Blurb: After 34 years, Laibach continues to stay fresh and relevant, blending in new sounds without losing the distinct elements that made the group such a renowned entity.
Laibach is a band that needs no introduction. Over the past 34 years, the group has been many things: musicians, artists, and political dissidents, all while maintaining dark and satirical overtones. Discounting 2008’s LaibachKunstDerfuge, this is the band’s first full-length release since 2006’s Volk. While that is certainly a tough act to follow, Laibach successfully delivers the goods with Spectre, as it has that distinct Laibach sound that everyone has come to expect while never feeling stale or mired in the past.
The vocals on the album are split between Milan Fras and Mina Spiler, and the vocal interplay works very well and never feels forced. While everyone knows what to expect from Fras’ vocal styling at this point, it is really Spiler’s performance that adds a lot of character and feeling to the songs. It’s a very welcome addition that adds a new dynamic to the songs. Between the range of the two vocalists and the extensive layering and textures of the electronics, the album is every bit as nuanced and rich as previous Laibach releases, if not more so.
Much has been made about this album finally being the one that sees Laibach taking a firm political stance after years of ambiguity. Unfortunately, much of the lyrical content does not seem to reflect this sentiment. While the lyrics certainly contain politically charged sentiments, the same song that makes the statement to “Occupy Wall Street” also encourages listeners to “Judge the intentions of those we don’t trust.” As is usual for Laibach, nothing is ever really clear cut or simple.
The album opens up with “The Whistleblowers,” which feels like a throwback to Opus Dei, right down to the choir, organ, and classic drum machine samples. It’s a welcome and nostalgic sound, but one that Laibach thankfully does not retain throughout the album. The very next song, “No History” showcases the musical styling that permeates the rest of the album. It is as dramatic as ever and more aggressive than the instrumentation found on Volk. It feels very fresh and modern with a dubstep sort of flair, showing that Laibach is not stuck in a rut or a certain musical “sound” – this is as much of a reinvention as Volk was. The songs are delightfully varied; while there is no shortage of the dramatic, bombastic tunes that have populated Laibach’s last few albums, there are a couple that stand out as intense, fist-pounding crowd pleasers. “Eat Liver!” is essentially a Wagnerian punk rock anthem, and “Bossanova” just might be one of the most infectiously catchy Laibach songs in some time. “Eurovision” paints a dark and bleak picture of European politics and has some great choir and synth work that’s reminiscent of Volk. “We Are Millions and Millions Are One” is a great upbeat song that isn’t as acerbic as “Bossanova” or “Eat Liver!” and really showcases Spiler’s voice.
A few of the songs don’t quite hit their mark. “Walk with Me” overuses a synthesized vocal lead that goes from mildly annoying to incredibly obnoxious as the song progresses; it’s good otherwise, but the synth is something that can be a little hard to get past. “Resistance is Futile” is also a little strange as it shifts back and forth from a loud and abrasive chorus to a more melodic, calm verse, causing it to feel a little stilted, especially since the melodic part sounds a bit like the theme from Beverly Hills Cop. Nothing on the album is so far off as to be worth not listening to, but after one or two listens, it’s pretty easy to skip around to the favorites that one might have. This is not an album that needs to be experienced from start to finish as one piece.
Spectre is a fantastic addition to Laibach’s library. It brings a lot to the table and is fresh and entertaining. There are a few minor blemishes here and there, but the album overall is very tight and consistent. There’s really something to be said about the fact that such a seasoned band is still trying new things and blending in modern elements of music to stay fresh and relevant. It’s one of the reasons this reviewer is a big fan of Laibach – while the group has a standard set of elements associated with it, each album is unique. Spectre is as different from Volk as it is from WAT or any of the band’s other albums. Innovation and experimentation is an essential part of the Laibach formula, and it’s always exciting to anticipate what’s coming next.
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