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prometeus, January 27th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2016, Digital, Independent

Mayhem has a long tradition of releasing live albums or compilations, but this one is somewhat special, because it is the first full-length live output with Atilla on vocals. The problem is that it does not sound like a live album, but like a remastered studio version of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. If someone would like to hear them live, but does not have the resources to go to their concerts, then they might sound boring (I will go into details below). The good part is also the sound polishing, since everything is much clearer, especially the vocals, compared to the original.

First of all, I like this better than the original because of Atilla. Here, he sounds more coherent and less silly, without the extra pop gimmicks, way out of place. Then, the reverb he has on the mic gives a much necessary boost, to understand the words coming out from his mouth. Lastly, his clean vocals have improved, but his standard deep low voice is becoming an Abbath-esque croak. Of course, he is getting older, even though the guy is probably in the minority of the black metal vocalists receiving vocal couching early in his career.

Second, the idea of using two guitarists in Mayhem is for the best. They tried the formula with Blackthorn in 1992-1993, with Nordgaren in 1997, and with Sanrabb in 2004-2005, but it’s a shame they weren’t consistent with this formula. The riffs sound fuller, the tracks sound more aggressive and atmospheric, while the darkness is more suffocating than in the original, when the second guitar appeared sparingly. And of course, kudos for the sound crew for the recreation of the original production!

Another aspect I like about the live release is the increased tempo, with the increased musicianship. Let’s be honest – Euronymous was not a very good live guitarist, compared with Blasphemer or Teloch. Here, everything is very tight, with Hellhammer pounding the drums with confidence and keeping the original details, before the editing process. Necrobutcher’s bass gets a little in the background, but he is still as competent as he was in 1991, for better or for worse. Teloch’s solo in Life Eternal sounds weaker than in the studio version, but then again, there it’s overdubbed, so I guess I will give him a pass.

The downside for the album is a big one: if you haven’t seen the video recording or are not interested in it (for some reason, like hearing the whole thing on bandcamp), then you should know that they’ve cut the bits between the songs, and the crowd noise is almost absent. This neuters any chance of experiencing an actual live session, and Atilla isn’t the type to interact during the songs. And even in the video, he whispers or grunts or mumbles some words, when samples are not present. One thing I miss about Maniac was that he had this genuine hatred and intense passion when introducing the songs. Oh, and another minus about the audio version is the absence of… the visual aspect: everybody’s cloaked, except Hellhammer, for obvious reasons.

In the end, I recommend this for the visual experience and if you like professional live recordings, as it is their best sounding yet. But, if you want a more intense live album, better check Mediolanum Capta Est, where Atilla also sings on two tracks (track the bootleg for the second one).