*** Go to our YouTube channel in the link below to see the video review of this record in episode #54 of the SBR Album of the Week.
Massachusetts metal heroes, Fuming Mouth, are thankful to be here. Vocalist and guitarist, Mark Whelan, received the diagnosis everyone fears in 2021, when doctors explained that he would need chemotherapy to battle the Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) spreading through his body. He got the all-clear this year, but the near-death experience scarred him for life. Now signed to Nuclear Blast for album number two, Fuming Mouth have the stage they deserve to tell their tale of survival. Last Day of Sun is a journey though pain, anguish, and misanthropy festooned with quiet moments of triumph and relief.
The borders between hardcore and death metal have always been transient to the members of Fuming Mouth, and you’ll struggle to distinguish between them in the opening two tracks. ‘Out of Time’ subsists on humming guitar swells and screeching feedback until Whelan introduces the first frontal assault with a desperate scream of “I’m out of time,” as if reliving the darkest days of his illness. ‘Respect & Blasphemy’ is like a hardcore band playing death metal riffs in the spirit of Black Flag. You can circle your head in a docile zombie motion during the slower parts. Imagine Obituary with an extra boost of bass overdrive and a drummer who attacks his floor toms as if rehearsing the beats for a mantra that might one day save him from the hand of the executioner.
The sounds of the rehearsal room are important to this band. They don’t cut and paste their guitar and drum parts in ProTools. The down-tuned rhythms are never absurd because the bass guitar is so loud in the mix. A death metal band attempting a melodic chorus is a curious spectacle, but it works in ‘The Silence Beyond Life’ when Whelan directs his voice towards an understandable tone of self-pity. Unlike their American contemporaries, Fuming Mouth lean more towards the aesthetics of Triptykon than the legacy of the Floridian greats. There’s a tangible sense of youthful despair in ‘The Sign of Pain’ that you’d normally find in metalcore. But with Whelan’s traumatic experiences, Fuming Mouth are like a post-metal band before they reach middle age. They recognise that the daily grind of the white-collar existence can take its toll on civilised people at the best of times. The sludgy breakdown at the end is more distressing than five minutes with a suicide survivor who refuses therapy.
It’s clear that Last Day of Sun is not just another death metal album. How could it be in these circumstances? Listen to the imperfect voices harmonise over the clean guitar-pickings in ‘Leaving Euphoria’ like malnourished POWs praying for the mercy of a quick death. “I don’t want to be here anymore,” laments Whelan. On a musical level, it captures Anathema’s sense of despair at the end of the twentieth century when they moved away from metal towards more maudlin pastures. By contrast, ‘I’ll Find You’ is the most rocking song on the album with a greasy pentatonic solo in the intro, yet the quartet insert a desolate sadness into this spiky affair as if their objective is to create crusty death metal with a fragile heart.
We can assume that questions of mortality plagued Mark Whelan over these last two years. His fortitude is admirable. “Fight back – kill the disease / Stand up – kill the disease,” he roars in ‘Kill the Disease’. This is what you get when you turn Hatebreed’s music into a swampy noise transgression with a semblance of hope fighting against the torturous realisation that you might die. Seldom do you hear death metal as narked as the title-track. You could be listening to Celtic Frost’s 2006 comeback album in the intro to this song if you isolate the hardcore vocals. The slow death-doom posturing at the end is unsentimental enough to make you smile at the prospect of a satisfying death. “Fuck this life and everyone in it,” screams Whelan in the tragic relapse of penultimate track, ‘Brutal Practices’.
Forty-five minutes of misery and pain should be hard to stomach, yet this album has a strange hold over your senses. Songs like ‘R.I.P. (Rest in Piss)’ are little more than hardcore dipped in the killing spree of a death metal fantasy, but you can find light in the most unlikely places. ‘Postfigurement’ allows triumphant melodies to break through the mood of devastation like tears of joy. Drowsy backing vocals penetrate between the screams and humanise the grief. “Pull me out – I need help,” admits Whelan. This is a death metal equivalent of funeral doom – you want the church organ to play forever in the mistaken belief that it will prolong the corporeal existence.
Mark Whelan is one of life’s survivors, and he can live to tell the tale. Last Day of Sun is his story bedecked in trauma, racked in guilt, blazoned with despair, and enlightened by the realisation that staying alive is the greatest of all gifts.
Release Date: 03/11/2023
Record Label: Nuclear Blast
Standout tracks: Out of Time, The Sign of Pain, Kill the Disease
Suggested Further Listening: Triptykon – Melana Chasmata (2014), Casket Feeder – Servants of Violence (2022), Elder Devil – Everything Worth Loving (2023)