After the demise of the classic CANDLEMASS line-up due to the departure of vocalist Messiah Marcolin and before guitarist Mike Wead was initiated into the mighty MERCYFUL FATE, the two joined forces to bring MEMENTO MORI into our world. Joined by Nikkey Argento on guitar, Marty Marteen on bass and rounded out by then-current MERCYFUL FATE skinsman Snowy Shaw, MEMENTO MORI offered up some quality Heavy- and Progressive-tinged Doom Metal which tragically has never been able to escape the shadow of Messiah’s illustrious past with CANDLEMASS.
The truth is, MEMENTO MORI doesn’t sound all that much like CANDLEMASS at all. Okay sure, there’s Messiah’s very distinct and recognizable vocals, but here he’s turned down the vibrato quite a bit. Musically, we get something faster-paced, more technical and sharper than CANDLEMASS ever was. Mike Wead’s written most of the music here and it’s full of stark, stop-and-start riffage rather atypical for the Doom Metal aesthetic. Snowy Shaw dominates the drum kit, driving the songs forward in a tramping rather than plodding manner. Keyboards and acoustic guitars pop up rather frequently, played in such a way as to add a unique Progressive touch to the music. MEMENTO MORI definitely have their own thing going and anyone who says that they sound like CANDLEMASS clones is obviously having trouble getting past the front man.
So, yadda yadda, MEMENTO MORI isn’t CANDLEMASS, blah blah blah, but the real question is…is “Rhymes Of Lunacy” any good? Yes, it is. Is it great? No, it’s not. There are some really awesome parts – the deadly sharp opening riff to “The Seeds Of Hatred,” the guitar work in the instrumental “Forbidden Dreams,” and the first few minutes of “Fear Of God” are just some examples. The problem is that the awesome parts don’t really come together to form coherently awesome songs. They’re good songs, above average, but nothing that’s going to make you stop what you’re doing and say “wow, now that was an awesome song.” Of course, that’s only a commentary on “Rhymes Of Lunacy,” not on MEMENTO MORI in general, as they definitely hit their stride on later albums – but I’ll save that for another review.
If you want an album full of Progressive/Heavy Doom Metal or Doomy Progressive Heavy Metal or whatever you decide you would like to call it, or if you’re just a big fan of Messiah’s voice, give “Rhymes Of Lunacy” a shot. Don’t expect to have your mind blown or your jaw dropped, but do expect some solid tunes. (Online October 21, 2005)