Laibach is a Slovenian avant-garde music group strongly associated with industrial, martial, and neo-classical musical styles. Formed June 1, 1980 in Trbovlje, Slovenia (then Yugoslavia), Laibach represents the music wing of the Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK) art collective, of which it was a founding member in 1984. The name "Laibach" is the German name for Slovenia's capital city, Ljubljana.
Laibach is known for their cover versions, which are often used to subvert the original message or intention of the song — a notable example being their version of the song "Live is Life" by Opus, an Austrian arena rock band. Whereas the original is a feel-good pop anthem, Laibach's subversive interpretation twists the melody into a triumphant, rolling military march. Other notable covers include the entirety of the Beatles album Let It Be (1988) — with the exclusion of the title track — and their maxi-single Sympathy for the Devil (1988) which deconstructs the Rolling Stones song of the same name with seven different interpretations of the song.
Some early Laibach albums were pure industrial, with hard industrial percussion, heavy rhythms, and roaring vocals. Later in the mid-80s, the Laibach sound became more richly layered with samples from classical music including from Gustav Holst’s The Planets. The band began their tradition of cover songs in 1987 with the album Opus Dei, where their sound was changed again.
Although primarily a musical group, Laibach has sometimes worked in other media. In their early years, especially before the founding of Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK), Laibach produced several works of visual art. A notable example was MB 84 Memorandum (1984) an image of a black cross that served as a way to advertise Laibach's appearances during a period in the 1980s when the government of Yugoslavia banned the name "Laibach". Cross imagery, and variations on the cross are apparent in many Laibach recordings and publications.
Laibach has frequently been accused of both far left and far right political stances due to their use of uniforms and totalitarian-style aesthetics. They were also accused of being members of the neo-nationalism movement, which reincarnates modern ideas of nationalism. The members of Laibach are notorious for rarely stepping out of character. Some releases feature artwork by the Communist and early Dada artist/satirist, John Heartfield. Laibach concerts have sometimes aesthetically appeared as political rallies. When interviewed, they answer in wry manifestos, showing a paradoxical lust for, and condemnation of, authority.