Words by Greg Walker
Nuclear Blast Records
Not having been on my radar at all, I was surprised to find Fuming Mouth have been around for a decade, and I enjoyed a dive into their catalogue researching for this review. I was shocked to find that in those ten years Fuming Mouth had only released one full length plus a handful of singles and demos. I was even more shocked to discover that singer/guitarist and founder Mark Whelan had recently found himself the last man standing in a life-threatening fight with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. And he’s continued to come out swinging on his band’s second full length outing Last Day Of Sun.
Understandably, Whelan’s battle with cancer runs as an undercurrent throughout Last Day Of Sun, both thematically and quite literally in some instances. Knowing what might have been (but thankfully didn’t eventuate) gives this recording a more real and somber angle to some of the images of finality and apocalyptic end times scenarios as depicted exquisitely on the cover art. An obviously more focused and cohesive effort than previous releases, Last Day Of Sun as a complete piece is at once a precise and delightfully nostalgic yet comfortably modern slab of Death Metal.
There’s no Meshuggah intricacies, no barely on-the-rails chaotic mayhem of Napalm Death, not even the width of variation like their distinct Entombed influence, but that’s all a GOOD thing. This band understands what they do well, they’ve mapped out their plan, and they put their heads down and plough into it.
And plough they do; opener Out Of Time is Exhibit:A in the hard evidence supporting Fuming Mouth’s self-styled categorisation as Death Metal Hardcore, an incredibly heavy plodding riff greeting the listener immediately, the immensely distorted crunch hooking me before the song has really even kicked in.
Whelan’s vocal approach is Exhibit:B, a Hardcore/Death Metal hybrid with a healthy dose of guttural, the verse also displaying a Hardcore feel on the surface backed by the monster tone. The imposing intro is only outdone by an impressive solo section that shines, with the midtempo riff steaming along just behind. Stunned, not expecting it to be this good, Out Of Time instantly convinced me that I had to check out Fuming Mouth’s back catalogue sooner rather than later.
Respect And Blasphemy starts off with an Entombed-inspired riff…but heavier if that’s even possible. This early into the album I’ve already noticed that the drumming is impressive, well-thought-out to support the action around it, an ongoing focal point but not the focus. James Davis’ drum sound is incredible too, and while I’m on that thought this one fittingly ends with an abrupt crack. The Silence Beyond Life is a slow-tempo steamroller that is the soundtrack of impending doom and the silence after the inevitable end. An impressive clean vocal chorus is possibly the only thing on this album that can be accused of being remotely melodic, and as such it creates a glaring standout and easily elevates this first single above the songs so far. It comes as zero surprise Mark Whelan is wearing an Entombed t-shirt in the video clip; nothing like wearing your heart on your…torso.
At risk of hammering home any parallels with Entombed, the buzzsaw tone is inextricably linked to the pioneers of that sound, but it makes Fuming Mouth comfortably familiar, especially when they crank out the classic Rot ‘n’ Roll style on tracks like R.I.P. (Rest In Piss), but by this point it’s already become Fuming Mouth’s own sound rather than a direct reminder. This one boasts a super catchy riff mid-song before the screaming solo and that riff continues on after the lead break: I’m glad it’s utilised as much as it is.
Burial Practice displays more slow chunk, into Death Metal speed, into glorious Rot ‘n’ Roll, the band having fun with all aspects of combinations that make up their own take on the genre. Disgusterlude is exactly that: a disgustingly heavy interlude prior to Kill The Disease, which you’d be forgiven for initially mistaking for early Entombed. This number in particular is a direct reference to Whelan’s triumph over cancer, raging “I’ll Kill or be killed! I’ll kill this disease!” in a defiance that has clearly served him well in his personal battle.
Also directly addressing Whelan’s health tribulations, Leaving Euphoria is a discordant uncomfortable piece of art. Utilising a jarring off-key vocal as the focal point, it’s almost a relief when it finishes and 2nd single I’ll Find You hits with a gut punch. The crazed rage betrays the sentiment of this one: not a venomous bile-spitting threat, but rather an anguished heartfelt loving promise to frantically search for a missing loved one to comfort in the final moments of life. A swift favourite, this single makes me hope they come out to Australia; I want to be in the mosh for this one, punching the air barking “I’ll find you first!”.
Title track Last Day Of Sun is another monster gargantuan beast with a slow lumbering groove. A clean vocal floating high above the chorus is almost a mist of the apocalypse, the outro is also biblical in its heaviness. Operating on the premise if it works why not give it another shot, The Sign Of Pain also possesses an outro breakdown made for breaking neck vertebrae to.
Closing track Postfigurement is an exercise in juxtaposition, pitting haunting cleans against the chorus barks and a brutal distorted guttural at the end of the bridge, showcasing the Death Metal range at Whelan’s throat’s disposal. The lead break in Postfigurement is almost sunny, seemingly conveying a tentative elation at the conquering of a fierce adversary such as Whelan has done.
As we make our way through Last Day Of Sun it’s increasingly apparent that Fuming Mouth are particularly adept at using the traditional Death Metal framework and peppering their sound with nasty chunk moments, each song a deliberate puzzle of a number of different riffs and sections, tempos and styles. Their overall tone has a familiar yet incredible depth, their production is just so thick. Not to diminish the contributions of drummer James Davis or guitarist Andrew Budwey, but this release is Whelan’s moment of triumph. The new lease on life that Mark is living has served his music well, so here’s hoping he can tap into this triumph for some time to come, as the rage is clearly a silver lining on Last Day Of Sun.