concert reviews

Laibach at Nation, Washington, DC, Thursday 4 November 2004

At first glance, Laibach seems like any other industrial band: Amid the flashing lights and heavy beats Thursday night at Nation, the group's music appeared to be more melodramatic doom-and-gloom aimed at an all-black-wearing crowd. But something is unusual about the Slovenian group. It claims to have formed its own totalitarian art state, a collective called the Neue Slowenische Kunst (New Slovenian Art) or NSK.

The group's philosophy allows for no individuality: The musicians never introduced themselves, they did not interact with or acknowledge the crowd (save for a bow from the lead singer), and NSK was never mentioned from the stage -- although citizenship applications were available at the merchandise table. Instead, the group's nearly two-hour set flowed together with unwavering monolithic rhythms and the vocalist's demonic growl as he ranted through Pink Floyd's "Dogs of War," overhauled Queen's "One Vision" into the creepy "Geburt Einer Nation" and barked percussively on originals such as "Tanz Mit Laibach."

Midway through the set, two young women joined the group onstage, flanking the singer. They looked like windup toy soldiers set in motion at exactly the same time, their exaggerated motions always in sync as they pounded on snare drums and crossed their drumsticks perpendicularly over their heads in rhythm. They sang, too: The most striking song of the night was the first in the group's 30-minute encore, a simply orchestrated "Mama Leone," with the women's angelic voices floating over the lead's deep rumble. Laibach's momentary restraint provided a stark contrast to the sonic assault that overtook the rest of the night.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 6 November 2004
.: Selected discography: Anthems (Laibach, 2004); WAT (Laibach, 2003); Nova Akropola (Laibach, 2002); Jesus Christ Superstars (Laibach, 1996); Sympathy for the Devil (Laibach, 1988); Let It Be (Laibach, 1988); Opus Dei (Laibach, 1987).