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And he died when the angels fell - 65%

autothrall, November 28th, 2011

Mediolanum Capta Est is basically Live in Leipzig and Beyond, in that it was performed with much of the same material as the band's cult live. By this point, Mayhem still didn't have a large body of work from which to draw upon, and thus the content here is still primarily Deathcrush and De Mysteriis dom Sathanas, with a bunch of the Wolf's Lair Abyss songs added. The primary difference here is in the lineup changes: Maniac is handling the vocals in this Milan, Italy performance and Blasphemer has settled into his guitar role. So whether this is 'The True Mayhem' or 'The False Mayhem' is really up to each individual to decide, since I'm sure to some it seems the very pinnacle of blasphemy to even pay pittance to the Norwegians' continued existence.

Comparatively, though, I've got to hand it to Mediolanum Capta Est: it might not have that same, raw and authentic edge of Live in Leipzig or the bootleg The Dawn of the Black Hearts, but I think the sound here is a little better balanced in preservation. And then, of course, there is Maniac, who I simply find to be a more engaging front man, what with his cruel snarling diatribes and what I'd consider a more inspiring stage banter between songs, as obvious as it all might play out (perhaps less so to an Italian audience). I appreciate Dead's theatrical contributions to the whole genre, mind you, but it's Maniac and Attila that really broke me into this band through Deathcrush and DMDS, and their inflections that I prefer on the songs. That said, though, there are still a few issues with this record that hold it back from being one of the better lives in my collection: the guitars, while clear, still seem fairly repressed behind Hellhammer's pulverizing punishment and the ghastly vocals. And the bass under even that...

Thus, it's a little difficult to be blown over here, even if the track selection seems well rounded and the set flows well enough along. Wolf's Lair Abyss tracks like "Fall of Seraphs", "Ancient Skin", "I Am Thy Labyrinth" and "Symbols of Bloodswords" mesh rather well with the older, cruder material, not necessarily creating the sore contrast one might expect. But anyone not feeling that latest studio outing need fear nothing, since they break out "Deathcrush", "Chainsaw Gutsfuck", "Necrolust", "Pure Fucking Armageddon" and even the "Silvester Anfang" intro that was composed by Conrad Schnitzer. If anything, DMDS gets hamstrung here, with only two proxies in "Freezing Moon" and "From the Dark Past", but by this time I can imagine they were a little sick of performing that lot, and wished to favor the Maniac-fronted material. They also perform their compilation track "Carnage", which was also on Live in Leipzig, and they get Attila to join them on "From the Dark Past", which is frankly my favorite point of the set.

Honestly, though I would recommend this over the more beloved Live in Leipzig, I cannot claim that it's in any way essential since the production doesn't really hit me with the same impact that I expect. The guitars are competent but a little washed out on most of the songs, and there's nothing all that exciting outside of maybe Hellhammer's bludgeoning consistency. Even Maniac does not sound at his most snide and raunchy here. In the end, as I would always recommend, just go pay the money to see the band if you're able. They tour often enough throughout the civilized world, but if you're not in the vicinity, then something like Mediolanum Capta Est is at least a passable replacement for the experience, if nothing special.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Black beauty - 90%

blackoz, December 1st, 2006

I couldn’t sit idly by and leave just one review (as good as it is) representing this excellent live album.

“Mayhem” and “excellent”, according to friends of mine, don’t belong in the same sentence. How is it, they wonder, that someone like me who enjoys jazz, folk and world music can listen to this stuff. Mayhem first captured my attention simply through their incomparable savagery. Some bands might be louder, spit more blood and create gruesome video clips but for sheer musical axe-wielding bloodlust, Mayhem are the masters.

“Live in Leipzig” is one of my top ten favourite albums of all time, and the only metal album. It’s not the easiest to listen to compared with, for example, DMDS, but it is both an amazing document of a concert and the best example of a band that plays texture. That’s how I think of Mayhem. It’s not about songs as such, more about texture. It’s like a landscape. Go play Burzum’s “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” and tell me if that album could have been recorded anywhere other than Norway. “Leipzig” is less panoramic but it’s a landscape nonetheless, a scene of barren devastation celebrating the stark beauty of decay and detritus. It’s black beauty in its most visceral, undiluted form.

“MCE”, if anything, is even more about texture, more abstract. The first tracks are nearly all Hellhammer’s drums, the bass and guitar are mixed so low. The balance improves as the show progresses but the standout feature for me is Maniac’s voice. I tire of all the critics who pan Maniac as a poor substitute for Dead. The two vocalists are worlds apart in everything but quality. Imagine “Wolf’s Lair Abyss” with either Attila or Dead at the mic. Forget it. Maniac’s throat-ripping vocals dominate “MCE” throughout, his stentorian pronouncements between the tracks icing the cake.

Neither the Leipzig nor Milan gigs are for the faint-hearted … which means, if you’re a Mayhem fan, you will already have this album.

The next song, I dedicate hereby, to the pope - 76%

stickyshooZ, June 7th, 2004

This meteor of a live album starts off its heavy but calm rain of terror with the drum attack of “Silvester Anfang”. I used to dislike the song until I heard it performed live (it kind of sucks on the “Deathcrush” album). After this tribal and catchy track is done with, the real chaos begins with the classic song “Deathcrush”. Blasphemer is more on track with tempo on this album than Euronymous was on Live in Leipzig and doesn’t leave any room for (obvious, anyways) fuck-ups. As it’s been stated before, the drums can be dominant of the music (Fall of Seraphs is a good example of this) and drown out the other instruments.

The solo in Chainsaw Gutsfuck can’t be heard at all due to the drums drowning it out. Even though the solo isn’t that great, I happen to like it...and the drums ruin it. Necrobutcher’s bass isn’t much different - still heavily distorted, but much pushier and stand out on this album. You can hear it much better than on Live in Leipzig (probably due to the fact that the production isn’t as bad), filling in the gaps and gluing the drums and guitar together. Another issue is Maniac’s vocals.

Of course you’ll hear people complaining that his vocals suck and are indecipherable, but who the fuck cares? Maniac is perfect for Mayhem because black metal isn’t supposed to look pretty. These growls and screams are the kind you’d expect to hear from a hospital patient who is screaming when they’re about to vomit - emetic and sickening. Maniac deals out the guttural and stomach churning vocals with ease - not a bad replacement for Dead. We also get to hear a guest appearance from Attila on track nine, singing along with Maniac using his deep and monstrous vocals.

Hellhammer is an excellent drummer and this album would be a good choice if you wanted to go about defining his skill on the kit. The drums are dominant in some songs, as I stated earlier, but not overly so that it‘s unbearable. The drums are part of what really makes this album a meteor of black metal terror - they crush all in their path with blistering double bass, crackling cymbals, and hammer smashing snare. This album is done with better production than any previous live albums...but I really have no feelings about that; I don’t consider it to improve the sound, nor do I think it takes away from it. The improved production basically just makes it more tolerable for people who hate shitty production...but if you like both ends of the spectrum with production I’m sure you won’t really be bothered.

It’s not as good as Live in Leipzig, but it’s close behind. If you’re a new fan go for Live in Leipzig first, wait a little while, then give this album a try (if you dig live albums, that is). Definitely a worthy purchase.