It was the year 1992. Guitarist Mike Wead who was briefly in Candlemass, was taking a break from his technical Thrash/Speed band called Hexenhaus. After releasing three amazing albums with them, he decided to join forces with singer Messiah Marcolin and drummer Snowy Shaw to form a new Progressive/Power/Doom Metal band called Memento Mori.
Messiah Marcolin was the singer of Candlemass from 1987 to 1991 when he decided to leave the band. (Tempers started to rise between band members during the Tales of Creation tour, as the band toured extensively but wasn’t really getting any money. While the band was recording Chapter VI, Messiah was informed by the band’s manager, that Leif Edling wanted him to change his vocal lines. Messiah was not willing to do so and reacted by basically telling them to fuck off and then he quit the band).
Snowy Shaw was King Diamond’s drummer at the time, having recorded drums for King’s majestic album The Eye.
Although Mike Wead, Messiah Marcolin and Snowy Shaw were clearly the “stars” in Memento Mori, one should not neglect the important role of bassist Marty Marteen and especially guitarist Nikkey Argento who with Mike Wead composed most of the songs.
Having completed their lineup Memento Mori released their debut album Rhymes of Lunacy in 1993. In Rhymes of Lunacy Memento Mori play Majestic Power/Doom Metal.
Argento and Wead’s guitars are razor sharp yet melodic, featuring incredible guitar solos and melodies. The rhythm section and especially Snowy Shaw’s drumming is extraordinary! Shaw is definitely one of the best metal drummers and in this album he showcases what he can do! Messiah is in remarkable form, giving one of his most beautiful performances ever! His interpretation in The Monolith is one for the ages! Mike Wead and Nikkey Argento wrote the music of the album and Snowy Shaw and Mike Wead wrote the lyrics.
The Riddle which is the intro of the album is astonishing and I can’t think of myself listening to the mind blowing Seeds of Hatred without it! Morbid Fear is incredible and The Monolith is massive! Special reference should be made for the excellent cover of Lost Horizons by MSG.
Memento Mori returned only one year later in 1994 with their sophomore album Life Death and Other Morbid Tales. A true masterpiece! Many consider their debut to be their best album, but for me LDAOMT is their Mount Everest! I can’t really stress how great this album is.
Snowy Shaw’s drumming in the album is innovative, powerful and smart…to this day my favorite ever! The drums sound is unique and unparalleled! Shaw is also successfully involved in the writing process of three songs; one of them being Heathendom, one of Memento Mori’s finest. Mike Wead and Nikkey Argento handle the rest of the songs masterfully. The album is clearly more progressive and experimental and is highly complimented by the keyboards of Miguel Robaina! Robaina for me completes the puzzle and fits the band perfectly. His keyboards create great atmosphere and give an eerie feeling to their music.
Messiah Marcolin’s interpretation is masterful. His voice is yet again in great shape and this time he has a different approach to his vocals with slightly less vibrato. The production is experimental but hits the spot. My only objection is that Messiah’s vocals should be higher in the mix and with less reverb and delay effects… As for the songs…well I’ve already mentioned the monumental Heathendom. Right next to it are To Travel Within, I am, Just Another Morbid Tune, Misery Song, masterpieces all of them!
Unfortunately having reached its pick the band changed lineup. Messiah Marcolin wanted to get song writing credits for his vocal melodies (quite rightly so in my mind, vocal melodies are gravely important in music creation…) and sadly he was denied. So without harsh feelings he left the band followed by Snowy Shaw who joined Mercyful Fate.
Still, Memento Mori continued to exist. Mike Wead brought Billy St. John, his drummer from Hexenhaus to fill the drummer spot and recruited former Tad Morose singer Kristian Andren to take vocal duties. Kristian is an amazing singer and his work with Tad Morose, Memento Mori and Fifth Reason is remarkable!
So with a new lineup Memento Mori composed and released their new album La Danse Macabre in 1996. Mike Wead writes all the words and music with the exception of “The Beggar’s Waltz” written by Wead, Argento and Robaina. Robaina’s influence and presence on this album is more evident than ever. His keys are higher in the mix and play an important role in the final outcome. The title track of the album is an instrumental masterpiece that showcases the talents of Memento Mori. The opening track Endlessly, is an instant classic with amazing solos and a beautiful performance by Kristian Andren! La Danse Macabre has a more classical approach but is still much experimental and progressive. The production is good but somehow lacks power at times. Notable songs on the album are also Lost Words, Morpheus and Crown of Thorns.
La Danse Macabre was a great album, but lacking the diversity of its predecessors it wasn’t very successful commercially. You could say it was kind of a more personal project of Mike Wead.
Following the commercial setback of La Danse Macabre, Mike Wead reunited his thrash band Hexenhaus in 1997 and released their fourth and probably best album, called Dejavoodoo. At that time Mike Wead also replaced Michael Denner in Mercuful Fate. Although Wead seemed to be busy with his previous and new projects, he still had some new songs written with Argento for Memento Mori and decided to release the bands final album “Songs for the Apocalypse Vol. IV”. He then recruits Tom Bjorn, the amazing drummer of Memory Garden to replace Billy St. John. Meanwhile Wead and Marcolin decided to work together again, as Marcolin gets the deserved song writing credits he wanted on the new album. The album is clearly a turn towards Epic Doom Metal, more slowly paced and less experimental, with the exception of some extreme progressive moments in Burned by Light (one of the best songs on the album) and I Prayed.
Songs for the Apocalypse Vol . IV starts off with the amazing The Things You See (And The Things You Don’t) written by Argento and Marcolin. An instant classic and ultimate headbanger (just listen to the spell casting opening riff and the smart drums by Tom Bjorn!).
Messiah brings back his deep vibrato singing style which fits the more Doomy music perfectly. Under My Blackened Sky is a real Epic Doomer and One Sign Too Many features impeccable guitar work by Mike Wead and Nikkey Argento that brings in mind Animal Magnetism by Scorpions which is also covered masterfully on the album (better than the original in my opinion)!
Memento Mori (yes, the song has the same title as the band’s name) is a vintage slowly paced classic Doom Metal song and I Prayed is Messiah’s dedication to God for helping his father successfully undergo a heart surgery. The album ends on a more powerful note with Out of Darkness which features again beautiful guitar work, an amazing interpretation by Messiah and pounding drums by Tom Bjorn.
Songs for the Apocalypse Vol.IV was a perfect yet sad epilogue for Memento Mori.
By the end of 1997 Mike Wead had become a permanent member of Mercyful Fate putting Memento Mori on hold indefinitely…
Messiah Marcolin quoted during an interview for Metal-Rules back in the Candlemass reunion days:“When I left Candlemass, I made Memento Mori with Mike Wead and we still call each other quite often. And when we both have time, we will make a new Memento Mori album. That would be cool!”
Still, many years have passed and despite the fans desperately asking for a Memento Mori reunion, this has not been made possible.
Be it Mike Wead’s busy schedule with King Diamond and the newly reunited Mercyful Fate, Snowy Shaw’s many different projects, or Messiah Marcolin’s inactivity, a Memento Mori reunion seems like a distant dream.
Memento Mori to me is a one of a kind band, innovative and unique in all aspects. Apart from individual efforts, what really stands out in Memento Mori is the intelligent song writing, which is clearly Doom Metal, but with a more melodic, technical and powerful approach.
Memento Mori is one of the most underrated bands in heavy metal history and it would be really great to see them live someday… I hope this small tribute reaches the band members and makes them consider a reunion in the not too distant future.
The fans deserve it and heavy metal needs more music by Memento Mori!
Singer of Doomocracy