MAYHEM - Mediolanum Capta Est CD

MAYHEM - Mediolanum Capta Est CD

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“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.

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