://youtu.be/3iUm9HUTP3A

    • Óðinn

      ….But is a fucking idiot who walks around purposely looking like like Adolf Hitler and posts white “supremacist” videos on YouTube.

      https://youtu.be/VA53bU4icdk?list=PLoTeOxXTeSV3jnTAI0hWD9_WX9tsDhhNQ

      • Black Smallbeard

        but its perfectly fine for lefty instructors (which is pretty much all of them in public universities) to preach(indoctrinate) the opposite to students

        • Are you suggesting that professors should teach the values of white supremacy? Cuz it sounds that way. Sounds reaallllll fuckin’ stupid.

          • Black Smallbeard

            lol jesus. no. thats not what im saying. which im not sure if you guys just didnt eat breakfast or something. but i clearly was saying that everyone finds it fine to teach communist, marxist, pro-extreme liberal and even anti-white ideas but not the opposite end of the spectrum

            just saying it seems a tad hypocritical to me

          • Where is this nonsense coming from? Pretty sure I recall hearing you say that you went to college. Not once did I sit through a lecture that was communist indoctrination. The myth of the evil communist professor has been a right wing boogeyman since McCarthy started his witch hunt in the 50s.

          • DAE socialism is as bad as white supremacy?

          • Óðinn

            What university did you go to? I actually tutor at a local university part-time. I help students from across many different faculties. I can assure you that the agenda is providing a quality education.

          • dan

            The problem is that certain segments of society think that education itself IS communist, marxist, pro-extreme liberal and even anti-white indoctrination.

          • Óðinn

            I’d have to agree with you. And perhaps this is a simplification, but facts tend to have a left-wing bias.

          • dan

            Yup, they basically have to since the right willfully ignores them.

        • What the fuck are you saying, exactly? Yeah, white supremacy is an awful, awful thing, and every institution charged with educating and enriching people should ward against it.

        • Óðinn

          Sure. Whatever.

  • KyleJMcBride

    Please let me know if this place is gong to devolve into a political shooting gallery(on both sides) so I can deactivate my Disqus account again. I come here to get away from that shit.

    • RJA

      Amen Brother!

  • KyleJMcBride

    Now, if it’s ok for me to talk about, you know, Metal?
    Iron Maiden/Ghost are touring this Summer. They’ll be in Mansifeld which means I have to find a ride.
    http://www.blabbermouth.net/news/iron-maidens-the-book-of-souls-tour-returns-to-north-america-in-2017-ghost-to-support/

  • Dagon

    I feel like this is something I should be listening to. I don’t know how, but your writing is even better. God damn.

  • Major Zim

    I see we’re all carefully avoiding mentioning the prequels his son wrote.