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Laibach in 2011
Laibach in 2011
Background information
OriginTrbovlje, Slovenia
Years active1980–present
MembersSee the members section Edit this at Wikidata

Laibach (German pronunciation: [ˈlaɪbax]) is a Slovenian and Yugoslav avant-garde music group associated with the industrial, martial, and neo-classical genres. Formed in the mining town of Trbovlje in 1980, Laibach represents the musical wing of the Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK) collective, a group which Laibach helped found in 1984.

From the early days, the band was subject to controversies and bans due to their use of iconography with parodies and pastiches of elements from totalitarianism, nationalism and militarism, a concept they have preserved throughout their career. Censored and banned in Socialist Yugoslavia and receiving a kind of dissident status, the band embarked on international tours and gradually acquired international fame, which led to wider acceptance in Yugoslavia. After Slovenia became independent in 1991, Laibach's status in the country has turned from rejection to promotion into a national cultural icon.

Early Laibach albums were pure industrial, with heavy rhythms and roaring vocals. Later in the mid-1980s, the sound became more richly layered, featuring samples from pop and classical music. The band's lyrics, variously written in Slovene, German and English, are usually delivered by the deep bass vocals of the singer Milan Fras. Initially the lyrics handled war and military themes; later, the focus turned to any highly charged political issue of the moment, sending intentionally ambiguous messages. They recorded several cover versions of popular songs, often turning light melodies into sinister-sounding gothic tunes.

The band has seen numerous line-up changes, with Dejan Knez, Milan Fras, Ervin Markošek and Ivan "Jani" Novak forming the best-known line-up. They have worked with a number of collaborators and guest musicians. Laibach has also recorded film soundtracks, theatre music and produced works of visual arts, while the band members have embarked on a number of side projects.


The beginnings: Laibach with Tomaž Hostnik (1980–1982)[edit]

Laibach was formed on 1 June 1980 in Trbovlje, a mining-industry town. The members chose 1 June as the official date of the band's formation as it was the date of the 1924 violent clashes between Trbovlje workers and the Organization of Yugoslav Nationalists.[1] Laibach is the German language name of the Slovenian capital Ljubljana, a name used during the period when Slovenia was a part of the Habsburg monarchy, as well as during the World War II occupation of Yugoslavia.[2] At the time of formation, the group collaborated with art groups Irwin (painting) and Rdeči Pilot (Red Pilot, theatre).[2] Since its formation, Laibach had been preparing a multimedia project Rdeči revirji (Red District), a piece intended to challenge and provoke the current political structures in Trbovlje.[2] The project was scheduled to be presented in the Workers' Hall in Trbovlje.[1] However, the group's use of Kazimir Malevich's black crosses on their posters was determined by the authorities to be "improper and irresponsible", leading to considerable negative reaction in the media and the cancellation of the performance of Red District.[2] At this early stage of their career, Laibach's visuals employed mining iconography. Eventually, the group would add such symbols as Triglav, deer horns and the Malevich's black cross encircled with a gear.[2]

The first live appearance and an exhibition entitled Žrtve letalske nesreče (Victims of an Air Accident) took place in January 1982 at the Ljubljana club FV, followed by performances in Belgrade and Zagreb.[2] For their live performances they used gramophones, radio devices and electronic instruments constructed by themselves,[2] and the group's musical style was characterized by critics as industrial rock.[2] Instead of dry ice as a source of special effect smoke, the group used original military smoke bombs, which was as unpleasant for themselves as for the audience.[2] On their concert in Belgrade the smoke forced part of the audience to escape through the club windows.[1] In Zagreb, the usage of smoke bombs on stage caused a search of the band's equipment conducted by the Yugoslav People's Army. The members of the band stated that they used smoke bombs because they were "dealing with military subjects", which satisfied the officers in charge of the search.[1]

At the time of their concerts in Ljubljana, Belgrade and Zagreb, the name Laibach and the posters with black crosses caused an outrage by a part of the Yugoslav public.[1] The newspaper Delo published a reader's letter which stated: "Is it possible that someone allowed in Ljubljana, the first Yugoslav city to be awarded the Order of the People's Hero, some youth group to carry a name which forcibly tries to revoke the name Laibach?".[1] The band used this question as an opening for their performance on the Novi rock (New Rock) festival in Ljubljana during the same year.[1] At their performance at the festival, the frontman Tomaž Hostnik appeared in a military uniform, and despite being hit in the face by a bottle, causing him serious injuries, he managed to bring the performance to an end.[2] A part of the Yugoslav music press described the concert as the symbolic end of punk rock.[1]

Several months after the performance at the Novi rock festival, in December 1982, Hostnik committed suicide[2] by hanging himself from a hayrack—one of the Slovenian national symbols—near his hometown of Medvode. Laibach disapproved of his act of suicide and posthumously expelled Hostnik from the group,[3] returning him to his private identity. Despite this, the group often referred to him and dedicated various projects to him, including an installation entitled Apologia Laibach, created around Hostnik's self-portrait.[4]

Dissident status in Yugoslavia (1983–1985)[edit]

Laibach in 1983

At the beginning of 1983, the group resumed its activities with an exhibition in the Prošireni mediji (Expanded Media) gallery in Zagreb.[1] After a number of complaints, the management of the gallery attempted to persuade members of Laibach to remove part of the pieces exhibited, which they refused. Only four days after the opening, the management decides to close the exhibition.[1] The band continued their concert activities with a live appearance in Ljubljana's Freedom Hall, featuring guest performances by the English bands Last Few Days and 23 Skidoo.[2][1] The 30-minutes long recording of dogs barking and snarling were used as the concert intro.[2][1] The day after the performance, the group received considerable media coverage for a concert at the Zagreb Biennale entitled Mi kujemo bodočnost (We Forge the Future), during which the group used simultaneous projections of the film Revolucija še traja (The Revolution is Still Going On) and a pornographic film.[2] After the simultaneous appearance of Josip Broz Tito and a penis on the screens, the performance was interrupted by the police, and the members of the band were forcibly removed from the stage.[2]

Following the performance at the Zagreb Biennale, the band published their "manifesto", entitled "Akcija v imenu" ("Action in the Name Of"), in the Nova revija literary magazine, largely thanks to Taras Kermauner, a philosopher, literary historian and one of the magazine editors.[5] In the "manifesto" the band quoted Stalin ("Artists are engineers of human souls") and Hitler ("Art is sublime, leading to fanaticism").[5] The subsequent debut television appearance on 23 June 1983, in the informative-political program TV tednik (TV Weekly), caused major negative reactions by the public.[2] The members of the band appeared in the program sitting motionlessly, wearing army uniforms and armbands with black crosses.[5] The host of TV tednik, Jure Pengov, stated: "Maybe now someone will react and ban, exterminate this danger, these horrible ideas and beliefs".[5] After Laibach's appearance in TV tednik, they were banned from using the name Laibach on their records and live appearances.[5]

The group then started an international The Occupied Europe Tour '83, with the group Last Few Days, which included sixteen dates in eight Eastern Bloc countries.[2] The performances provoked a lot of interest in the European media, especially with the band's totalitarian musical and visual style.[2] The socialist background, effective live appearances and a dissident status in their home country provided the group with a swift increase of interest in the Western countries.[2] By combining the imagery of socialist realism, Nazism—which provoked the Slovene WW2 Veteran Organization in Yugoslavia—and Italian futurism, the group created a unique aesthetic style which could not pass unnoticed by the public.[2] In Poland they provoked the public by declaring themselves the sympathizers of Wojciech Jaruzelski.[5] The statement provoked someone to present them with feces rolled into newspapers on the press conference in Warsaw.[5] At the time of the tour, the song lyrics were mostly in German, but having included cover versions of English language songs, the group started focusing more on the latter.[2]

In 1984, the group moved to Great Britain, where they worked as labourers in London, worked at a pier in Belfast and appeared as extras in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket.[2] They returned to Yugoslavia to hold a concert dedicated to the late Hostnik at the Malči Belič Hall in Ljubljana.[2] Due to the fact that they were still banned from using the name Laibach, they announced the concert with posters featuring only a black cross, the initials of the hall, and date and time of the concert.[5] During that period, the group, with their early collaborators Irwin and the Scipion Nasice Sisters Theatre, founded the informal art organization Neue Slowenische Kunst (German for New Slovene Art).[5]

The following year, the group released their debut studio album, Laibach, through the Ljubljana Študentski kulturni center (Students' Cultural Center) Ropot label, which did not feature the group name on the album cover, due to its ban, and a sample from a speech by Tito on one of the album tracks was also censored.[2] During the same year, the German label WUS released a compilation album Rekapitulacija 1980–1984 (Recapitulation 1980–1984).[2] The band toured Germany, the concerts featuring hunting imagery, like axes and trophy antlers.[5] During the concerts, the band members sawed wood on stage, surrounded by live tranquilized rabbits.[5] With the Scipion Nasice Sisters Theatre, the group performed in their own play Krst pod Triglavom (A Baptism Under Triglav) at the Ljubljana's Cankar Hall.[2] Durig the year, a round table about the ban of the name Laibach was organized in Ljubljana. The discussion featured academics, representatives of political organizations and authorities, including the president of the Assembly of the City of Ljubljana Tina Tomlje.[5] In a TV interview, Tomlje stated that she was informed of the quality of the band's works and of the success they had achieved abroad, but that they would not be allowed to perform in Ljubljana under the name Laibach.[5]

Later during the year, the group released its second album, Nova Akropola (The New Acropolis), via British independent record label Cherry Red.[2] After the album release, the League of Socialist Youth of Slovenia on their 12th congress demanded the ban on the usage of the name Laibach to be lifted, and soon after awarded the band with the Zlata ptica ("The Golden Bird") award on the Yugoslav Youth Day.[2] The group performed its first legal concert in Slovenia, in Hum, entitled Krvava gruda, plodna zemlja (Bloody Land, Fertile Soil).[2]

International breakthrough and acceptance in Yugoslavia (1986–1991)[edit]

In London, the group recorded three songs for John Peel session and performed in the Michael Clark dance company's play No Fire Escape from Hell.[2] With Clark's company they performed in Los Angeles.[6] In the United States they were invited to a reception hosted by the British ambassador. They appeared on the reception wearing their uniforms, and the actor Walter Gotell (known for his role of General Gogol in James Bond film series), who was also present on the reception, saw this as a provocation.[6]

Having signed for Mute Records, Laibach started recording their third studio album, Opus Dei, working with composer Slavko Avsenik Jr.[2] The inner sleeve of the cover featured a swastika consisting of four bloodied axes designed by John Heartfield, an anti-Nazi artist. The record was sold secretly in some European countries, as the meaning of the cover was not recognised.[2][6] The group achieved a commercial success with the cover versions of "Live Is Life" by Opus and "One Vision" by Queen.[2] The usage of Nazi symbols and the name "Opus Dei" caused the Catholic institution of the same name to sue the group but the case was eventually decided in favour of Laibach.[2] Following the album release, the group embarked on a European tour, during which they stated at a press conference in France that their influences are Tito, Toto, and Tati.[2]

In Yugoslavia, the members of the band were invited to a meeting with Jože Osterman, Secretary of the League of Socialist Working People of Ljubljana, who tried to persuade them to change their name to Ljubljana, as, despite the lifting of the ban on the name Laibach, the group's name still caused controversies in their home country.[6] Despite them, the band held a sold-out concert in Ljubljana entitled Svoji ka svojim (To Their Own).[6] Zagreb magazine Start pronounced members of the group fourth on the list of Best Dressed Men in Yugoslavia.[6]

Laibach in 1989

After the performance in Ljubljana, the band went on the European tour, during which they appeared at the end of every concert with horned helmets.[6] On their performance at the Vienna Festival they provoked the audience with the intro stating: "Austrians, You Are Germans", which almost forced organizers to interrupt the concert.[6] Their performance in Amsterdam was a part of European Capital of Culture program. During the band's performance on a five-meter–high stage, the performance crew roasted an ox on a stake on the hall's balcony.[6] In Hamburg, the group performed and wrote the music for an adaptation of William Shakespeare's Macbeth at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus, which was eventually released on the album Macbeth.[2] In 1988, the group released the album Let It Be, featuring cover versions of all the songs from the Beatles album of the same name, with the exception of the title track, which they did not record owing to lack of studio time, and "Maggie Mae", which was replaced by the German folk songs "Auf der Lüneburger Heide" and "Was Gleicht Wohl Auf Erden".[2] Their version of "Across the Universe" featured Anja Rupel of the synth-pop band Videosex on vocals.[2] A part of the recorded material from the album would be broadcast by Paul McCartney before his concerts.[2]

In 1989, the band went on a North American tour.[6] On their concert in Toronto, they were joined on stage by Austrian artist and art theoretician Peter Weibel, who appeared on stage half naked with a horned helmet on his head.[6] After their return from North America, they went on a Yugoslav tour, starting with a sold-out concert in Ljubljana's Tivoli Hall.[6] Their performance in Zagreb started with the Serbian instrument gusle and in Belgrade, the NSK philosopher Peter Mlakar held a speech which was a cynical parody of Slobodan Milošević's speeches in SAP Kosovo.[2]

The following year, the group released the EP Sympathy for the Devil, an album of different cover versions of the Rolling Stones song of the same name.[2] During the same year, the group emmbarked on a tour across industrial regions of Slovenia.[7] Their concert in Šentjurje was visited by only five people due to poor promotion, but the band nevertheless performed the whole set.[7] The band celebrated their tenth anniversary with a concert held in their hometown, at Trbovlje's thermoelectric power station, on 21 December; 16 years later Chris Bohn of The Wire magazine proclaimed this show as one of the 60 most powerful concerts of all times. On -15°C, the visitors of the concerts were welcomed by a brass band and majorettes.[7] After this concert, the group undertook a tour of Bosnia and Herzegovina.[2]

Slovenian independence and beyond (1992–present)[edit]

In 1992, the group released Kapital, an album dealing with their own vision of materialism.[2] The following year, Mute Records released the Ljubljana–Zagreb–Beograd live album, recorded at performances in the three cities in 1982, presenting a document of politically active rock from the group's early career, especially in the songs "Tito-Tito", "Država" ("The State"), and "Rdeči molk" ("Red Silence").[2] In 1994, they released the album NATO, which commented on the current political events in Eastern Europe, former Yugoslavia and the actions of the NATO pact, filtered through their vision of techno and pop. The album featured cover versions of Europe's "The Final Countdown", Bolland & Bolland's "In the Army Now", Don Fardon's "Indian Reservation" (renamed to "National Reservation"), and the Stanislav Binički composition "Marš na Drinu" ("March on the Drina").[2]

Following the album release, the group went on the Occupied Europe NATO Tour 1994-95, resulting in the live and video album of the same name, which featured a selection of recordings from the two-year tour, including the performance in Sarajevo on the date of the signing of the Dayton Agreement.[2] In 1995, the group for a while considered splitting into several simultaneous lineups so that they could perform in different places at the same time, but the idea was abandoned.[2] The following year, the group released Jesus Christ Superstars, a reference to the Andrew Lloyd Webber's rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar.[8] The group promoted the album in the United States with an eighteen-date tour, as well as on a German tour.[8]

Laibach in 2003

On 15 May 1997, the group performed with the Slovenian Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Marko Letonja, and the Tone Tomšič Choir, for the opening ceremony of the Ljubljana European Month of Culture, presenting orchestral versions of their earliest material, which they rarely performed live, arranged by Uroš Rojko and Aldo Kumar with the members of the group.[8] During the same year, the live album M.B. 21 December 1984 was released, featuring recordings of the forbidden concert in the Ljubljana Malči Belič Hall, a February 1985 concert at the Berlin Atonal festival, and the April 1985 performance at the Zagreb club Kulušić.[8] The performances had featured a guest appearance by Jože Pegam on clarinet and trumpet, and recordings of Tito's speeches.[8] On 14 November 1997, at a concert in Belgrade, another Peter Mlakar speech received a decidedly mixed audience reaction (in sharp contrast to the 1989 speech), in which he asked the audience to "eat the pig and digest it once and for all", referring to the then president Slobodan Milošević.[8]

In 2003, the group released the album WAT (an acronym for We Are Time), which, as well as new material, featured the song "Tanz mit Laibach" (German for "Dance with Laibach"), inspired by the German band D.A.F.[8] The song lyrics were co-written with Peter Mlakar, and the music was co-written with the producer Iztok Turk (former member of Videosex) and the DJs Umek, Bizzy and Dojaja.[8] The following year, the group released a double compilation album Anthems, featuring a career spanning selection of material as well as the previously unreleased song "Mama Leone", which was a Drafi Deutscher cover, and remixes by Random Logic, Umek, Octex, Iztok Turk and others.[8] The compilation also features a thorough group biography written by Alexei Monroe.[8] The group also released two DVD's: the first, Laibach, featured music videos, including a new music video for the song "Das Spiel ist Aus", and A Film about WAT directed by Sašo Podgoršek.[8] The second DVD was entitled 2, with a recording from the Occupied Europe NATO Tour concert in Ljubljana on 26 October 1995 and the documentary film A Film from Slovenia, directed by Daniel Landin and Peter Vezjak.[8]

In 2004, the group recorded The Divided States of America – Laibach 2004 Tour during their fourth USA tour, directed by Sašo Podgoršek and released on DVD in 2006.[8] During 2006, the group released the album Volk (Slovenian for Wolf, German for People), featuring cover versions of national anthems, including the NSK state anthem "Das Lied der Deutschen", originally written in 1797 and used during the Weimar Republic.[8] Each cover featured a guest vocalist singing the anthem in their own language.[8] During the same year, on 1 June, the group performed J. S. Bach's "The Art of Fugue" in his hometown Leipzig,[8] and their interpretation of the work was released on the album Laibachkunstderfuge in 2008.[9]

In 2014, Laibach released the album Spectre, previously announced by the EP record S featuring three songs from the album and one from a 2012 live album. The songs from the new album were also downloadable for limited time for subscribers of their mailing list.[10] In July 2014, Laibach released an EP to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising. The project was commissioned by Poland's National Cultural Centre and includes a reworking of one of the classic songs of the insurgency, "Warszawskie Dzieci" ("Children of Warsaw").[11]

In April 2015, Laibach launched an Indiegogo fundraising campaign to augment costs of a tour in the United States which started in May 2015.[12]

On 11 June 2015, Laibach announced that they would be performing a show in Pyongyang, North Korea in August 2015.[3] The band later confirmed through their website and the website of their record label, Mute Records, that they would perform two concerts on 19 and 20 August 2015 at Kim Won Gyun Musical Conservatory in Nampo-dong, Pyongyang, to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the end of Japanese colonial rule in Korea.[13][14] The announcement and the concert saw large attention of the Western media, which described Laibach's upcoming performance as the first performance of a Western rock band in North Korea, although this was later revealed to be a misinformation.[15] The concerts were the subject of the documentary film Liberation Day by Morten Traavik and Uģis Olte, which premiered in 2016.[16]

In July 2017, Laibach released the album Also Sprach Zarathustra. The songs on the album were originally composed for a theatrical production of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, based on Friedrich Nietzsche's novel of the same name.[17] On 12 June 2018, Laibach marked the historic summit in Singapore between President of the United States Donald Trump and the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, by sharing a track Arirang dedicated to the Korean reunification process.[18]

Laibach was scheduled to perform in Kyiv on March 31, 2023.[19] However, the band's description of the Russo-Ukrainian War as a proxy war angered many Ukrainians and the concert was canceled.[20]


Alamut is a symphonic work by Laibach composed by Luka Jamnik, Nima A.Rowshan and Idin Samimi Mofakham,[21] and based on a traditional Persian story of Hasan-i Sabah and the eponymous novel by Slovenian author Vladimir Bartol.[22]

"This is a very difficult project because most of it is based on diplomacy," said Laibach's Ivan Novak. "We have said that art is diplomacy that demands fanaticism, and this is exactly what we are doing. Diplomacy is becoming an important part of our projects nowadays, we live in very complex times".[22]

Alamut premiered at a former Crusader castle in Ljubljana on September 5 and 6, 2022 as part of Ljubljana festival[23][22] and it got its first European tour the following year.[24]

Alamut is the subject of a documentary by Sašo Podgoršek, who made the 2006 Laibach tour film Divided States Of America.[23]

Musical style[edit]

Laibach live in Budapest, Hungary, April 2014

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, titled "Leben heißt Leben" and "Opus Dei". The first, the opening song on the Laibach album Opus Dei, was sung in German. The second was promoted as a single, and its promotional video (which used the title "Life Is Life") was played extensively on American cable channel MTV.[25] "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 interpretation. Whereas the original is a feel-good pop anthem, Laibach's 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". On NATO, Laibach also memorably re-worked Europe's glam metal anthem "The Final Countdown" as a bombastic disco epic. Other notable covers include Let It Be, reinterpretation of the eponymous Beatles album. The ensuing maxi-single Sympathy for the Devil deconstructs the Rolling Stones song of the same name with seven different interpretations.

Laibach live in Saint Petersburg, Russia, December 2013

Laibach not only references modern artists through reinterpretation, but also samples or reinvents older musical pieces. For example, their song "Anglia" is based on the national anthem of the United Kingdom, God Save the Queen, released on Volk, a collection of Laibach's versions of several national anthems. On this album they also included an anthem for their NSK State in Time, based on their song "The Great Seal" from Opus Dei.[26] 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 reworked Richard Wagner's Overture to Tannhäuser, Siegfried-Idyll and The Ride Of The Valkyries in collaboration with the RTV Slovenia Symphonic Orchestra, conducted by Izidor Leitinger. Laibach's version is titled "VolksWagner".[27]

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.[28]

Aesthetics, image and controversy[edit]

Laibach live in Riga, Latvia at the club "Melnā Piektdiena", March 2015

Although primarily a musical group, Laibach has 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 usage of the name Laibach was banned.[29] Cross imagery, and variations on the cross are apparent in many Laibach recordings and publications. Some Laibach releases feature artwork by the communist and early Dada artist John Heartfield. The visual imagery of Laibach's art has been described as "radically ambiguous".[30] 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. This piece was featured prominently during the 1983 interview for TV tednik.[31]

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 is quoted as replying with the ambiguous response "We are fascists as much as Hitler was a painter".[32] In addition, Laibach also provided most of the soundtrack for Iron Sky, a film that mocked Nazism.[33] The members of Laibach are notorious for rarely stepping out of character. Laibach concerts have sometimes aesthetically appeared as political rallies. When interviewed, they often answer in wry manifestos, showing a paradoxical lust for, and condemnation of, authority.[32]

Finnish author and nationalist Tuomas Tähti disclosed in his 2019 book Nationalistin henkinen horisontti that Laibach member Ivan "Jani" Novak told him in March 2015 that the band is a communist group and most of their work is connected to communism.[34]

Richard Wolfson wrote of the group:

Laibach's method is extremely simple, effective and horribly open to misinterpretation. First of all, they absorb the mannerisms of the enemy, adopting all the seductive trappings and symbols of state power, and then they exaggerate everything to the edge of parody... Next they turn their focus to highly charged issues — the West's fear of immigrants from Eastern Europe, the power games of the EU, the analogies between Western democracy and totalitarianism.[35]

Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek stated about the group after their performance in North Korea:

Quite often libertarian leftists were embarrassed by Laibach. On the one hand, of course, they had to support Laibach. But they were very uneasy about how to take Laibach. Their primordial fear—which is for me the first sign that they didn't understand anything about Laibach—was to claim that Laibach is a great ironic spectacle of subtly mocking, making fun of authority and so on. But then, almost always in my experience—I experienced this with my leftist friends—they added a worry: "What if people will not get it properly, what if people would take Laibach too seriously and perceive, or rather mispercieve, what is their ironic spectacle as real celebration of totalitarianism?" No, I think things are much more complex. Laibach is not simply making fun of totalitarianism. Laibach is bringing out the authoritarian feature which is present in most societies, even in the most democratic societies. [...] I think that Laibach is deeply aware [...] of this deep ambiguity of even the most democratic power. And they are trying to bring this authoritarian streak out even with a certain open fascination. There is no distance there. They are not making fun of it. They are openly enjoying it. So that's the traumatic message of Laibach: staging the real of power. [...] Usual left liberal critics or public of Laibach, they are reading Laibach along the lines of this standard humanist gap, searching behind the strict, totalitarian mask of Laibach for warm, humane persons. They want to find behind the mask of Laibach—all this low bass industrial totalitarian music—this guarantee: "Don't be afraid, behind this mask they are just ordinary warm people like ourselves." No, the message of Laibach is just the opposite one. It's not: "Don't be afraid, beneath our totalitarian mask we are warm, normal, compassionate people like you". No, it's—even if we look at our everyday life in the West, like normal, compassionate people, all the disgusting spectacles that we are doing in the West, charity, helping others and so on—we are really what we play to be. We are monsters, there is no humanity behind it. So, you see, it's not about North Korea. You will not learn a lot from Laibach about North Korea. You will learn a lot about our own anxieties and hypocrisies.[36]

Legacy, influence and innovation[edit]

Martial music[edit]

Some early material by Laibach and later neoclassical releases by the band, such as the album Macbeth, were influential on certain artists within the martial industrial music genre.[37]


Laibach is often cited as an influence for the popular German Neue Deutsche Härte band Rammstein. The parallel is regularly made between the bands regarding their aesthetics and deep male vocals both groups share and with their respective backgrounds of originating from former socialist countries.[38][39][40] When asked about the topic in an interview, the guitar player of Rammstein, Richard Kruspe, claimed Rammstein to have a more emotional approach instead of the more "intellectual" style of Laibach. In the same interview the keyboard player of Rammstein Christian Lorenz drew a parallel between the deep voices of Till Lindemann and Milan Fras but considered this to be the only similarity between the two music groups.[41] The documentary film Liberation Day ends with a notice stating that a member of a certain industrial metal band was supposed to be interviewed for the film about the influence Laibach had on their earlier work, but it had to be removed due to the prospect of arrest or a fine from the district court of Berlin towards the makers of the film. This, and the early promotional material for the film[42] suggest that it was Paul Landers who was to appear in the film, thus to some extent confirming the connection between these two music groups. When members of Laibach were asked by an interviewer about Rammstein "stealing" from them, they responded: "Laibach does not believe in originality... Therefore, Rammstein could not 'steal' much from us. They simply let themselves get inspired by our work, which is absolutely a legitimate process. We are glad that they made it. In a way, they have proven once again that a good 'copy' can make more money on the market than the 'original'. Anyhow, today we share the territory: Rammstein seem to be a kind of Laibach for adolescents and Laibach are Rammstein for grown-ups."[43] Laibach would later provide a remix for the Rammstein single "Ohne dich".[citation needed]


Laibach has been the subject of several documentaries:

  • Laibach: Victory Under the Sun (1988), directed by Goran Gajić,[44]
  • Laibach: A Film from Slovenia (1993), directed by Daniel Landin and Chris Bohn,[45]
  • Predictions of Fire (1996), directed by Michael Benson,[46]
  • Divided States of America – Laibach 2004 Tour (2006), directed by Sašo Podgoršek,[47]
  • Liberation Day (2016), directed by Ugis Olte and Morten Traavik.[48][49]


Milan Fras

In 1978, Dejan Knez, the son of well-known Slovenian painter and artist Janez Knez, formed his first band Salte Morale,[50] which evolved into the first incarnation of Laibach in the summer of 1980. This incarnation included Dejan Knez, Srečko Bajda, Andrej Lupinc, Tomaž Hostnik and Marko Košnik. Soon after that, Knez's relative Ivan "Jani" Novak and Milan Fras joined the band. First a quintet, Laibach quickly became a quartet and declared that the group had four members: "Vier Personen".

From mid-1980s to mid-1990s, while the core quartet included Dejan Knez, Milan Fras, Ervin Markošek and Ivan "Jani" Novak, the members frequently used the pseudonyms Dachauer, Keller, Saliger and Eber.[51] The pseudonym Ivo Saliger was originally used by original singer Tomaž Hostnik and more recently by Ivan Novak.[52][53] The pseudonym Elk Eber has been used by Dejan Knez.[54][55] Former member Andrej Lupinc has continued to use the pseudonym Keller after leaving the band.[56] Occasionally, other musicians supplemented the core group, some of whom included Oto Rimele (guitarist for Lačni Franz), Nikola Sekulović (bass player for Demolition Group), Matej Mršnik, and tour drummer Roman Dečman. Slovene singer and radio announcer Anja Rupel has also performed with the group.

On 20 June 2015, the band performed a sound performance Musical Nocturne with their most famous line-up of Knez, Novak, Fras and Markošek.[57]

Official members (pseudonyms)

  • Eber [vocals] (after Elk Eber)
  • Saliger (after Ivo Saliger)
  • Dachauer (after Wilhelm Dachauer)
  • Keller

Current touring band

  • Milan Fras – vocals
  • Ivan "Jani" Novak – bandleader, light show
  • Marina Mårtensson - vocals, acoustic guitar
  • Vitja Balžalorsky – guitar
  • Bojan Krhlanko – drums
  • Luka Jamnik – synthesizer
  • Rok Lopatič – synthesizer

Former members and collaborators

Appearances in popular culture[edit]

  • In 1989, on his second studio album Hoćemo gusle (We Want Gusle), Yugoslav alternative rock musician Rambo Amadeus recorded a Laibach parody song "Samit u burekdžinici Laibach" ("Summit in the burek-bakery Laibach"), featuring the song lyrics from the poems "Santa Maria della Salute" ("Saint Mary of Health") by Laza Kostić and "Ne, nemoj mi prići" ("No, Do Not Come Near Me") by Desanka Maksimović and the chorus from the turbo folk singer Šaban Šaulić song "Čaše lomim, ruke mi krvave" ("I Break the Glasses, My Hands Are Bleeding").[58] A promotional video was also recorded for the track, parodying Laibach videos and aesthetics.[59]
  • Von Bach, a fictional supervillain modeled after Milan Fras, appears in the DC Comics graphic novel Kingdom Come, by Alex Ross and Mark Waid. In it, he appears dressed in Laibach-style uniform and displays the group's cross tattooed on his chest. He is described as follows: "German-speaking superhuman and would-be dictator is the example of the Hitleresque villain that had so much symbolic importance in the Golden Age of comic books. The blocky cross on his chest is evocative of the kind of bold symbols used by fascists. Von Bach has the words 'Liebe' (love) and 'Hass' (hate) tattooed on his arms and, in fact, his entire body has been covered with one large tattoo of that dark color that most tattoos become, with his natural flesh color only coming through in the designs on his body". On the NSK State website, the band states they have "been paid with uncommon honour" by this.[60]
  • In 1999, a tribute album to Laibach titled Schlecht und Ironisch – Laibach Tribut[61] was released.
  • Laibach's version of the Juno Reactor song "God Is God" (which was inspired by Laibach's "Opus Dei", itself a cover of Opus's song "Live Is Life") from the album Jesus Christ Superstars appears on the second soundtrack disc for the computer game Command & Conquer: Red Alert, which was released only in the German release of the Special Edition pack,[62] and on the album "The Blair Witch Project: Josh's Blair Witch Mix".[63]
  • Canadian industrial doom metal band Zaraza released a tribute EP called Montrealska Akropola – A Tribute to Laibach[64] in 2004.
  • The official soundtrack for the crowd-funded film Iron Sky was written by Laibach and released as an album. Laibach song "B Mashina" was used in one of the trailers for the film.[65] Continuing with the theme Iron Sky: The Coming Race will also have its music done by Laibach, and has used their song "Koran" in two of its trailers.
  • In July 2015, the TV show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver talks about Laibach's plan to play at National Liberation Day in North Korea.[66][67]


Studio albums[edit]


Compilation albums[edit]

Live albums[edit]


7-inch singles[edit]

12-inch singles[edit]

  • "Boji" / "Sila" / "Brat Moj" (L.A.Y.L.A.H. (in association with Les Disques Du Crepuscule), 1984, Bruxelles)
  • "Panorama" / "Decree" (East-West Trading Comp. (Cherry Red), 1984, London)
  • "Die Liebe" / "Grösste Kraft" (Cherry Red, 1985)
  • "Geburt einer Nation" / "Leben heisst Leben (ins.)" (Mute, 1987, London)
  • "Life Is Life" / "Germania" / "Life" (Mute, 1987, London)
  • "Sympathy for the Devil 1" / "Laibach, 300.000 V.K." (Mute, 1988, London)
  • "Sympathy for the Devil 2" / "Germania, 300.000 V.K." (Mute, 1988, London)
  • "Sympathy for the Devil" / "Sympathy for the Devil" (picture disc with two versions) (Mute, 1988, London)
  • "Across the Universe" / "Maggie Mae" / "Get Back" (Mute, 1988, London)
  • "3. Oktober" / "Geburt einer Nation (live)" ((German-only 12" single) Mute / Intercord Gmbh, 1990, London / Stuttgart)
  • "Wirtschaft ist tot" / "Wirtschaft ist tot" (Mute, 1992, London)
  • "Wirtschaft ist tot" / "Sympathy for the Devil" ((remixes, for promotion only) Mute, 1992, London)
  • "Final Countdown" / "Final Countdown" (Mute, 1994, London)
  • "In the Army Now" / "War" (Mute, 1995, London)
  • "God Is God" (Mute, 7 October 1996, London)
  • "Tanz mit Laibach" (Mute, 2004, London)
  • "Das Spiel ist aus" (Mute, 2004, London)
  • "Anglia" (Mute, 2006, London)

CD singles[edit]

  • "Sympathy for the Devil" / "Sympathy for the Devil" / "Sympathy for the Devil" ((picture CD with three versions) Mute, 1988, London)
  • "Across the Universe" / "Maggie Mae" / "Get Back" (Mute, 1988, London)
  • "Panorama" / "Die Liebe" / "Decree" / "Grösste Kraft" (Cherry Red, 1989, London)
  • "3. Oktober" / "Geburt einer Nation (live)" ((German-only cd) Mute / Intercord Gmbh, 1990, London / Stuttgart)
  • "Wirtschaft ist tot" / "Wirtschaft ist tot" (Mute, 1992, London)
  • "Final Countdown" / "Final Countdown" (Mute, 1994, London)
  • "In the Army Now" / "War" (Mute, 1995, London)
  • "Jesus Christ Superstar" / "God Is God" (Mute, 7 October 1996, London)
  • "Tanz mit Laibach" (Mute, 2004, London)
  • "Das Spiel ist aus" (Mute, 2004, London)
  • "Anglia" (Mute, 2006, London)
  • "1 VIII 1944" (Narodowe Centrum Kultury, 2014, Warsaw)


  • "Laibach/Last Few Days" (Skuc, 1983, Ljubljana)
  • "Documents of Oppression (live from N.L. Centrum, Amsterdam)" (Staal Tape, 1984, Amsterdam)
  • "Vstajenje v Berlinu (live in Berlin 1984)" (Skuc, 1984, Ljubljana)
  • "Live in Hell (live from Hell's-Hertogenbosch, 1985)" (V2, 1985, Bois-le-Duc)
  • "Ein Schauspieler (live from the N.L. Centrum Amsterdam Church, 1985)" (Staal Tape, 1985, Amsterdam)
  • "Divergences/Divisions (live in Bordeaux, 1986)" (Le Réseau, 1986, Bordeaux/Toulouse)

Side projects[edit]


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Additional sources[edit]

External links[edit]