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As one of the earliest instances of a proper black metal live recording, it's only natural that Live in Leipzig has developed somewhat of a cult respect among the genre's audience. It's raw, punishing and honest, and it captures one of the most infamous bands of its type during what some consider their halcyon days, between the disgusting and excellent Deathcrush EP and the forthcoming full-length debut De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. That is correct, Mayhem had a live disc out before even one proper album. But what's probably even more appealing to many is that this is one of the more satisfactory efforts to involve the band's early vocalist Dead, who among other things was a crucial component in bringing over the whole 'corpse paint' look to the newly coined black metal genre, before killing himself in '91.
I'll come right out and say that I've never been as much of a fan of Dead's voice as I have been of the sniveling Maniac or creepy Attila Csihar. It suits the music, especially this earlier material, but it's naught more than a grainy bark which often feels phoned in. It's quite 'everyman', in that I can't imagine an audience member being pulled out at random and not being able to match it. But that said, this is likely the appeal of the guy to so many fans of the band's vintage recordings. The other negative factor to Live in Leipzig is simply that the production is pretty cruddy. Yeah, it's totally authentic and sounds like a band pressing [RECORD] on the tape deck in their garage and basement. I understand the spirit behind it, and in no way is it the worst I've heard of its type, but throughout this whole album I felt like the riffs were taking a backseat to the drums and the vocals are often intolerably loud.
This can come across awkward when he's doing some lame inter-song stage banter and then the drums and guitars erupt, but there isn't really a lot happening in between tracks. Perhaps the most blood pumping intro is to "Pure Fucking Armageddon", which closes out the album. He at least seems to incite some reaction here. Another thing is that the guitar tone is pretty 'meh'. It definitely favors the slower material from the Deathcrush era to the later songs, where the faster flow of notes seems to be washed out by the drums, but it also rather sucks during the chug sequence of "Necrolust". However, this was November 1990 in a country not their own, so you sort of have to take what you can get. I can imagine that actually being there, with the severed pig heads, dirt and rotted chunks being hurled around would have proven more fulfilling.
As for track selection, you've got basically got the whole of the relevant, original material from the prior EP: "Deathcrush", "Necrolust", "Chainsaw Gutsfuck" and "Pure Fucking Armageddon" are all accounted for, in addition to the songs "Buried by Time and Dust", "Funeral Fog", "Pagan Fears", and "Freezing Moon" which would be included with the coming full-length. There's also a rare compilation track "Carnage" used in the set, and some versions also contain the studio version (and also a studio for "Freezing Moon" with Dead on vocals, if I'm not mistaken). At any rate, I've never come away from this album impressed. Like the band, and of course the track list was drawn from what must be their best material, but it sounds rather bland and I'm not that into the vocals. Live in Leipzig is loud, raucous and very 'real', but it's not one of the more compelling live records I've experienced.