The band that survived itself

Laibach returned to the international stage in grand style this spring. After releasing a new studio album in March, the band performed for the first time in China and Hong Kong and is now on tour across Europe. In the fall, expect them at venues across the USA.

Spectre is Laibach’s first studio album since 2006’s widely acclaimed conceptual album Volk, with its 14 versions of national anthems including that of their own NSK art collective, which declared its own virtual state in 1991. In the meantime Laibach also released the side projects Laibachkunstderfuge (2008) and Iron Sky: The Original Film Soundtrack (2012).

Photo: Maya Nightingale

With Spectre, once again Laibach has re-invented itself in a newly assembled yet polished and solid formation. And, as is now customary, the band calls into question all the rigid and cemented interpretations (and prejudices) about itself – about its music, intentions, philosophy and ideology. And yet, despite everything, the new album resonates as a genuine and full-blooded Laibachian work and nothing else. One might say that with this album Laibach has taken a big, important and possibly dangerous step forward. For, as Laibach themselves describe Spectre, it sounds literally like a political manifesto in poetic form.

This special and serious, yet formally playful, fresh and provocative new album steps out of its own shadow and brings us an array of new songs and ideas with which Laibach again demonstrate how they masterfully manage their position.

Watch Whistleblower from Spectre here 

Photo: Matjaž Tančič

But Laibach is about more than "just" music. The band is also famous for its special kind of originality and its provocative symbolic behaviour, which often brings to mind totalitarian states and which, especially at the beginning, caused them many problems. Laibach are also noted for their theatrical on-stage performances. The band pushed many boundaries with their image and costume choices in the past – from a Partisan army look to costumes resembling Nazi uniforms or those of the Yugoslav National Army. As The Guardian put it, "Laibach just might be the most absurd group ever to have existed." In the last three and a half decades, their dark appearances have become their trademark.

Besides creating a great stir and enraging the public, the band also thrilled many supporters of the avant-garde. The band’s involvement in art and music has been featured in numerous articles, television and radio shows, and literary works. It is 34 years since Laibach sprang into existence: the band was founded in 1980 in the mining town of Trbovlje in the Zasavje region of Slovenia. In this period Laibach have survived very different events: Salonica and the Isonzo Front, WWII, Brezhnev, Kennedy, Tito, the 80s, the 90s, the 00s, numerous figures of domestic and foreign politics, the fall of Yugoslavia and the war that followed, the excitement of Slovenian independence and the entry of Slovenia into the EU. As Laibach say, by surviving Yugoslavia, Slovenia, Europe and the NSK state, it actually survived itself.

Text by Polona Prešeren