If Laibach think that National Socialist Germany represents the past of nationalism, track 4, “Rossiya” indicates that they think its future lies in Russia. Furthermore, the band seems to share the surprising fusion of Russian nationalism and Communism in the minds of many Russian nationalists today. “Rossiya” combines the Communist anthem “The Internationale” with the current “State Anthem of the Russian Federation,” which is based on the 1944 Soviet national anthem. Although the current Russian anthem removes the phrase “an unbreakable union” from the old Soviet anthem, Laibach quietly restores it, speaking of “an unbreakable union of fraternal states, united forever in Great Russia’s embrace.”
After the fall of Communism and the integration of Russia into the global capitalist marketplace, Russians learned that, for all its faults, Communism at least did not hand the resources of the nation over to international robber barons based in New York, London, and Tel Aviv. To Russians condemned to cold, hunger, and hopelessness by the transition to capitalism, there was a new poignancy to “The Internationale”:
Arise, the prisoners of starvation,
arise, the damned of the earth.
To this, Laibach adds:
let’s gather together,
let’s break us free,
the world is changing at its core!
Communism, like nationalism, is collectivist in spirit. And in practice, Soviet Communism was nationalistic. Thus the move from national Communism to international capitalism was seen as a step in the wrong direction.
And what of Communism’s decades of terror, its tens of millions of victims? These seem to be minimized or forgotten. Or perhaps they have merely been assimilated to the harsh environment, the Mongol hordes, and the cruel autocrats who made the Russians the toughest nation in Europe. Laibach’s opening verse captures this fiery, frozen crucible of the Russian character:
United forever in vast, endless space,
created in struggle by unhappy race,
where sunrays of freedom
are frozen in ice,
united forever in Great Russia’s embrace.
Ironically, by alleviating such conditions, liberal democracy and consumer society might prove a greater threat to the survival of the Russian nation than Communism ever was.
This connection between Communism and Slavic nationalism is underscored in track 12, “Slovania” (“Slovenia”), which is based on “Hey Slavs,” the unofficial pan-Slavic anthem which later became the anthem of Communist Yugoslavia. Laibach’s own contribution consists in dedications of “Hey Slavs”:
These words are for those who died,
these words are for those left behind.
These words are for you, Poland,
and these ones for my homeland.
The other dedicatees are “the spirit of our fathers,” “the glory of our sons,” “the power of the Spectre” (Communism?), “the Holy Alliance” (the 1815 alliance between the Russian Empire, the Austrian Empire, and the Kingdom of Prussia against the ideals of the French Revolution), “lovers,” “warriors,” and “all communists.” The final lines are cryptic, but they hint at a modern, Russian-oriented pan-Slavism:
Out of the feudal darkness,
away from the Nameless One
we stand alone in history,
facing East in sacrifice.
The references to Communism and the Holy Alliance indicate that the spirit of this pan-Slavism will be collectivist, anti-liberal, and Christian.
Track 13, “Vaticanae,” is a suitably ethereal arrangement of the “Papal Anthem and March,” which indicates that for Laibach, Slovenia’s western-looking Catholicism, like their eastern-looking pan-Slavism, is an important aspect of the nation’s identity. Track 14, “NSK,” is the anthem of Laibach’s own state Neue Slowenische Kunst. Over a march that sounds like it is being played on a scratchy vinyl record from the 1940s, an electronic voice reads the stirring concluding words of Winston Churchill’s “We Shall Fight on the Beaches” speech of June 4, 1940. In light of “Anglia,” the irony is delicious.
Tracks 5 through 7 deal with France (”Francia”), Italy (”Italia”), and Spain (”España”). “Francia” is based “La Marseillaise,” but Laibach rallies the “children of the fatherland” not against French monarchists, but against “foreign hordes” of African invaders transforming France into an African (and Muslim) nation stretching from the Congo to Calais. “Italia,” based on “Il Canto degli Italiani” (”The Song of the Italians”) also called “Fratelli d’Italia” (”Brothers of Italy”), is Volk’s most straightforward (and beautiful) adaptation of an anthem. Yet it adds two cryptic and sinister verses describing Italy as “the slave of Rome” and asking Italy if she will die for her freedom or forget her past and its ties. “España” is a melodic, martial, and triumphant fusion of the music of Spain’s wordless national anthem “La Marcha Real” (”The Royal March”) and the words of “El Himno de Riego” (”The Song of Riego”) the anthem of the Spanish Republic, which was banned under Franco. It is hard to see how the Communist Republic has anything to do with a healthy Spanish nationalism, but “El Himno de Riego” is truly a stirring call to arms. Laibach’s interpolations, moreover, have nothing to do with Communism, invoking instead the masculine and heroic Christianity of Spanish tradition: “Brave is your Jesus–El Toreador!” and “Brave is your Jesus–El Conquistador!”
Tracks 8 through 11 deal with non-European nations. Track 8, “Yisra’el” (”Israel”) is an ironic blending of the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikvah” (“The Hope”) with the martial Palestinian national anthem “Biladi” (“My Country”). Track 9, “Türkiye” (“Turkey”) is based on the Turkish national anthem “?stiklâl Mar??” (“Independence March”). Track 10, “Zhoughuá” (“China”) blends “The Internationale” with the Chinese anthem “Yìy?ngj?n Jìnxíngq?” (“March of the Volunteers”), for in China too, Communism has fused with nationalism. The hauntingly beautiful track 11, “Nippon” (“Japan”), is based on the Japanese anthem “Kimi ga Yo” (“May Your Reign Last Forever”).
If you are encountering Laibach for the first time, Volk is definitely the place to begin. Musically, it is Laibach’s most melodic and accessible recording, yet all the group’s distinct sonic trademarks are present. Conceptually, it is the group’s most ambitious and thought-provoking project so far, yet it is also rich with humor and irony (but only at the expense of their enemies).
Cover of Laibach’s “Kunst der Fuge”
Laibach’s latest release, Kunst Der Fuge, is a Laibachian electronic realization of Bach’s last, unfinished work The Art of the Fugue. I found this choice surprising, but I shouldn’t have, since Laibach’s earlier works demonstrate a wide knowledge of classical music, including Baroque counterpoint. (This is used to droll effect when combined with a monotonous, thumping techno bass line on NATO’s cover of the Swedish glam-metal band Europe’s “The Final Countdown.”)
“Original instruments” purists, of course, would dismiss such electronic performances without a listening. But Bach himself did not write The Art of the Fugue for a particular instrument. And for those of us who first heard Bach played by Walter/Wendy Carlos, synthesizers are original instruments anyway. I have a number of performances of The Art of the Fugue in various arrangements–piano, organ, string quartet, and chamber orchestra–and Laibach’s has taken its place among them as a legitimate and sometimes revelatory interpretation. Like all of Laibach’s works, there are playful and ironic moments. But the core is deeply serious, even spiritual. At the brink of death, Bach was writing pure, Platonic Gedankenmusik, and it is Laibach’s electronic realization, precisely because of its iciness and inhumanity–its cold interstellar vastness–that brings this listener right to eternity’s edge.
Is Laibach mystical then as well as militant, in the tradition of the Christian warrior-monks like the Templars and Teutonic Knights? The closing words of “Das Spiel ist aus” certainly seem to view European man’s struggle for survival from the aspect of eternity:
Was erstanden ist, das muss vergehen.
Was vergangen ist, muss auferstehen!
Wir der Böse sind, und wir sind Gott.
Wir sind zeitlos. Und du bist tot!
Raus! Das Spiel ist aus!
What has risen must pass away.
What has passed must rise again!
We are the Devil, and we are God.
We are timeless. And you are dead!
Out! The game is up!
Originally published under the pen name “Oliver Pendleton” in TOQ vol. 9, no.1, Spring 2009.
 Laibach, Let It Be (London: Mute Records, 1988).
 Laibach, Jesus Christ Superstars (London: Mute Records, 1996).
 Laibach, NATO (London: Mute Records, 1994).
 The video of “Das Spiel ist aus” is available on Laibach — The Videos (Mute DVD, 2004). The version of “Das Spiel is aus” accompanying the video is available on the compilation Laibach, Anthems (London: Mute Records, 2004). Another version of “Das Spiel ist aus” originally appeared on Laibach, WAT (London: Mute Records, 2003).
 A similar connection is drawn in “National Reservation” on NATO, Laibach’s anti-war, anti-Western imperialism CD. A remake of “Indian Reservation,” a Cherokee lament that became a US number one single for Paul Revere and the Raiders in 1971, “National Reservation” substitutes “Eastern” (i.e., Eastern European) for “Cherokee” and leaves the rest of the song pretty much unaltered, including the lines “Though we wear shirts and ties, / we’re still the red men [i.e., Communists] deep inside.”
 Consider the imagery of Also Sprach Johann Paul II, by the Laibach side project 300.000 V.K. (= 300,000 Verschiedene Krawalle, 300,000 Assorted Riots) (A.M.D.G., 1996). On the back cover, the Polish pope is depicted as Vlad the Impaler, as portrayed in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 movie Bram Stoker’s Dracula. On the CD itself, John Paul’s voice is mixed with Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra over a throbbing, martial techno beat. The CD evokes the muscular, heroic, crusading Christianity of those who resisted the Muslim invasions of Europe, not today’s decadent Christianity that has thrown open the gates.
 This is Gnostic or Vedantic non-dualism, of course, not orthodox Christianity.
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