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I don't really grasp why this is so revered. There's a point where incompetency is endearing or even respectable; some level of roughness around the edges or even outright drunken stupidity can be great at times. Incompetence being good, however, necessitates sufficient spirit and fervor to replace the absence of musical talent. 'Live In Leipzig' lacks both these qualities, so it's not even a sloppy yet forceful and raw look at early Mayhem; it's just Mayhem having a really off day live. It sounds like everyone was performing with a cold and for very little pay. Okay, Hellhammer seems to be sort of trying, but aside from him, no one even wants to be there. It's raw, yes; it's also mediocre and essentially pointless, except for lineup concerns.
'Live In Leipzig' is primarily worshiped due to being the only full-length recording featuring Dead, who, as this live LP will show you, is himself much more worshiped due to shotgun suicide than any particular skill in vocalization. He's not a quarter of the vocalist that Attila would be on the seminal 'De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas'; he's not even half of a decent, standard-issue black metal vocalist. He's sloppy and droning, both of which are accusations that could be leveled at Attila; however, Attila's theatrical style added to the atmosphere of Mayhem's later compositions. Dead does nothing but limply groan over the instruments. The real thing that kills his performance, though, is a lack of power. Imagine a basic black metal vocalist- say Magus Caligula of Dark Funeral- performing as usual, but never letting his volume or intensity rise above a moderate shout. Terrible idea, isn't it? Basic black metal vocals require some viscerality to them to be convincing. Dead lacks even this, so what you have is an already mediocre vocalist practically falling asleep during his performance. Nothing more needs to be said about him; the best thing that ever went through Dead's head was the buckshot.
The rest of the band fairs slightly less poorly, but it's still bad enough to kill the release. Every track is, as those reading this probably know, packed to the brim with instrumental errors; the most obvious is the mangling of Euronymous' solo in 'Freezing Moon', which is the auditory equivalent of swallowing a lemon whole. In fact, moments like this turn it into something approaching a comedy release; Euronymous' guitar coming unplugged on 'Freezing Moon', Hellhammer losing a drumstick on 'Pagan Fears', the weirdly uneven, undulating production throughout; it's pretty funny, in all honesty. Speaking of production, it's not as bad as you'd think it is (though it is still pretty bad); you can actually hear everything, including the bass if you pay close attention. But overall, it's very weak and does nothing to cloud the lackluster playing of everyone involved. Is this supposed to be grim and raw? I don't think constant errors in playing are very raw, myself, but perhaps others have different standards.
To the album's credit, the tracklisting is essentially a full catalog of Mayhem's brilliant tracks at the time; however, a decent set list just makes the subsequent musical abortion all the more hilarious and vaguely saddening. I wouldn't say that this is an entirely worthless release; it's of great historical importance as far as early black metal goes, and it's pretty amusing all around. But if someone actually tries to call this release essential and groundbreaking, please laugh and walk away. Think about it: this was originally a bootleg that was later made into an official release. This means that the members of Mayhem actually sat down, listened to Euronymous' guitar get unplugged, and said to themselves, "Yeah, yeah, this is the good stuff." And if that's not funny, I don't know what is.