LAIBACH Critique Western Civilization

Way back in 1980 when Brian Warner--the future Marilyn

Manson--was still sitting in his bedroom listening to Alice Cooper records and

dreaming of things to come, the Slovenians--then Yugoslavians--known as LAIBACH

had already launched their assault on the world of rock and popular culture,

highlighting and critiquing rock's collusion with the forces that rule our

lives: its innate fascist qualities, and its ability to act as a superbly

effective conveyor of a Western capitalist ideology which in theory promotes

the notion of individualistic self-creation, autonomy and "Freedom," but which

in practice itself creates individuals as target markets by which to further

its own ends of untrammelled growth. Here, say LAIBACH, is the most subtle and

effective form of totalitarianism yet known to man: a Friendly Fascism, where

you get a hug instead of a kick in the balls.

LAIBACH's latest release,

Jesus Christ Superstars is perhaps their most momentous effort yet, a

millennial document in which the group--a collective whose members shun the

individual spotlight, wishing to be known only as the entity/organism

"LAIBACH"--turns its attention to another of society's mechanisms of control,


Utilizing the guitar style of the "black sheep" of heavy metal

(a genre which, as LAIBACH points out, its own adherents such as Metallica are

now ashamed to be a part of, yet which has also retained its aesthetic purity

in face of postmodern hybridization) and their usual underpinning of metronomic

disco rhythms and Wagnerian choruses, the band have created an electrifying

concept album which perversely belies their oft-stated notion that rock 'n'

roll is a dead genre.

A LAIBACH show is an unsettling


A LAIBACH show is an unsettling experience, musically

existing somewhere between The Sisters of Mercy (explaining a notable Goth

contingent in the crowd at Lee's), Kraftwerk, Ministry, and the aforementioned

Wagner, stirring feelings within the listener which he or she may find

uplifting, unsettling, or more likely, both at once.

The band took the

stage at Lee's Palace in Toronto this past Monday night (March 10) looking like

a cross between Greek Orthodox priests--three of the members wearing clerical

collars--and medieval Gnostics, courtesy of LAIBACH's black bearded, basso

profundo lead singer (Sister of Mercy Andrew Eldritch sounds like a soprano

next to this guy), who wears a black frock and a cross-emblazoned medallion

signifying his membership in the larger NSK Slovenian artist's collective from

which LAIBACH springs.

Banks of dry ice illuminated by coloured lights only

added to the mystical bent of the show as LAIBACH launched into their "original

cover" (the group rejects the notion of artistic ownership, and indeed the

entire "Big Man" genius-individualist theory of art) of 80s "hair-metal band"

Europe's "The Final Countdown," now transformed into a dramatic, LAIBACHIZED

piece of millennial rock opera. The effect was spine-tinglingly


And so it went, as the stage show unfolded with a mechanized,

Teutonic display of sturm und drang, a military precision which was only

intensified by the singer's self-consciously dramatic posturing, equal parts

rock hero, Gnostic priest, and army commander.

As a series of symbolic

LAIBACHIAN imagery flashed on a screen behind them, the band pounded through

another grinding original cover, Pink Floyd's "Dogs of War," with venom, adding

to the increasing atmosphere of dread. Audience members at this near-capacity

show often seemed stunned following such numbers, only remembering to clap and

cheer following a pregnant pause after each song. The relentless techno

pounding of "Alle Gegen Alle" concluded the first section of the show; after a

short instrumental break the singer returned, shirtless, his chest emblazoned

with a LAIBACH cross medallion.

The knockout punch was now delivered, as

the band, assisted by backing tapes, launched into material from their latest

magnum opus in its near-entirety.

From the churning opening metal riff of

"God Is God" onwards, LAIBACH brilliantly highlighted the linkage between

religion and other control systems such as the military (the Crusades,

anyone?). A recurring theme seemed to be that the millennial apocalypse which

many fear is oncoming has already taken place, a view promulgated in one of the

highlights of the show, the Ministry-esque "Message From The Black Star," which

depicts God, as did many medieval Gnostics, as an imperfect, evil Demiurge who

created a fatally flawed world from which man is forever


"Welcome to hell, you already know my name / For that you have

your Lord Jesus Christ to blame / He did my work well, he was my greatest

creation / Through him I spoke to you and to many a nation."

This theme of

Jesus as the unwitting agent of an entity bent on controlling mankind, a

deluded Pop Star, also appeared in the stirring metallic hymn "Abuse and

Confession," in which Judas appears as the Archetypal Man, and confronts Christ

with his inconsistencies: "It was written in stone / You had a mission to save

/ Why give me desire / Just to prove I'm depraved? . . . Your mission has

failed / You failed the world."

The chorus of the electrobeat hard rock

"original cover" of "Jesus Christ Superstar"--"Do you think you're who they say

you are?"--thus took on new meaning in these LAIBACHIAN hands, as did The

Artist Formerly Known As Prince's "The Cross," transformed here into robotized

metallic funk.

Gradually, the overall point became clear: be they spiritual

or technological, systems--all created as a result of man's frustrated

will-to-power--eventually and invariably enslave those who construct them, and

the only true "Declaration of Freedom" is death, "the final release . . . From

the threat of eternity / From eternal slavery."

In the postmodern era, the

term "irony" has been corrupted, coming to signify a kind of Seinfeld-like smug

brand of humour. LAIBACH, however, operate at a level of the deepest irony,

restoring the original meaning of the term not as denoting a facile lack of

seriousness, but rather as expressing the apparent perversity of fate or

circumstances. So when the group came out for their first encore and launched

into their infamous rendition of The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for The Devil,"

they had arrived at the extreme limit of ironical meaning, for if God is really

a demon, then what does that make the Devil? And in turn, Man?


worth pondering, surely, but it should be noted that you could enjoy this

entire show without once considering any of them: it simply kicked ass. Which

may have been the most subversive part of LAIBACH'S troubling yet exhilarating,

complex and brutally impressive performance.