Reviewer: Matthew J.
The Slovenian industrial pranksters are at it again, and with an album based around the idea of covering 14 different national anthems, was there anyone who didn't expect this to be confrontational and belligerent? With Milan Fras, the face of Laibach, delivering provocative rhetorical questions in his omnipresent guttural baritone while "God Save the Queen" plays in the background, "Anglia" is everything you'd predict it to be, but beyond the over-the-top yet deliberately vague political aspects of this work, it's also stunningly beautiful in far more ways than you'd expect. A large part of that is due to Laibach's employment of Silence, a fellow Slovenian act whose Boris Benko provides a gorgeous tenor that contrasts nicely with Fras's rumblings, but there's more to it than that. "Yisra'el" is a haunting blend of both Israeli and Palestinian anthems that addresses the Middle East conflict in a far subtler way than is typical for Laibach, and "Italia" is bittersweet and powerful, starting off with traditional strings and soft vocals that build into a melancholy crescendo. Laibach's own native land also gets an impressive treatment; "Slovania" sees Benko's tenor joining a female choir over deep electronic breakbeats. The NSK, the Laibach-founded art movement and government, reprises the band's 1986 track, "The Great Seal," with robotic vocals and brassy synthesized trumpets for a tongue-in-cheek look at nationalism through the lens of electronic music, as does "Espana," a deliberately cheesy synthpop rendition of Spain's "The Royal March," complete with sampled crowd cheers. Surprisingly touching just when you expect it to be funny and turning to hilarity just when you're thinking about how somber it is, this album is more proof of Laibach's mastery of the unexpected and is a touching work in spite of itself.
Visit Laibach at the online NSK embassy at http://www.laibach.nsk.si for more information and citizenship applications.
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