Chaos On The Horizon: A Conversation With Mark Whelan of FUMING MOUTH

Fresh off of a glorious EP release and major label signing, the band ready their next chapter.


Just about a month ago, the world welcomed FUMING MOUTH's Beyond The Tomb EP, a brief yet impactful composition that introduces new elements to the band's death leaning formula. Beyond The Tomb, which arrived via Nuclear Blast and Triple B Records, comes as a proper follow-up to their 2018 full-length debut, The Grand Descent, taking the otherwise unbridled aggression into a more dynamic realm with tastes of doom to pace the tempo.


In addition to the EP release, Nuclear Blast Records welcomed FUMING MOUTH to their worldwide roster, adding an additional layer of logistic power to help propel the Massachusetts-based band to new heights. The signing and increasing fan engagement is but a testament to the work ethic that they've all invested into their craft, a craft that is sure to continue to develop along with their full-lengths.


We talk to frontman Mark Whelan about FUMING MOUTH's latest achievements amidst the pandemic and what lies ahead for the heavy-hitters:

First and foremost, congratulations on the release ‘Beyond The Tomb’ plus the signing to Nuclear Blast! The year may have been shit but Fuming Mouth definitely had a high point with the recent news. How are you all feeling closing out the new year with this momentum?


Whelan: First of all, thank you so much! I feel super lucky that a lot of things have worked out for us, especially this year. I’m feeling great personally and I’m really excited for the future of the band. I’m excited to keep working on coming up with better songs. The reaction to ‘Beyond The Tomb’ has been way better than I ever expected. The EP wasn’t hard to put together, but we had some roadblocks that probably just put my expectations a little lower. That was all blown away by the response.


The EP speaks for itself. Since 2019’s ‘The Grand Descent’, the band has grown plenty in both reach and musicianship and ‘Beyond The Tomb’ is truly a testament to that. It may be short in length but it is grand in structure, bursting with compositional variety and bridging doom a little more while coming off as more death metal leaning than your previous effort. The intensity of course remains high. Musically, where did you all find common ground when approaching the EP?


Whelan: I’m not sure what exactly the initial spark of it was, but sometime after the LP, we wanted to do a Slayer ‘Haunting The Chapel’ style, three-song EP. We thought it would be a cool way to follow it up. These songs are really big. They’re long songs. One of them is around six minute long, which was definitely a conscious effort. We wanted to make these songs breathe, so we made them longer and put more into them. Our headspace was really there when creating it.

Cover art by Mariusz Lewandowski

Definitely. Going back to the compositional variety, it signals the direction the band is headed in. In looking back at your debut full-length, what learning experiences did you all take from that, especially from having played that on the road?


Whelan: The best feedback I’ve ever gotten was from Kurt Ballou, to not pay attention to feedback. I was in the studio with him once and he says to me, “I don’t read anything anyone writes about Converge.” When he puts it like that, it’s more about staying in your own lane and focusing on your own craft. That’s what I took from it. He just means that he’s hard at work.


Of course. At the end of the day, it just comes down to asking yourself who you write music for. Are you writing for yourself? Are you writing to please others? It’s great advice from a legend. It’s clear people love your work too.


Whelan: Totally, and it’s awesome. It means a lot to me. I guess if I’ve learned anything, it’s to continue doing the same thing since day one and focus on my craft.


Seeing as you’re now a 4-piece band, do you see that having a great effect on your compositions moving forward in any way?

Whelan: It definitely will. ‘Beyond The Tomb’ the song is a very good representation of what four-piece Fuming Mouth is. There’s a lot more movement with the guitar. You can say ‘Rode To Odessa’ is business as usual Fuming Mouth.


Genre tagging is of course a big thing in contemporary metal and ‘The Grand Descent’ found you grouped a lot with hardcore, which is valid considering the hardcore elements present throughout. The EP is more death metal leaning and incorporates some of the Dismember influence.


Whelan: I feel you. We reached down and tried to grab our roots when it came to the EP. When you say Dismember, I think that does show. When people tag us as hardcore or even metalcore, I totally get that too. Fuming Mouth really just draws from everything around it.


Would you say that happens subconsciously?


Whelan: Subconscious, for sure. There’s an indirect influence from everything around us. Reaching down and grabbing our roots was more important on ‘Beyond The Tomb’ than it was on ‘The Grand Descent’.


That’s when you can tell it’s organic. It just happens as you’re composing rather than forcing a sound.


Whelan: Yeah and when you’re approaching it like that, the influence is kind of out of your hands at that point, even if you don’t want it to happen. Don’t get me wrong, I try fucking hard and I can get sweaty when it comes to this. At the end of the day, you have to let it go and cool down, simply letting it happen.


It’s as Kurt says, forgetting the feedback and letting shit happen. From ‘The Grand Descent’ to ‘Beyond The Tomb’, you’ve counted on the renowned Mariusz Lewandowski, who has of course nailed it on both occasions. Was he always the front runner for artistic duties?


Whelan: Actually, no. It was this other guy, Josh McAlear. Great guy, phenomenal art. We live in the same town and he’s from Boston too. We met in person and talked about doing it for a while. When I hit him up, I didn’t have the album title, song titles, and so much of the album wasn’t formed yet. By the time I recorded the album, had it back, and listened to it, I didn’t think his album art fit ‘The Grand Descent’, as amazing as his art is. While that was happening, I was seeing Mariusz’ paintings. There’s this one of this reaper with a red, drippy robe and a blue background. I don’t think it’s a cover. Either way, it got to the point where I just decided to hit him up.

'Queen of Patience' (2017) by Mariusz Lewandowski

Wait, so did Josh actually design a premature cover that wasn’t used?


Whelan: No, he never got around to actually doing it luckily. His energy was never dispelled on it. He did a sketch of it, which is where I decided that the themes didn’t match. I bet if I asked him after the album was recorded with album titles and stuff, everything would have worked out better. But no, no album cover was designed. That would be cool though.


It might be something you can revisit down the line.


Whelan: Definitely. Instead, he actually tattooed me. So it all worked out.


Nice! No album art but you got yourself some ink. Was Mariusz’ cover purely conceptual or was it a result of his interpretations of your themes and such?


Whelan: It was totally a representation of my themes and concepts. He had specific directions for this, which I think he has from most bands. He wanted the album title, exactly what it meant, etc. He just ran with it. He was open to doing a lot of revisions and I’m sure I drove the man crazy, but we’re both really happy with the way it came out.


I’m happy about it myself. His work is unmistakably his. You see it anywhere and automatically associate it with him, mainly following the acclaim of ‘Mirror Reaper’. It’s very fitting to the looming nature of your sound. Is this audiovisual partnership something you see continuing as the band adds more records to their discography?


Whelan: I would love for it to. I’d say our visual element came together in 2018. There’s so many other artists so I don’t want to say it has to be just him. Reuben Sawyer for instance has been a pivotal part of Fuming Mouth, from our demo (2013) to the inner artwork of ‘The Grand Descent’ gatefold.

Cover art by Reuben Sawyer

Sam Ford did the ‘split’ (2014) artwork for us and he’s just incredible. That said, we’ll see what the future holds since it has been working so well.

Cover art by Sam Ford

You have options for sure. There’s a variety of artists out there for every creative ambition at different rates. It’s as important as ever, especially with streaming being the dominant method for music consumption.


Whelan: It’s so important. I mean is anyone actually finding music on the radio anymore? No. That’s a medium that doesn’t have art. Somebody would have better luck finding music through YouTube, which still has some visuals. Four out of five times, that visual would be a piece of album art or a music video. It is absolutely more important than ever.


Definitely. Mandatory question for us here at Heaviest of Art. Do you recall a time when an album cover struck you from the beginning and made you pick up a record prior to even listening to it?


Whelan: Countless times and I can think of so many. I’d say the one that comes to mind because I have it framed in my room is Therion’s ‘Beyond Sanctorum’ (2000). The clouds, the whole tower, and how big everything was actually a huge influence on ‘The Grand Descent’. My jaw dropped and when I listened to it, it blew me away more than the album art.

Cover art by Kristian Wåhlin

You were blown away even prior to listening to it.


Whelan: It was either on Metal Archives or YouTube, but I just saw it and immediately clicked on it. It rocked my world.


That’s the power of Kristian Wåhlin. Despite the obvious shortcomings of the year, metal and music overall had a brilliant year. What are some of your favorite records of 2020?


Whelan: There’s a lot of good ones, especially since you can focus on records now that there are no concerts. Public Acid, which is a punk band from the south, put out a really cool EP, 'Condemnation'.


Fleshrot put out a demo, sort of teasing their new album. It’s just one song that is a straight killer, ‘Wrapped In Entrails’. That first minute is just everything I want in a death metal release. They’re a newer band but I have high hopes for their full-length.


Some underground gems there. As great as ‘Beyond The Tomb’ is, it’s but a sample of what comes next from Fuming Mouth. How is LP #2 coming along, if at all?


Whelan: It’s coming along great. If anything, there’s so much material so sit through. We’re just picking out the best riffs for it. We’ve had the album title since the moment we finished ‘The Grand Descent’. We’ve known exactly what it’s going to be for a long time. We’re really into creating it right now and it’s coming together nicely.


We can expect great artwork for it too, I suppose.


Whelan: It has got to be great. Nothing less than great.

Beyond The Tomb is available now via Nuclear Blast and Triple B Records. Get it HERE.

Cover art by Mariusz Lewandowski