MEMORIAM Emerges From BOLT THROWER’s Drummer’s Death
April 10, 2017, a year ago
So many people have asked me who Memoriam is after asking them if they have heard the debut record, For The Fallen. Memoriam is a new band in that this is their first record, but toss around the names of the bands their players have been in and there is instant recognition, there is a gleam in their eyes, an understanding of what members of Benediction and Bolt Thrower are capable of doing.
The U.K.’s Bolt Thrower was known for penning harrowing tales of war and the psychology behind it. Bolt Thrower is one of the first wave of death metal bands and they earned the title of “death metal,” not just for their musical style, growling and all, but also for their approach to the taboo topic, death. But as mentioned above, it was done in reference to war.
War is still part of the pen for Bolt Thrower vocalist, Karl Willetts, but now the wise-old death metal master is delving even deeper into the psychology of what happens to your mind when you experience the death of a close one. It could be simply seeing your friend, lover and family member slowly pass or it could be a brutal, unexpected tragedy. Either way, death affects us all profoundly—that is the brunt of what you’ll hear in the vocals on “For the Fallen.”
Karl Willetts, the voice of Bolt Thrower (and now Memoriam) was kind of enough to grant us an interview—one of only a handful of interviews. While our interview did not come out as planned due to technical difficulties, we still managed to talk about Bolt Thrower touring with Benediction and the two band’s relationships, as well as discuss the theme of Memoriam. If you’re enticed by the following short interview, make sure to purchase a copy of For the Fallen, especially Benediction and Bolt Thrower fans!
BraveWords: I was just listening to Transcend The Rubicon by Benediction. I didn’t realize you were on that record.
Karl Willetts: “Absolutely. I was on ‘At The Wrong Side Of The Grave’. I usually decide to pop up and make an appearance when Benediction is making an album because I go back years with those guys. They are like our preferred touring partners because we know them so well. We get on with them so well. We ‘ave a good laugh with them on the road. It’s good fun to help them out and do some backing vocals when required.”
BraveWords: Speaking of being on the road together, I saw you two play together.
Karl Willetts: “My god that must have been some time ago.”
BraveWords: That was Chaos in Tejas in Austin, Texas (2013).
Karl Willetts: “Of course! That wasn’t so long ago. That was Chaos in Tejas. Is that where the PA collapsed when we were playing?”
BraveWords: (laughs) I don’t remember that. I just remember you playing in a huge warehouse.
Karl Willetts: “It was hot. Great gig, I really enjoyed Austin as well. It’s a lovely city to play. There is a lot of good food as well. There is a lot of street food, which is nice as well. Good days, great days, that was a good tour. The Damned played the night before us. We got to see them. They are one of our favorite, old school bands, so it was good to see them. We met up with Captain Sensible, the guitar player. He’s one of my heroes from back in the day. They are a great, old school band with a good tradition. I like them a lot.”
BraveWords: They were the first punk band to sign to a major label.
Karl Willetts: “They were, in deed. Very influential, it’s good to see them still out there doing it.”
BraveWords: Getting on to the new record, Memoriam, when did you decide to write on this topic? Death/loss is a tough topic to write on.
Karl Willetts: “Yeah, absolutely. I’m glad you noticed that. The music comes from a dark place. It’s quite self-reflective. It comes directly from our experiences of the world we live in. We deal with the issues of mourning and sorrow, grief—the place where the band was born in the first place. We formed due to the loss of Martin ‘Kiddie’ Kearns, who died September of 2015. His passing was the catalyst for why we became a band in the first place. A lot of the main thrust on For The Fallen is about death and the reactions to death. Death is, death metal (laughs) is like the ultimate taboo. It’s something people shy away from and never really talk about until they experience loss. It’s hard to get on with that experience of loss, but it happens quite often, obviously.”
BraveWords: It’s funny this came along to me because I’m grieving my grandfather.
Karl Willetts: “The feelings and emotions are raw. Something positive has to come from those feelings because, otherwise, you get overwhelmed with them. They can drag you into a very dark place. The opportunity to write an album that is formulated through grief and sorrow is a celebration of life. It is a tribute to those who have fallen. It’s a celebration of their lives. It’s a celebration of life through death metal. I think that’s a really apt way to describe what we do. It is heavily influenced by experiences we’ve had recently. The time we wrote the album there seemed to be a high rate of celebrity deaths in the media. Especially, last year in particular—there is one song called ‘Surrounded By Death.’ That was highly influenced by, A-my own experience and B-being on the battle field and being surrounded by death.”