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Live in Leipzig is one of those albums that has attained legendary status within the black metal community, and even within much of the wider metal community. Unfortunately, Live in Leipzig is mostly undeserving of the praise sent towards it, it’s the worst thing the Dead-era Mayhem put out by far, and is a mostly boring and dull album. We’ve all seen the “DEAD IS TOTALLY POSSESSED ON LIVE IN LEIPZIG ZOMG!!!” comments, and at times this is true, but for the most part, it simply is false.
Perhaps the most important aspect contributing to the lifelessness of Live in Leipzig is the crowd and band interaction. On very few live albums have I heard both the crowd and band have so little intensity and excitement. Everybody here is bored, including the band. It shows, the crowd is barely clapping between songs and Dead tries a number of times to provoke the crowd into action (Notably his introduction to “Carnage”, “ARE YOU DEAD? HUH?”). In turn, the band starts becoming lacklustre during a number of the songs on offer here. “Funeral Fog” in particular offers a somewhat hopeful beginning, before descending into mediocrity courtesy of Dead, his screams of “fuuuuuuuuuuuneral fog!” sounding weak and, to be frank, pathetic due to their delivery. If I want to hear Dead “possessed”, as so many people put it, I’ll go listen to Dawn of the Black Hearts or Live in Jessheim.
The rest of the band isn’t on top of their game as well. A number of drum and guitar parts are screwed up by Hellhammer and Euronymous respectively, which while by itself isn’t much of a bad thing, it DOES become bad when you’re playing “Deathcrush” or “Chainsaw Gutsfuck” at ¾ speed, resulting in any mistakes sticking out like a paintball on a white hat. While we’re on that subject, why the fuck did they play the aforementioned songs so slowly? “Deathcrush” sounds like shit and “Chainsaw Gutsfuck” is barely passable. The same line-up played the same songs on the same tour at regular speeds and sounded great; the versions on offer on Live in Leipzig are just shitting on the originals from the Deathcrush EP.
This album is often praised due to its “rawness.” It’s often recommended to new black metal listeners followed by such sentences as “…the sound may put you off though.” I’m sorry people, but you must be on some pretty heavy drugs because as Live in Leipzig is as clear as day. All the instruments are audible, from Euronymous’ frankly AWESOME guitar tone, to Necrobutcher’s guttural bass lines and Hellhammer’s pretty bad sounding drums (which are a bit too loud in my opinion). Another unfortunate thing that keeps this album from being anything worth your time is the fact that the recording is not raw, but poor. A number of glitches are present throughout the recording, most noticeably the huge screech from the microphone at the beginning of “Buried Time by Dust.” It’s disappointing to hear what is one of the better performances of this song ruined by a glitch stuffing up the intro.
The set-list itself is what is to be expected from a Mayhem show during the time period it was recorded in. Four songs from Deathcrush, Pure Fucking Armageddon’s “Carnage” makes one it’s many appearances (a live staple of Mayhem’s since their beginnings really) and the remaining four songs are taken from De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, an album still in the writing stages when this show took place. Nothing really stands out here with the glaring exception of show closer “Pure Fucking Armageddon.” Somewhat of a rebel, the song jumps off the Mediocrity Train of Mediocre Mediocrity and becomes an unexpected standout performance. Indeed, this is one of THE finest performances of the song, where slowing the song back down to the speed it was played at on the original demo actually benefits it as that awesome riff at the beginning of the song is allowed to be heard and fully appreciated (anybody who denies the awesomeness of that riff should be shot).
Really, let’s look at Live in Leipzig critically. The band plays poorly, crowd and band interaction is virtually non-existent barring Dead’s last ditch attempt at the beginning of “Pure Fucking Armageddon” and the recording is littered with glitches and annoying sounds. “Deathcrush” got butchered here and the rest of the songs are not up to scratch (again, barring “Pure Fucking Armageddon). Live in Leipzig is a boring live album from a band and line-up that has made such brilliant material it leaves me speechless at times. If you’re looking for Dead at his best, go download Dawn of the Black Hearts, Live in Jessheim or Live in Zeitz, it’s just a damn shame the band chose to release the Leipzig show in its official form.