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Dry as a dustbowl - 45%

autothrall, February 8th, 2011

Live at an Exhibition is the first and only live album from intellectual thrashers Mekong Delta, serving as a stopgap between their Dances of Death and Kaleidoscope efforts in the early 90s. A DVD live (also from 1991) will be released many years after this, but here you've got only the audio content and extremely drag cover art to beckon you. That said, being reasonably impressed with some of the German thrash lives to this point (Destruction's Live Without Sense in particular, Sodom's Mortal Way of Live less so), it's cool to see that some of the other hopefuls were getting in their shots and allowing a neglected international fan base a chance at hearing them in that particular environment.

Of course, this is the Doug Lee-fronted Mekong Delta, so we're not entreated to hearing the classic pipes of Wolfgang Borgmann at the helm, and in the live setting, especially on the band's earlier material, he sounds middling at best. The disc opens with "The Cure" from the s/t album, and the guitars maintain their fusion of rampant, jarring energy, but Lee's clean vocals sound like a Watchtower performance with none of the schizoid genius. "Transgression" and "True Believers" are wisely chosen from the band's recent Dances of Death (and Other Walking Shadows) LP, and these fare a lot better, since these were Lee's to meddle with in the first place. The rest of the set is rounded out by a few instrumentals ("The Hut of the Baba Yaga" from the debut, "Toccata" from the single of the same name, Mussorgsky's "Night on a Bare Mountain"), a few tracks from The Music of Erich Zann which aren't so bad ("True Lies", "Memories of Tomorrow"), and "Heroes Grief", which is from the debut.

The Principle of Doubt is completely ignored, which is a little strange, since it was the band's best album to that point, but perhaps the band had been sick of playing the material, or there was some sort of agreement. At any rate, it was a mistake, because I would have loved a great live version of "A Question of Trust", at the least. Then again, the sound quality here sort of sucks, with an amateur tone to it through which none of the band's warm, paranoid glow can be cast upon the listener. It's dry and forgettable, and you never feel the convulsions you feel when poring through the studio works. Live at an Exhibition is pretty damned avoidable, not that it's readily available, and I'd recommend you get the 2007 DVD if you can find that, because no matter how it sounds, at least there will be more happening. This is neither inspiring nor well picked, with too many instrumentals interfering with any possible flow to the band's energy.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com