Laibach in 1983, photo by Dušan Gerlica
The small Slovenian mining town of Trbovlje is famous for two things: the tallest chimney in Europe and Laibach. Since their beginning in 1980, Laibach – named after the German name of the capital Ljubljana, back then part of socialist Yugoslavia – has become one of the most provocative bands the world has ever seen.
From the creation of the ambiguous art collective Neue Slowenische Kunst (which acts like a nation and even prints its own passports) and the usage of Malevič‘s black crosses as a symbol to their ’20s avant-garde-inspired performances and their simil-fascist and socialist aesthetics, which led them to define themselves as “totalitarian rock”, Laibach have constantly tried to shock their audience. During the ’80s, they received a few bans – and luckily for them, Slovenia was the least rigid Yugoslav republic – but even when their country became independent, they didn’t stop provoking and focused on the concept of Europe.
Over the course of 37 years, the band has released eight studio albums and several singles, compilations, and soundtracks. After the purely industrial sound of their beginnings, they slowly started borrowing elements from classical music and displayed a certain interest in covering popular songs, drastically changing the atmosphere and intention of the original tracks. Take “Opus Dei (Life Is Life)”: originally called just “Life Is Life”, an enthusiastic anthem in the name of life itself by Austrian band Opus, it was turned into a disquieting eulogy of power.
By projecting totalitarian aesthetics to capitalism and consumerism, the Slovenian band managed to remain actual throughout the decades and influenced a large number of bands, the most famous of which being Rammstein. In 2015, they gained a certain international attention after their performance in North Korea: they’ve been one of the few western bands to ever play in Pyongyang, and even if they had to heavily review their set list to please the authorities, it makes sense that they were the ones chosen to perform there.
Writer and musician from Milan, Italy. Hardcore punk background, DIY enthusiast, Balkan culture scholar. Check him out on Twitter at @advaence