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Pittsburgh's Human Quena Orchestra unleashes apocalyptic doom without the gloom

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Well-known turn-of-the-millennium metalcore band Creation Is Crucifixion, based in Pittsburgh, was noted as much for its politics and tactical art as for its blindingly frenetic math punk. Both Ryan Unks and Nathan Berlinguette served in that band at some point, and years later found themselves collaborating in The Human Quena Orchestra. HQO turns down the tempo considerably, but maintains much of the former band's ethics and aesthetic features.

The Human Quena Orchestra will release its second record, The Politics of the Irredeemable, this Sat., April 25, at the 31st Street Pub (a show organized by frequent CP contributor Manny Theiner). The album, on the Crucial Blast label, collects six tracks of plodding drone metal in the vein of Sunn O))) and Khanate, combined with ambient noise.

HQO formed in 2004 as a solo project for Unks, who was living in San Francisco. Berlinguette joined soon after, releasing the band's first record, Means Without Ends, on his label, and playing on the new release. Earlier this year, Unks moved back to the Pittsburgh area, while Berlinguette remained in California; Butler-based ambient musician Dave Graham (a.k.a. Requiem) has taken Berlinguette's place. HQO's newer work is more raw, according to Unks; in addition to the guitar and sampling work prevalent on the record, homemade circuit-bent instruments are added to the apparatus.

The band's aesthetic is that of apocalyptic doom, but unlike bands that simply celebrate the inevitable downfall of the human race, HQO seeks to prepare us for it. The Politics of the Irredeemable provides what could be a soundtrack for the last days of the planet, but the liner notes provide thoughts and quotes on civilization and sustainability. In this context, the sluggish plod and bassy rumbles become expressions of the way in which the band views the human race as exhausting itself and ruining the planet. Pieces of industrial sound-pollution find a home amidst the sluggish sludge of deconstructed Sabbath worship.

The sounds are pessimistic, perhaps, but not without hope, and not without reason. The Human Quena Orchestra's tack is cynical, and borderline primitivist, but in a healthy way. This isn't a band looking to take down humanity -- it's a band looking to pick up the pieces when humanity destroys itself.

 

The Human Quena Orchestra CD release with Brutal Truth, Drugdealer and Complete Failure. 10 p.m. Sat., April 25. 31st Street Pub, 3101 Penn Ave., Strip District. $12 ($15 at the door). 412-391-8334 or www.31stpub.com

Not without hope: The Human Quena Orchestra
  • Not without hope: The Human Quena Orchestra

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