Even before you get to the music the arrangements of instruments in Whitechapel Murders let you know that what is come is not conventional. Comprised of two bass guitars (played by Dave Spars and Kyle Lopes) and drums (Chris Day) the trio make music that, so far, has been largely inspired by mid 20th Century sci-fi, so, following on from their debut EP predominantly based on Orwell’s 1984, we get their long hinted at work drawing on Frank Herbert’s epic Dune series.
Starting with a wall of sound the music coalesces into God Emperor which draws on the sounds of David Lynch’s film version of the book to create a soundscape that uses noise to paint a picture of the vast empire and the sprawling history and genealogy on which Dune is based.
At this point I’ll point out I am a fan of both the books and, in a sense, the film, and I think that without knowledge of these things the themes may not coalesce in the same way – that said, from a musical point of view, I don’t think this knowledge is essential.
It is in this first track that we get the sound that has marked Whitechapel Murders since their formation as the two bass guitars take turns to create what could be described as ‘rhythm’ and ‘lead’ parts while their sounds swirl together and are joined by the off-kilter beat of the drums to create not just a soundscape but a ‘spacescape’ appropriate for the subject matter.
As the EP goes on the tracks draw on everything from stoner rock and doom to extreme metal and avant-garde rock, with Dave Spars’ vocals barking and crooning within the mix adding an extra layer to the sound that comes to the fore at times but at others joins the instrumental noises to add to the atmosphere.
Each track has a title taken from the books and deals with motifs and ideas relevant to them so, on Atreides, we are confronted with the existential angst of the series lead character, Paul Muad’dib, while on Harkonnen we get a sense of the industrial destruction of the antagonists and Children of Dune and Arrakis, Dune, Desert Planet paints a picture of the world the stories are set on and its Fremen inhabitants conflict with outsiders.
This all comes together on the EP’s epic closer Messiah which sprawls and swirls across eight minutes of jarring sounds, music and samples to create a dense piece that, like every track here, can at once get heads nodding and brains ticking depending on how you want to listen.
If heavy and noisy isn’t your thing then its unlikely you’ll find much in this EP, however, if you like to push the boundaries of music into territories that are less often seen and explore a dense world of sound, then Whitechapel Murders’ Dune EP is certainly worth exploring.