Also Sprach Zarathustra by Laibach

Release date: July 14, 2017
Label: Mute

Thirty-seven years down the line, Laibach have yet to lose their grip over their provocative and subversive career. As an industrial band openly embracing and celebrating the symbols and aesthetic of totalitarianism, this current record grounded in the fiery parables of Friedrich Nietzsche feels like the kind of project that is long overdue for Laibach. After all, what better grounds for a subversive discourse than the ambiguous and oft misconstrued writings of the infamous figurehead of philosophical nihilism?

Initially born as a soundtrack to Matjaž Berger’s theatrical adaptation of Thus Spoke Zarathustra the current oeuvre on display here serves as an updated version of the play’s score and does retain strong ties to the score format. The tracks are considerably more minimalistic than on previous few albums, more akin to dark ambient pieces than “songs”. Five of the twelve tracks are instrumental and the whole record opts for a sparse use of vocals. Stripped down to the metallic percussive sounds of the bands’ musical backbone, the whole album offers a distinct new take on Laibach’s music all the while staying true to their martial aesthetic. Occasional orchestral arrangements chime in and play an important part of the records’ theatrical context, relating back to the grandeur of its underlying literary work. Whether it be through the titles and lyrics, every written line on Also Sprach Zarathustra sticks tightly to Nietzsche’s oeuvre through direct paraphrases in the philosopher’s mother tongue, delivered sternly by Eber’s deep, croaking voice.

‘Vor Sonnen-Untergang’ serves as a Wagnerian opera overture and firmly sets the Romantic decorum before taking a left turn and transitioning into the bleak, barren soundscapes that define the meat of the record, starting with ‘Ein Untergang’. “Der Mensch ist ein Seil” quotes Eber, a truncated, recontextualised form of “Mankind is a rope tied between beast and superman”, a brilliant metaphor for Laibach’s merging of primal grit and martial power on the record. Unsettling decontextualised quotes riddle the record, drawing parallels’ to the oeuvre’s appropriation by fascistic regimes : “Ich bin ein Verkündiger des Blitzes” (“I am a herald of the lightning“). Despite the very minimal minimal nature of the tracks, Also Sprach Zarathustra does make for an engaging listen for the most part through its subtle and skillful blend of musicality and narrative sound pieces not unlike Luc Ferrari’s “anecdotal music” pieces. Each sonic texture and sample serves a purpose to the overarching narration, tied together by the disjointed patchwork of rhythms and melodies sprinkled sparsely throughout the compositions. Synthesizers namely take over for a few sections and densify the riveting atmosphere on tracks like “Das Glück” all the while adding a hint of harmony. The album slowly steers back towards the orchestral registers on the last few tracks of the album, culminating on the breathtaking finale ‘Vor Sonnen-Aufgang’, a stirring reprise of the albums opening theme led by angelic female vocals that will move you to tears.

Besides a few slightly stagnant passages and a needlessly long album 7 minute outro, there aren’t many gripes to be had about the album. One could have hoped for a few extra pieces in the same register as the record’s phenomenal finale, though the album’s cohesive flow and pace holds up impeccably as is. As ambitious as this project is, it took no less than Laibach than Laibach’s rawest talent to carry this artistic undertaking over to the epic realms it deserves to reach. With Also Sprach Zarathustra, Slovenia’s most daring act march confidently into untrodden musical territory and reinstate the grounds of their unique, unmatched career and legacy.

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