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Comédies musicales - Released November 11, 1988 | Sub rosa

Laibach's reason for existence has always been an exploration of extremities, but in many ways the group rarely got more extreme than on the soundtrack for the massive Neue Slowenische Kunst stage production Baptism, or Krst Pod Triglavom -- Baptism Below Triglav in full. Triglav itself is Slovenia's highest mountain, while the baptism in question refers to a historical battle between Slovenian pagans and invading Germans who won the day and forcibly converted the losers to Christianity. The parallels between that and more recent examples of military and cultural invasion are not merely obvious but fully intended. Numerous photos of the production are included in the album packaging, showing a compelling design making equal reference to medieval imagery, fascist stylings and Weimar-era experimentalism -- arguably the music and art had rarely been so appropriately matched. That music itself was the most ambitious the group had yet recorded, something which could appeal to the classical music aficionado as much as the industrial/experimental wing, while the humor is of an extremely rarified nature -- a collection of Beatles and Rolling Stones covers this isn't. Wagnerian opera is unsurprisingly a chief reference point, though the group focuses on a mantra-like repetition of musical and lyrical phrases, doubtless the better to draw the parallels to unthinking fascist reactions. Not everything is strings and horns, admittedly -- sometimes it can be as simple as a looped beat and chant with the occasional vocal bark of "Raus!" What sounds like crowd samples and possibly political speeches get mixed with metallic sound snippets and even acoustic guitar, while more than once the band just bodily dropped in extended performances from other operas entirely! With sly, bitter hilarity, Baptism is packaged in an obvious knockoff of the Deutsch Grammophon in-house style for its run of classical music releases -- another example of German cultural colonization, one could argue. ~ Ned Raggett
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Alternatif et Indé - Released November 23, 2018 | Mute

In 2015, Laibach became the first Western rock group to play a concert in North Korea. They performed two shows in Pyongyang that August, organized to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the end of Japanese colonial rule in Korea. The events subsequently became the subject of the 2016 documentary film Liberation Day. During the concerts, the Slovenian collective performed several selections from the beloved American musical The Sound of Music, as it is commonly used to teach English to schoolchildren in Korea. In 2018, the group released The Sound of Music, a studio album mainly consisting of typically Laibach-ized takes on several of the familiar Rodgers & Hammerstein-penned tunes from the musical. At once, the songs are faithfully performed and passionately sung by vocalists Boris Benko and Marina Mårtensson, and also loaded with irony, especially whenever the stern growl of Laibach mainstay Milan Fras reaches the microphone. "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" is shaped into a steady midtempo crawl, but it still manages to come across as fairly encouraging (although the intense drumming and Korean shouts at the end throw it off a bit). However, the rendition of "Do-Re-Mi" is perhaps the most morose ever recorded, and only Laibach could succeed in making "My Favorite Things" sound like a sort of threat, even while incorporating a children's choir. And of course, they have the audacity to change the chorus of "Maria" to "How do you solve a problem like Korea?," while keeping the music relatively sweet and jaunty. At the end of the album, the program diverts from the familiar show tunes. The group delivers a solemn rendition of "Arirang" (a folk tune considered the unofficial anthem of Korea), much in the vein of Volk, Laibach's 2006 album consisting entirely of national anthems. This is followed by "The Sound of Gayageum," a brief, exciting piece of Pyongyang disco showcasing the zither-like string instrument (as played by students from a music school located in the city). Then the album ends with a speech by a member of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea Committee for Cultural Relations, who condemns Laibach for being a fascist organization. Essentially, the album is business as usual for Laibach, which means that if you're in on their grand scheme, it's another exquisitely orchestrated laugh riot. ~ Paul Simpson
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Rock - Released March 1, 2014 | Mute

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Alternatif et Indé - Released November 22, 2019 | Mute

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Alternatif et Indé - Released July 14, 2017 | Mute

Slovenian industrial collective Laibach composed music for a 2016 theatrical adaptation of Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophical novel Also Sprach Zarathustra, and subsequently developed their score into a full-length album, released by Mute in 2017. Surprisingly, considering the group's reputation for recording radically reworked versions of familiar rock songs, orchestral works, and even national anthems, the album has nothing to do with the similarly named Richard Strauss tone poem, best known for the usage of its opening fanfare in Stanley Kubrick's iconic sci-fi epic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Instead of the fist-pumping industrial dance anthems or martial chanting one might expect from Laibach, this is a relatively restrained album of sparse, chilling sound design -- much closer to the Haxan Cloak than KMFDM or Rammstein. There are no metal guitars and no over-the-top camp here, and the moments of bombastic grandeur are evenly paced and separated by suspenseful pauses. Deep, guttural vocals similar to Tuvan throat singing (presumably by longtime vocalist Milan Fras, though who can tell for sure, given the group's penchant for anonymity) emerge from the pitch-black darkness at startling intervals. Orchestral percussion instruments such as gongs and timpanis (or at least synthetic approximations thereof) contribute to the rhythmic heartbeat of the compositions, while a few snatches of flickering breakbeats or digitally shredded snares pop up throughout. "Ein Verkündiger" ends with the sound of knives sharpening, and "Das Nachtlied I" contains a hair-raising grinding noise, delivered in fits and starts over eerie pianos. For all of these unnerving elements, there are just as many that are stunningly gorgeous, such as rippling, bubble-like effects and swelling strings during "Als Geist" or the ethereal female vocals during the majestic, shimmering "Vor Sonnen-Aufgang." Then there's "Von Den Drei Verwandlungen," the head-spinning Coil-esque audio tornado that ends the album. Also Sprach Zarathustra is an intense experience, but not at all in the way one might expect from Laibach. It's spacious and fluid rather than rock-solid and rigid, but every sound and movement feels entirely deliberate. Nearly 40 years after their formation, Laibach remain innovators, and Also Sprach Zarathustra is easily one of their best works. Absolutely glorious. ~ Paul Simpson
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Rock - Released March 11, 2014 | Mute

Long story short, industrial group Laibach are best known for turning hit singles into Wagnerian stompers (Queen's "One Vision" and Opus' "Life Is Live" becoming totalitarian anthems), plus they perform stoic live shows that parody pop concerts as political rallies, which all seems like a one-note joke on the surface. Thing is, over their long career, this one-note joke has been applied in many fascinating ways, from the commentary on occupation that kicked off their career in the early '80s -- before their home of Slovenia became an independent state -- and now, on their 2014 release Spectre, they suggest a little lockstepping is needed to stir the sleeping, privileged masses. Think of the Clash's provocative "White Riot" blown up into a Rammstein album with some orchestral arrangements and extra craftsmanship thrown in and the marvels of Spectre began to unfold. In a world distracted by memes, social networking, and shiny, mobile devices, the global middle class is called to arms during the opening "The Whistleblowers," a whistle-along tune that sounds like North Korean propaganda music but offers up new heroes/leaders like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange. Later, the mechanical, tight electro of "Eat Liver!" reminds all complacent, drone warfare-era listeners of World War II slogans and the valiant sacrifices they called for, then the snaky bit of synth pop dubbed "We Are Millions and Millions Are One" comes on like Laibach in bedroom mode, although vocalists Anja Rupel ("Love takes me over, like a rising rocket") and Milan Fras ("Love I am, you'll become") are playing the roles of truth seeker and truth, respectively, because reaching orgasm and reaching Anarcho-syndicalism are analogous in the group's supposedly "one-note" world. "Bossanova" ("Feed my ego with luxury") comes from the world leader's gluttonous point of view, while the slick elegance of "Koran" sounds like paradise, and yet Rupel drifts into dreamy ruminations (repeating "there are all these questions in our mind") and suddenly, Laibach have matched irony with inimitability. Heady stuff, and delivered with all the pulse and purpose as before, Spectre is both a fine album and an excellent application of Laibach's elevated style of commentary. ~ David Jeffries
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Rock - Released March 1, 2014 | Mute

Released to coincide with the group's appearance in the film Predictions of Fire, Jesus Christ is another abrasive and rather silly collection of industrial covers and originals; it contains the single "Jesus Christ Superstar/God Is God." ~ Jason Ankeny
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Rock - Released March 1, 2014 | Mute

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Rock - Released March 1, 2014 | Mute

A band that uses explicitly fascist symbolism (including Nazi uniforms) as part of its stage presentation is opening itself up to a reasonable question: "Are you Nazis?" And when they respond by saying "We're Nazis the same way Hitler was a painter," then they're opening themselves up to another reasonable question: "Do you mean that you're aspiring Nazis who are held back only by a lack of talent?" But that second question doesn't seem to come up as often as it should, and while Laibach have found it easy to generate publicity by irritating various European governments in and around their native Slovenia, the band's fans have been disappointingly willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Drape your fascist tendencies in a sufficiently thick layer of camp, it seems, and postmodern sophisticates will nod along knowingly. But none of this is to say that Laibach's music isn't compelling, and Volk is among its most fascinating projects. It consists entirely of adaptations of national anthems -- those of Germany, Italy, Spain, the U.S., Japan, and even the Vatican are all included, as well as one that the group has written for its own make-believe music-state NSK (Neue Slowenische Kunst). Unsurprisingly, Laibach's interpretations generally run the gamut from gently ironic to mordantly ironic, but there are some surprising moments of real beauty: after their Gary Clail-style industro-funk deconstruction of "God Save the Queen" and a musically interesting but politically banal interpretation of "The Star-Spangled Banner" (samples of televangelists, the repeated line "How blind can you get," etc.) are a strangely beautiful take on the Slovenian national anthem and an extremely lovely, surprisingly straight arrangement of that of Japan. The children's choir and theremin bring a nice tonal variety to the Russian anthem, and their arrangement of the Israeli anthem is rendered with a surprisingly straight face, given this band's history. This album is well worth hearing, though whether you want your money finding its way into the pockets of this band's uniforms is a question still worth asking. ~ Rick Anderson
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Rock - Released June 27, 1994 | Mute

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Rock - Released March 1, 2014 | Mute

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Rock - Released March 1, 2014 | Mute

Having gained a fair amount of underground attention throughout Europe, particularly in both Germany and England, Laibach made its first attempt at crossing over -- in a way -- with Opus Dei. An alliance with Mute records led to Rico Conning handling the production, while the group decided to spell out the connections between mega-arena rock & roll and fascist spectacle all the more directly. Two brilliant singles were the end result, the first being "Geburt Einer Nation," a German-language cover of Queen's then-recent smash hit "One Vision," transformed into a Wagner-ian stompalong that remained as catchy as the original but with far more disturbing overtones. Hearing guttural voices talking about "one world, one people" over stomping drums and dramatic horns makes for pure Big Brother nightmares -- undoubtedly the point. Arguably even more fascinating was "Life Is Life," a hippie-ish song by the German group Opus that was reworked by Laibach into two different versions -- the German-language "Leben Heisst Leben" and the English "Opus Dei." Both are amazing, dramatic, and, thanks to some soft keyboards, even beautiful -- imagining a strutting, face-to-the-sun group of party members sweeping over the globe with these as accompaniment takes no effort at all. The dumbass metal soloing on the German-language version is especially hilarious. The other tracks on Opus Dei are a mixed but worthy bunch, showing the group trashing stylistic boundaries with more classical/hard rock/martial/dancefloor combinations. The results can be weirdly sweet like the start of "F.I.A.T." or explosive like "Leben-Tod" or the quick, nervous bombast of "Trans-National," but they're all good in their own ways. The CD includes four selections from Baptism as a bonus, that particular recording having not yet been released at the time of Opus Dei's appearance. ~ Ned Raggett
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Rock - Released May 27, 2014 | Mute

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Rock - Released June 27, 1994 | Mute

Recorded as communism was collapsing in Eastern Europe and while the tensions of the various Yugoslav regions were about to boil over into a brutal, years-long war, Kapital is Laibach's most extensive, longest individual album, a full CD's worth of sharp, pointed songs. Given the economic recession in place at the time -- likely inspiring the album's lead single, "Wirtschaft Ist Tot," or "Economy Is Dead" -- Laibach understandably regarded the new gods with all the disdain previously built up beforehand for the old ones. With the experiment in covering others' material behind them (at least temporarily), Kapital consists of all originals, crossing the familiar combinations of martial horns, jarring samples, barked singing, and strident orchestrations with a much more fluid use of electronic music (especially in terms of the rhythms, where the rough martial beats often give way to stripped-down breakbeat loops and pulses). Having long been identified with the industrial/electronic body music scene, by default if not always by direct intent, Laibach embraces the connection bodily here, experimenting with then-current techno styles here and there as well. It's a jarring combination in some instances but a strangely beautiful one in others -- if nothing else, the collective seemed to look at the acid house explosion and its aftereffects as merely another tool for both critique and entertainment. Many songs are instrumentals or almost on the verge of that status, but unlike efforts such as Macbeth or Baptism, Kapital is very song-oriented. The flaw of the album is that many songs come across as little different from similarly dark-minded industrial/electronic tracks from Europe and elsewhere -- Kapital is good to listen to but ultimately a bit anonymous. When at its best, though, it shows that Laibach kept the beat going even as an old world was crumbling about its ears. ~ Ned Raggett
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Electronic/Dance - Released February 13, 2012 | Cold Spring

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Rock - Released October 11, 1994 | Mute

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Rock - Released March 31, 2015 | Mute

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Rock - Released March 1, 2014 | Mute

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Alternatif et Indé - Released October 29, 2019 | Mute

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Alternatif et Indé - Released February 22, 2019 | Mute