Here we go with the recently re-released version of MAYHEM’s 1999 outing “Mediolanum Capta Est”, one of the band’s post-Dead era live albums. I wasn’t really that familiar with this particular live album but it did turn out to be a solid listen despite a slightly one-sided production job and the absence of two fallen warriors who made “Live In Leipzig” one of the few essential live Black Metal albums.
So it’s 1999, EMPEROR had just released the way-too-Death Metal-for-its-own-good “IX Equilibrium”, DARKTHRONE released the somewhat underwhelming “Ravishing Grimness” and the guys in IMMORTAL reached new levels of Black Metal epicism with “At The Heart Of Winter”. MAYHEM, for their part, were still riding high after the release of the surprisingly good “Wolf’s Lair Abyss” EP from two years earlier, and with the disastrous “Grand Declaration Of War” still a few years away, they put out this live album with Maniac on vox, Blasphemer on guitars, Necrobutcher on bass and Hellhammer on skins. As you can expect the track-listing is a fine balance between the early years, the classic “De Mysteriis…” era and the Maniac years, with every song pulled off with ease. So there’s no problem in that department but unfortunately the woeful production job nearly spoils the entire disc – Hellhammer’s drums are so high up in the mix that it completely muffles out the guitars and bass, and at times Maniac’s shrill operatics also get dangerously high in the mix. Fortunately the overall performances are superb and the recording allows the listener to hear the responses from the responsive Italian crowd.
By now you should all be familiar with the songs presented here so I won’t go into some tedious song-song analysis; I should point out, however, that the material from the EP sounds way more engaging live due to the fact that it is more intricate/technical than the band’s early Thrashy raw Black Metal. A few of the standout tracks include “Deathcrush”, “Fall Of Seraphs”, and “from The Dark Past” (where the band got Attila to trade hellish growls and shrieks with Maniac). Solid and very enjoyable stuff indeed!
“Live In Leipzig” will probably always be remembered as the essential MAYHEM live album due to it’s truly creepy vibe and the fact that it was released at a crucial time in the second wave of Black Metal’s history, but that should not dissuade fans from checking out this more obscure live offering.
(Online September 26, 2007)