Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mayhem - Mediolanum Capta Est (1999)

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.

Verdict: Indifference [6.5/10]

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