MEMORIAM – ” We already have the studio booked and are looking at the next release for early 2019″ Karl Willetts

Posted on by Oran

Old school metal veterans Memoriam have knocked out two, (yes, TWO) stellar albums in the over the last two years and are continuing to work on album number three. Overdrive spoke with vocalist Karl Willetts about the bands’ journey from the ashes of Bolt Thrower and Benediction, to becoming one of the most compelling UK Death Metal bands to emerge from the genre’s scene in recent years. 


Mr Willetts is in fine form as he introduces himself to me over a crackling line from the bands UK rehearsal studio.

With album number two (‘The Silent Vigil‘) now in the public arena since its’ release last month, Memoriam are proving to be a consistent work-horse band that delivers thought-provoking, compelling and downright awesome old-school Death Metal.

And as Willetts explains, it’s been no miracle that they are where they are today….


OD – Given the legacy of the band members, Memoriam, having formed just over 2 years ago (January 2016) have achieved a tremendous amount in that time? Did you ever realise that things would escalate so quickly?

KARL – Yeah, absolutely. Things have really moved at an incredibly fast pace for us. Once we got over the initial shock of Martin passing (“Kiddie” KearnsBolt Thrower drummer) we had to take stock of our lives and I guess we all just took a moment and looked at what was really important to us all collectively and we just decided to work with some of our closest friends and that’s how Memoriam was born.

It was the end of 2015 and the start of 2016 that the very early stages of the band started to take form with regards to sound and personality. Our premise from the beginning was very loose and more about just using it as an outlet for us to deal with our emotions and the feelings that we were experiencing. Much like when we started making music back in the early 80’s. The idea was to have some fun and make some friends along the way which is pretty much the way things are today.

We get into the rehearsal room once or twice a week and do what we love to do which might include a few cover songs by artists that inspired us to be in bands in the first place. That was really the driving force of what we wanted to do. So, it was around this time that Scott (Fairfax, Guitars) came into the band around early March 2016 and started to lay down some of the first material that was to be on the debut album.

memoriamOD – When you look back at the ‘Hellfire Demos’ which is not that long ago really, did you ever think that by 2018 you would be releasing a second album or was that the plan from the start?

KARL – Yes, when we got to the point in early 2016, we figured out that people were interested in what we were doing and if was off the back of the ‘Hellfire Demos‘ that’s when we realised that people wanted more. It was at this point that Nuclear Blast came knocking at the door with a deal and we just went for it and by March 2017 we released ‘The Fallen‘ and now a year on, we have ‘The Silent Vigil‘.

OD – It’s kind of unusual for a band to release a follow-up album so quickly these days, would you agree?

KARL – Yes, indeed! We just stuck to our old-school Death Metal heritage of working hard and doing what we truly love to do, which is making music. When you have that ethos and a great group of musicians that all feel the same way, the work side of things doesn’t really seem that big of a deal. We just put our heads down and got stuck into it. (laughing)

To be honest, we just really know what we want to achieve and what we want to do with Memoriam. That helps a great deal. We’ve got a very focused direction and once we’ve written something that we’re all happy with, we try to keep moving forward and not spend a great deal of time looking back over things.

OD – ‘For the Fallen’ was such a strong debut which was received with such open arms by fans and media alike. From the outside, I got the impression that you were taken aback a little by its success, would that be a correct assumption?

KARL – I think that we’re just very lucky and quite privileged to be in the position that we’re in. All of the members in the band have a very strong musical heritage and because of that, there are a lot of people that have been following the legacy of all the bands (Bolt Thrower, Benediction, Sacrilege and Life Denied), which has really been a huge part of our success to date. These fans have grown up with us and are very much part of who we are as a band today.

But, yeah, we were very aware of the expectations that were upon us and I think most people were genuinely excited and pleased that we were continuing our journey and not going to hang up our boots and call it a day.

OD – It seems that people just knew where you were coming from and almost knew that is was going to be a very special project.

KARL – I agree with you 100%. The people that were familiar with our previous endeavours really did understand our motives and the reasons why Memoriam was created and I like to believe that they appreciated that we were putting out new music and moving forward.

OD – Was there any part of Memoriam’s birth into the global metal scene that was difficult for the band?

KARL – Yes, there was a level of expectations with the first album that we were a little anxious about as I’m sure there were people out there that were expecting a collection of songs that sounded like Bolt Thrower or Benediction.

We have never wanted to be clones of anything, especially something that we had created in the past, so we were faced with the task of creating our very own identity and making our mark as Memoriam rather than our former roles.

OD – When you look back on that period, what are your thoughts now?

KARL – I think that it was a good document of how we’re feeling. The lyrical content deals primarily with death, grief and general morose content and I think that people generally understood where we were coming from, what we had experienced and followed us and supported us through that process. I’m not just talking about the fans and music lovers out there but also the press/media platforms and of course our label, Nuclear Blast.

With the new album, I feel that we have really moved on seamlessly and naturally, which I’m very happy about.

OD – The overall atmosphere on ‘The Silent Vigil’ is more aggressive rather than that of the debut. Do you find that the debut was a sort of cathartic process for you all considering the personal stuff you were going through?

KARL – I feel that we have broken free from the chains of our former bands and very much created our own identity and although the journey has been emotional and very positive. It’s actually very heartwarming to hear that from you as it’s exactly what we wanted to achieve with Memoriam.

Grief, sorrow and loss is something that affects all of us at some point. When we lost Martin (pictured below), back in 2015, it was a huge shock for all of us as he was the youngest out of all of us. He was the last person we ever expected to pass away and to be honest it was a terrific shock to the system and personally, I didn’t know what to do with myself.


It was a very dark place to be in, and at that same point in our lives, Frank (Healy) lost his Dad as well, so he was also in a very dark place understandably, so the first album very much reflects that period in our collective lives.

I know it sounds corny, but time really is a healer and your perception of things does change over time. This next album has really grown from those dark feelings and has moved on with us to the next phase.

OD – With reference to what you have been saying, you can see the evolution in the album art on both ‘The Fallen‘ and now with “The Silent Vigil“.

KARL – Yes, totally correct! The first album was very much us giving Dan (Seagrave, artist/illustrator) the brief to design/create a funeral procession and now with the second album, it’s the continuation of the theme. We very much see this process as being triptych and have already got an idea for the next album cover/concept, which we’ve already started to write.

OD – Would it be correct in assuming that the follow up to ‘The Silent Vigil‘ will deal with more of the closure aspects associated with loss?

KARL – Indeed it does. It’s more like the resolution and acceptance of death if you like. We have a plan, a three album plan dealing with the concept of grief, which we’re currently exploring. All of this will be in line with the visual context which Dan will be involved with also.

OD – How far into the writing process are you with the next album then?

KARL – Well, we already have the studio booked and are aiming for the follow-up in early 2019. We’re just following the concept of grief and documenting our own feelings through the music which is helping both with the writing process and also the timeline of the songs coming together.

OD – One of the things that have really stood out for me about Memoriam, is the respect that is exchanged between the band and the people that buy your music. There seems to be a very sincere and personal approach to the way to communicate with people, which is a very rare attribute to have these days. Again, was this a conscious decision or is something that just came naturally?

KARL – We are very aware at this stage in our careers and also in our personal lives that the reason we are continuing to do this, is simply because of the people that support us. Those people that have followed our careers and paid for our albums, patches, t-shirts etc they are the people that have helped us through this period, and to be honest, it’s a totally life-affirming experience to be able to experience this and have the amount of joy in what we are doing/creating and I think that spreads over into our interacting with the people that support us.

I tend not to use the word ‘fan’, because I consider the people that appreciate what Memoriam do, almost as family and friends (laughing)! It’s been a huge part of our lives and without these people, none of this would be possible.

Like I said earlier, a lot of people that are with us now, have been there for the last 3o years! We’ve all grown together and are, to some extent, part of their life story in some way or another, be it live shows, music as a soundtrack to everyday life etc.

Our appreciation for the respect and support we’ve had from people has been overwhelming and we just want to give some of that back, even if it’s a quick handwritten note to say ‘Thanks very much for your support“. Something like that takes two seconds to do and means a lot to some people.


OD – Having played some of the most successful Summer festivals over the last two years in Europe, you will be appearing at Bloodstock this year which I’m sure will be an almost perfect setting for you. Are playing festivals something that you enjoy or is it more of a compulsory requirement these days, as I’m sure it’s a little more stressful with the time restraints and mixed audience tastes?

KARL – We have experience doing, what we would call a more corporate style festival like say, Grasspop and Wacken in the past and although we had a great time and the gig was a blast, from a bands perspective at times it can feel like you’re just another number/slot for the day, if you know what I mean. Almost kind of an impersonal feeling, for want of a better word.

For that reason, we don’t tend to really enjoy that experience and enjoy the smaller club shows, which are a lot more intimate. The smaller independent festivals are also a pleasant experience for us. I’m talking about two/three thousand people or so. We just tend to enjoy those smaller events a lot more, purely because of the intimacy of the audience, which is just way more intense.

We are delighted to be part of Bloodstock this year. It’s only down the road from where we live, so we can bring the kids and they can see what Daddy does from time to time (laughing). I’ve gotta say, fair play to Vicky (Hungerford, Bloodstock) and the rest of the BOA team for building up the festival, to what I’m sure was way beyond their expectations. They’ve done a stand-up job, to say the least.

What we really like about Bloodstock is that it still has that ‘underground’ element to the festival which is very hard to come by these days, especially the larger events. We’re also playing Hellfest this year, but we are very much going to be concentrating on the smaller club shows, doing as many as we can throughout the remainder of 2018.

But, going back to Bloodstock again, we are delighted to be sharing the stage with Judas Priest on Friday, so we would have probably gone to see them anyway, so getting in for free is a bonus (laughing)!!

OD – Is there a plan to take this album on a headline tour to Ireland as well as the UK?

KARL – Yes, absolutely! My experience of playing in Dublin, Cork and Belfast throughout my career has been great and we would love to get back over to Ireland and do some dates. It all comes down to the promoters getting in touch and offering the right deal for us. Fingers crossed something will happen soon.

The Silent Vigil‘ is out now via Nuclear Blast, order your copy via this link. Memoriam will be taking to the stage at this year’s Manor Fest (click here for details) and Bloodstock Open Air Festival on Friday 10th of August. Tickets for Bloodstock are on sale NOW via this link.



Oran O’Beirne

© 2018. All Rights Reserved.