Wednesday 16 August 2017

Review: Laibach – 'Also Sprach Zarathustra'

'Also Sprach Zarathustra'

Slovenian provocateurs Laibach return with their latest sonic offering in the form of 'Also Sprach Zarathustra', an album based on music originally created for a theatrical production of Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Also Sprach Zarathustra) based on Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical novel of the same name, which premiered in March 2016. The official release sees the original music updated and reworked into a studio album rather than released in it's theatrical form as they did with 1986's 'Baptism' and 1990's 'Macbeth'.

The album is therefore a follow-up to their 2014 outing 'Spectre', and album that was as approachable as it was subversive, and perhaps saw the band's most favourable critical outing in their 30 year career. With the artistic intelligentsia now fully caught up with what Laibach have been doing for the past three decades this release will feel like a major swerve from anyone who have just encountered the band.

'Also Sprach Zarathustra' returns to the band's avant garde and neo-classical past and forgoes the pomp filled electronics of albums like 'Spectre', 'WAT', and 'NATO' that proved their most commercially successful. Tracks such as 'Ein Untergang', 'Ein Verkündiger', 'Von Gipfel zu Gipfel', 'Das Nichtlied I', and 'Als Geist' are sinister, foreboding blending metallic industrial rhythms and noise, with ambient drones, classical strings and horns, and the occasional piano refrain dominating the tracks, while Milan Fras' unmistakeable vocals power through.

There are one ore two moments where the softer and more melodic side of the band come through unabated by noise such as the album's opener 'Vor Sonnen-Untergang', and 'Vor Sonnen-Aufgang' which features the stunning vocals of Mina Špiler. But just as you feel you can breathe again the group pull you back into the darkness with the swirling, psychedelic noise of 'Von den drei Verwandlungen' to definitively shatter your sanity.

While this album returns to the strong neo-classical, avant garde and even martial sounds of their earliest albums. 'Also Sprach Zarathustra' is still executed and produced to the same high standard we've seen on the band's more recent commercial albums. Noise is textural, not over saturating, all the instruments come through clear and the mix feels spacious.

Anyone that has followed the career of Laibach won't be surprised by this album, in so much as with spectre being such a commercially friendly album that wrapped their subversive nature in dance rhythms and 
Wagnerian pop melodies, it seems natural that they would follow it up with a more experimental and less user-friendly release. Such is the joy of a group like Laibach, you can't make assumptions or take things for granted. 

Those looking for 'Spectre' part 2, or even a hint of their other recently performed works such as the songs from the sound of music may have to wait longer for an official release. But in the here and now this is a welcome return to the dark and disturbing underbelly of the Laibach collective.  

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