by Jonathan Bannister (@j_utah)
Cover art by Mariusz Lewandowski and production by Kurt Ballou is basically all anyone should need for checking out an album. Massachusetts’ own Fuming Mouth has both with their new album The Grand Descent. The cover art is striking and all of the Ballou staples are there. That thick low end, the cymbals hissing like a blown speaker, the guitars cranked as high as they can go with every squelch and squeal blasted right into your ear. This record looks and sounds excellent.
Fuming Mouth’s sound is punishing. Mixing elements of death metal and hardcore, there are few chances to catch your breath across the album’s twelve songs, except maybe in the breakdowns where they hang on a riff for maximum head banging. They remind of Black Breath, that potent mix of genres where the only constant is pummeling. There’s a punk attitude to the songs backed up by the furious drumming. These are the sounds of basements, sweat, and fury. Lyrically covering things like tragedy, disasters, accidents, and the macabre all wrapped up in personal turmoil, Mark Whelan’s vocals are full of gravel and venom but surprisingly distinct. For how aggressive it is, it’s all surprisingly full sounding. There are also sections that are down right in a groove, where it hangs on a riff maybe longer than one is used to in their death metal. This is all by design. Whelan wrote the album all on his own and this uniformity helps keep the album cohesive.
“Burning Hand” is the centerpiece and may be the perfect example of what the band offers. It’s all there, blast beats, hardcore break downs, riffs for days, punishing low end. “The flames fade away and all that’s left are my mistakes” Whelan growls before the guitars drop out and it’s just bass and drums. There is an honesty to the lyrics. It’s all raw feeling and horrors that are seen every day. Another standout song on the album is “Visions of Purgatory” which may have the most space of any song on the album (aside from the atmospheric “Distant Voice” that comes after it). “Is it the end? Will I hurt forever? Is there a way I could change this? I want to die and take my life, why do I have to suffer?!” Where many in the genre may go for horror movie shock, or gore hound descript-a-thons, Whelan goes for the gut. Laying open and honest, all the mess and confusion of life on display.
From song writing to production, The Grand Descent shows just how much growth the Massachusetts band has accomplished in three years. It’s easily one of the best heavy albums of the year.