Today's artists an industrial group whose members prefer to be known as a collective rather than reveal individual names; they've been seen as fascists and of practicing Germanophilia because of their music's Wagnerian thunder and their military attire. According to them, "We are fascists as much as Hitler was a painter." Since fascism needs a scapegoat to flourish, the members mocked it by becoming their own scapegoat and willingly sought alienation. Showing a ridiculous lust for authority, their releases featured artwork influenced by anti-Nazi photomontage artist John Heartfield, and the group's live shows portray rock concerts as absurd political rallies. In interviews their answers are wry manifestos, and they never break character... ..N'Joy
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Laibach's cover versions are often used to subvert the original message or intention of the song — a notable example being their version of the song "Live is Life" by Opus, an Austrian arena rock band. Laibach recorded two new interpretations of the song, which they titled Leben Heißt Leben, and Opus Dei. The first of these, the opening song on the Laibach album Opus Dei (1987), was sung in German. The second was promoted as a single, and its promotional video (which used the title "Live is Life") was played extensively on American cable channel MTV. Opus Dei retained some of the original song's English lyrics, but was delivered in a musical style that left the meaning of the lyrics open to further interpretation. Whereas the original is a feel-good pop anthem, Laibach's subversive interpretation twists the melody into a triumphant military march. With the exception of the promotional video, the refrain is at one point translated into German, giving an example of the sensitivity of lyrics to their context. The Opus Dei album also features a cover of Queen's "One Vision" with lyrics translated into German under the title '"Geburt einer Nation" ("Birth of a Nation"), revealing the ambiguity of lines like "One race one hope/One real decision". In NATO (1994), Laibach also memorably re-worked Europe's glam metal anthem "The Final Countdown" as a bombastic disco epic.
Other notable covers include the Beatles album Let It Be (1988), and their maxi-single Sympathy for the Devil (1988) which deconstructs the Rolling Stones song of the same name with seven different interpretations.In 2004, Laibach covered the song Ohne Dich by Rammstein in a significantly altered version. Unlike the solo male vocals in the Rammstein original, this cover features both male and female vocals (supplied by Laibach's Milan Fras and Mina Špiler from the band Melodrom), and the orchestral sound of the original has been supplemented — and in some sections even replaced — by a more electronic element. The lyrics of the song were also subtly altered, most noticeably in the chorus: the original version was "Ohne dich kann ich nicht sein" (roughly: "without you I cannot exist"), whereas Laibach's reworked chorus declares "Ohne mich kannst du nicht sein" (roughly: "Without me you cannot exist").
Laibach not only reference modern artists through reinterpretation, but also sample or reinvent older musical pieces. For example, their song "Anglia" is based on the national anthem of the United Kingdom, God Save the Queen. This song, and other based on national anthems are released on Volk album, which is a collection of Laibach's versions of national anthems of countries such as the United States and Russia. On this album they also included an anthem for their NSK State in Time, which is based on their song The Great Seal from the Opus Dei album.
They have also toured with an audio-visual performance centered on Johann Sebastian Bach's Die Kunst der Fuge. Since this work has no specifications of acquired instruments and is furthermore based on mathematical principles, Laibach has argued that the music can be seen as proto-techno. Therefore, the band found Die Kunst der Fuge to be ideal for an interpretation using computers and software.
In 2009 Laibach also reworked Richard Wagner's Overture to Tannhäuser, Siegfried-Idyll and The Ride Of The Valkyries in collaboration with the symphonic orchestra RTV Slovenia, conducted by Izidor Leitinger. Laibach's version is titled "VolksWagner". In addition to cover songs, Laibach has remixed songs by other bands. These include two songs by the Florida death metal band Morbid Angel that appear on the Morbid Angel EP Laibach Re-mixes. In 2009 Laibach made new versions of their own songs from the early 1980s such as Brat moj, Boji and Smrt za smrt. They have been performed live and will be released on the album Laibach Revisited.
Although primarily a musical group, Laibach have sometimes worked in other media. In their early years, especially before the founding of Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK), Laibach produced several works of visual art. A notable example was MB 84 Memorandum (1984) an image of a black cross that served as a way to advertise Laibach's appearances during a period in the 1980s when the government of Yugoslavia banned the name "Laibach". Cross imagery, and variations on the cross are apparent in many Laibach recordings and publications.
The visual imagery of Laibach's art (or 'Laibach Kunst', as it calls itself) has been described as "radically ambiguous". An early example of this ambiguity would be the woodcut entitled The Thrower, also known as Metalec (The Metal Worker). This work features a monochrome silhouette of a figure with a clenched fist holding a hammer aloft. The work could be seen as promoting industrial protest or as a symbol of industrial pride. Another aspect of this woodcut is the large typefaced word 'LAIBACH', evoking memories of the Nazi occupation of Slovenia (when the capital city was briefly known by its original German language name of Laibach). This piece was featured prominently during a TV interview of Laibach in 1983, during which the interviewer Jure Pengov called Laibach "enemies of the people."
Laibach has frequently been accused of both far left and far right political stances due to their use of uniforms and totalitarian-style aesthetics. They were also accused of being members of the neo-nationalism movement, which reincarnates modern ideas of nationalism. When confronted with such accusations, Laibach are quoted as replying with the ambiguous response "We are fascists as much as Hitler was a painter". The members of Laibach are notorious for rarely stepping out of character. Some releases feature artwork by the Communist and early Dada artist/satirist John Heartfield. Laibach concerts have sometimes aesthetically appeared as political rallies. When interviewed, they answer in wry manifestos, showing a paradoxical lust for, and condemnation of, authority.
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Probably the band's most famous release in the English-speaking world, Laibach's Let It Be -- unlike the Replacements' album -- didn't just name itself after the Beatles' swan song, it full-on covered every last bit of it, with the notable exception of the title track ("Maggie Mae" gets a Slovenian folk tune substituted for it). Having spent some time beforehand drawing any number of parallels of right-wing extremism with their home country's government and the West alike, especially when it came to the resemblance of big rock concerts to totalitarian rallies, all Laibach had to do was tackle what they felt was the Beatles' worst album. In some respects, Let It Be wasn't that hard of an effort -- songs like "Get Back," "I Me Mine," and "One After 909" simply had to have the Laibach elements applied (growled vocals, martial drums, chanting choirs, overpowering orchestrations, insanely over-the-top guitar solos) to be turned into bizarre doppelgängers. The sheer creepiness of hearing such well-known songs transformed, though, is more than enough reason to listen in -- "Dig It" in particular becomes a full-on Third Reich chant, only to be trumped by the meta-metal fake-live recording blast of "I've Got a Feeling." In a more subtle way, "Across the Universe" easily trumps the original, only a female choir, harpsichord, and organ turning it into a disturbed anthem of acquiescence. Meanwhile, other efforts like "Two of Us" have a smooth, strong passion to their arrangements -- the sheer appeal of the commanding delivery in its own way helps explain the appeal of stage-managed demonstrations and performance. It's a joke endlessly folded in on itself, a killing joke and then some. Happily, it's just as funny as it is disturbing, and points for the hilariously unsettling cover art as well.
Laibach - Let It Be (flac 262mb)
01 Get Back 4:25
02 Two Of Us 4:05
03 Dig A Pony 4:40
04 I Me Mine 4:41
05 Across The Universe 4:15
06 Dig It 1:30
07 I've Got A Feeling 4:30
08 The Long And Winding Road 1:53
09 One After 909 3:20
10 For You Blue 5:24
11 Maggie Mae (Auf Der Luneburger Heide & Was Gleicht Wohl Auf Erden) 3:42
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Part of Laibach's two-pronged attack on rock & roll via two of its most omnipresent icons -- the Beatles' Let It Be being the other source of ire -- Sympathy for the Devil is indeed a collection of versions of the Rolling Stones song. The weirdly ecstatic shimmer and shake of the original gets demolished and reconstructed thoroughly, Laibach's by-now trademark approach of Wagner-ian stomp and bombast and growled vocals turning the tune into something else again. If the alternate versions were just remixes of a core take, Sympathy for the Devil wouldn't be half as interesting as it is, but Laibach demonstrates their abilities with a range of approaches throughout, always seeming like they're laughing with and at their potential audience at the same time. Some are more straight-up industrial/electronic body music takes for clubs -- spiked with the de rigueur samples expected for such things, including song subject John Kennedy and spoken bits from the Stones themselves -- while others have the hints of psychedelia from the original's era, including bits of sitar and the like. Sometimes the lyrics are delivered in harrowing, strained German, other times in guttural English, the "woo-woos" turn into wordless invocations of marching doom. Hilariously and presumably intentionally cheesed-out corp rock guitar crops up here, weirdly creeped-out female vocals take the lead there, and the end result all seems perfectly calculated to make classic rock fans die several times over of coronaries. There is one near-instrumental non-cover, the dramatic swirling-string and vocalless-choir electronic rhythm assault of "Anastasia," but that also takes a fair amount of inspiration as the title indicates. In the end, seven versions of the same song are more than a little overwhelming, but as an extended experiment Sympathy for the Devil stands up more or less on its own two feet -- and the cover art is some of the most grimly hilarious stuff Laibach ever used.
Laibach - Sympathy for the Devil (flac 312mb)
1 Sympathy For The Devil (Time For A Change) 5:33
2 Sympathy For The Devil (Dem Teufel Zugeneigt) 5"00
3 Anastasia by Dreihunderttausend Verschiedene Krawalle 5"29
4 Sympathy For The Devil (Who Killed The Kennedys - Instrumental) by Germania 5:51
5 Sympathy For The Devil (Who Killed The Kennedys) by Germania 7:00
6 Sympathy For The Devil (Soul To Waste) by Dreihunderttausend Verschiedene Krawalle 4:50
7 Sympathy For The Devil 4:50
8 Sympathy For The Devil (Soul To Waste - Instrumental) by Dreihunderttausend Verschiedene Krawalle 7:52
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Shortly before the Sympathy for the Devil/Let It Be phase of the band's existence, another group of Laibach members was pursuing more explicitly high-art goals, specifically in following up Baptism by providing the soundtrack to another experimental theater production. Said production, an adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth, featured two members of the band performing the music directly on-stage with the actors. The resulting album couldn't feature that aspect, obviously, but there's just over 30 minutes of music that makes for an interesting experience on its own, if a somewhat forbidding one even for Laibach. As a soundtrack, Macbeth is much more strident and high impact than Baptism -- more than once it seems unclear as to how the actors could deliver any lines over the music. Alternating in an irregular fashion between quieter and much more overbearing sections, Macbeth in many ways feels like one endless march forward, however occasionally punctuated by string/horn-only parts or by sample collages featuring everything from crying babies to hoarse chants to screeching metal. Those who appreciate the collapsing chaos of such groups as Nurse With Wound and earlier Krautrock luminaries like Faust may well enjoy such parts, as well as when the tape audibly speeds up and makes everything even more of an edgy, live-wire mess. On balance, only those fans who enjoyed Baptism should consider getting Macbeth, and even then many will find it fairly impenetrable, but it's still a grand, large enough listen. In a slightly annoying mastering note, the whole disc is mastered as one track; individual track listings are provided on the back cover, but it's anyone's guess as to what goes where.
Laibach - Macbeth (flac 222mb)
01 Preludium 1:02
02 Agnus Dei (Acropolis) 4:33
03 Wutach Schlucht 4:27
04 Die Zeit 1:14
05 Ohne Geld 3:52
06 U.S.A. 0:50
07 10.5.1941 0:31
08 Expectans Expectavos 5:13
09 Coincidentia Oppositorum 4:21
10 Wolf 1:03
11 Agnus Dei (Exil Und Tod) 4:54
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Compared to the 2004 compilation Anthems (which was a two disc set, but with one disc given up to remixes) this 2012 overview of Laibach has eight extra years to cover, and with one bonafide career highlight occurring during that time, the absolutely epic "B Mashina", which was a key feature of the Nazis-on-the-moon, dark comedy film Iron Sky. If getting "B Mashina" is a "pro", then losing the jackbooted techno monster called "Tanz Mit Laibach" from the tracklist is certainly a "con", but true to their titles, the older Anthems focused on the "greatest hits" of the group, while this one goes for the full, avant-garde Laibach picture. At least as much as can fit on a one disc overview, since this group that some see as Rammstein in fascist garb are much more than a Germanic techno band who do absurd cover versions. For one, they're Slovenian, and their cover versions ironically twist pop and rock, often into totalitarian anthems, like morphing Queen's "One Vision" into the industrial propaganda hit "Geburt Einer Nation". Opus' positive Euro-hit "Live Is Life" becomes the stern work song "Leben Heißt Leben" and Europe's hair metal standard "Final Countdown" becomes a Kraftwerk-meets-KMFDM-styled embrace of the New World Order and military strength, all of it fun or funny at face value, but they are wry and snide stabs at the politics of the Western world as well. An art collective rather than a traditional band, Laibach were formed before the Yugoslavian breakup and had considered themselves Slovenian the whole time, but with that collective state issue settled to some degree, their commenting on the one world empire and its cultural invasion of the world continued with a disc of national anthems done Laibach-style ("Germania" and "Anglia" are included here), while pop icons like Bob Dylan (their sinister "Ballad Of A Thin Man" gets at the grimness of the song) and Nana Mouskouri/Bino (the version "Mama Leone" is angelic and cold, all at once) were also explored. An Introduction To gives a taste of it all, and adds to it a great "Tanz Mit Laibach" alternative with "Warme Lederhaut", a razor-sharp cover of the Normal's "Warm Leatherette", a conceptional move in itself since it was written by their record company's (Mute Records) label boss (Daniel Miller). As to the "why?" of it all, "Laibach doesn't function as an answer, but a question", so it is fitting that this Introduction is less satisfying and sharp, but more enlightening than the crowd-pleasing Anthems.
Laibach - An Introduction To.. (flac 455mb)
01 Warme Lederhaut 2:55
02 Ballad Of A Thin Man 5:33
03 Germania 4:02
04 Anglia 3:38
05 Mama Leone 4:51
06 B Mashina 3:52
07 Bruderschaft 4:13
08 God Is God 3:43
09 Final Countdown 5:40
10 Alle Gegen Alle 3:53
11 Across The Universe 4:00
12 Get Back 4:24
13 Leben Heißt Leben 5:29
14 Geburt Einer Nation 4:21
15 Opus Dei 5:03
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