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Within their 30+ years of existence, Slovenian industrial/electro act Laibach has covered, remixed and deconstructed a wealth of material from acts the world wide; from classics acts like the Beatles to more extreme and obscure fare. Considering Morbid Angel's leaning towards experimentation throughout the mid 90s and beyond, and the transition of industrial and electronica from the club and cult scenes to the mainstream, it makes a lot of sense for the two to collaborate, even if that union was limited to a pair of remixes. The Laibach Remixes EP provides a simple equation: lift two tracks from a band's most recent studio album (Covenant), then sample and mutate them to evoke a decidedly dissimilar atmosphere.
Now, the inclusion of the originals ("God of Emptiness" and "Sworn to the Black") is rather useless if you've already acquired the full-length and absorbed the material, but here they are not inconvenient as a 'control group' for what Laibach are attempting. Surprisingly, the remixes are not major attempts to re-structure the tracks, only to filter them through clanging dystopian landscapes. Within "Sworn to the Black", this is achieved through the mere incorporation of pipe like percussion and reverb to the original. It's not a huge difference, really, but I do rather enjoy this subtle twist, and in fact I prefer it to the original. What they've done with the other piece, "Gods of Emptiness" is much more substantial and impressive, tweaking not only the drums but also the vocals and adding a choppy, mechanical ambivalence. Vincent is more drawn out and deepened here, and the result is something more creepy than the original, though perhaps not entertaining for very long (I would have liked to hear more variation and alteration).
The biggest issue with the EP is simply that there is not much to it at all. It's a positive that the Slovenians did not make a bad techno mockery out of the material like you'd find on the Fear Factory remix album Remanufacture, but there's not a hell of a lot here to justify the product. Had this been a half decade later, these tracks might have just been released to the internet for the fans of both bands to peruse. I kind of dig the cover and the concept behind this, not to mention both bands involved, but the scarcity of content is crippling unless you're a collector who simply doesn't care about anything more than acquisition of the product itself. Also, perhaps a bit more could have been attempted by Laibach to draw the material more into their own realm of manipulations, rather than playing it so safe. Curious but easily avoidable.
Morbid Angel songs covered by a Slovenian industrial band? Is this supposed to work? God of Emptiness and Sworn to the Black with a different, maybe even mainstream-oriented sound? In a way the track lengths give some hints on the actual outcome of Laibach's performance:
1. Morbid Angel - God Of Emptiness (5:28)
2. Morbid Angel - Sworn To The Black (4:02)
3. Laibach - Sworn To The Black (4:17)
4. Laibach - God Of Emptiness (5:37)
God of Emptiness is a pretty well known song by Morbid Angel, not only through the video but also as it offers the potential of the band in the slower segment of the death metal genre. Especially its tempo, the riffs and the dominance of the vocals by David Vincent give it a hypnotic atmosphere. A large contrast to Sworn To The Black, which comes with more of the dynamics Morbid Angel is generally associated with. Fast(-er) death metal, heavy as hell and weird riffs and motives, not to mention extremely catchy, despite the complexity in the arrangements.
Not much of a difference in terms of the lengths of the tracks can be spotted here and at least some resemblance might already be suspected. "At least some" might be an underestimation, because Laibach did merely one thing: added some electronic sounds, drums and the like. Those two compositions had not been revamped, ripped apart and put together in a different way to give them a new (fresh?) identity. Such is not the case here and even though some changes in the atmospheres can be recognized, the overall impression of Morbid Angel tracks has remained.
The differences to the originals:
Among the aspects which have received a change are the drums, their sound has been electronically manipulated and put in the front. They give the impression of a drum-computer with a very sterile kind of play; especially in terms of the double-bass. God Of Emptiness comes accordingly with a shift in the balancing of the instruments, to the advance of the drums but to the disadvantage of the atmosphere. Beyond this aspect some additional keyboards -- or whatever this is -- have been added, which appear in both compositions in the same manner and style; placed in accordance to the rhythms and dynamic, some additional variation would have been nice. Some slight manipulation of David Vincent's voice -- additional layers and sound -- can also be identified. The guitars and bass lines have remained intact; at least from the perspective of this reviewer.
Looking back at the description of the cover version, then the outcome is somehow disappointing, due to the lack of braveness in the attempt of Laibach. Too close to the original, not enough new elements and simply just a polishing of the surface can be found on this ep, while the underlying concept has remained intact. And this makes Laibach Remixes an ambivalent experience. Was the band from Slovenia incapable of creating anything beyond this shallow interpretation of the two Morbid Angels compositions or did they tried to stay on the safe shore; in order to make some easy cash? More would certainly have been possible and accordingly is the listener nothing else but a strange and boring alliance of death metal and martial/industrial/ambient music offered.