Review Summary: Laibach's crusade into new territory.
Laibach is just one of those bands that are so obscure they seem almost impossible to access. They are the music section of the NSK (New Slovenian Art), taking their name from the Nazi renaming of Ljubljana- their home town. An industrial band that sing in English, German and Slovene… Oh, and the founder of the band killed himself.
They are known for wearing militaristic clothing on stage, bearing very ‘right-wing’ symbols and imagery, deploying Wagner like backing tracks, spouting agendas and ideology as a collective… As you can see there is little surprise that they have been branded as Nazi’s by the naïve and ignorant.
However, upon each new album release, with their political and philosophical ideas changing and twisting so much, it became clear that Laibach were in fact being deeply satirical (almost a parody). They were living up to everyone’s fears and expectations of what a far right wing band would be like.
So we’ve figured out what Laibach is all about then" Well no. Along comes Jesus Christ Superstars. Gone is the political ideology. Gone is the machine like noises and drones. What we have here is Christianity and a heavily distorted guitar.
This album is like nothing Laibach has done before or since. While their most famous album, Opus Dei, had classical sections infused with out-and-out industrial beats, this album is as much metal if anything.
Most of the songs have harsh tectonic riffs, simple drums and choir like signing in the background. However, much of Laibach’s original traits are still found on this album. We still have a fair few electronic sounds, dark sinister atmosphere and of course Milan Fras extremely gruff vocals. As always with Laibach, the album has covers. Yet unlike most covers, they are actually the highlights of this album. ‘God is God’ is one such cover. It has a very good riff and Milan Fras’ vocals makes it sound very epic and over the top. This song perhaps sums up what is good about the album. The guitar. Songs such as ‘Abuse and Confession’, ‘Declaration of Freedom’, ‘Message from the Black Star’ and especially the end of ‘The Cross’ (originally a Prince song!), have excellent riffs that make the album rock.
While the album may be dominated by the guitar, it takes a break in some songs such as ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ and the rather quite scary ‘To the New Light’.
As noted before, the album is very heavy on religion. The lyrics of the Laibach written songs seem to be almost questioning and dissecting parts of the bible, and on occasions Milan Fras takes the role of a character in the book. In ‘Abuse and Confession’ for instance he takes the role of Judas Iscariot-
And it was written
That I must betray You
Otherwise man would be lost
Would be lost
What about me"
Don't turn Your back on me
The lyrics remain pretty similar thought-out the album. Yet it’s difficult to tell if Laibach are being totally serious on this album, and whether they are actually against the Bible by questioning it so much. That’s the thing with this band. You never know what they’re actually thinking.
As for Jesus Christ Superstars on the whole- It is a solid album which is a bit silly and over the top, yet enjoyable to listen to (if you can handle the vocals).
But there is one big flaw…
By moving into this new territory of Industrial Metal, they went head to head against Rammstein. By the time Jesus Christ Superstars was released, Rammstein’s Herzeleid and Sehnsucht were in the shops. As fun as the Laibach album is, it seems almost amateurish when compared to the Rammstein albums. And this is the problem with Jesus Christ Superstars. Industrial Metal (or Neue Deutsche Härte) is not what Laibach is comfortable with.
As a one off experiment that Laibach did, it is a good effort. But if you want to get a real taste of what Laibach is all about, listen to Opus Dei.