To Hell and Back: Fuming Mouth's Mark Whelan Confronts Finality With 'Last Day of Sun'

To Hell and Back: Fuming Mouth's Mark Whelan Confronts Finality With 'Last Day of Sun'

- By Ramon Gonzales

The death metal prospect details how even during the darkest days of his bout with Leukemia, he was committed to releasing new music. 

November 2021 proved a transformative moment for Fuming Mouth architect Mark Whelan.

At the helm of one heavy music's most exciting, emerging forces, the band's caustic meld of death metal and hardcore sensibility positioned the Massachusetts collective as one of the most promising prospects in the field. 

Two years prior, Fuming Mouth first asserted their presence with the debut of the universally praised, The Grand Descent. Hailed for its punishing cadence, assaultive instrumentation and the obvious songwriting prowess of Whelan, the introduction offered plenty of reason to look forward to the follow-up.

Just weeks away from going into the studio to begin tracking their highly-anticipated follow-up, Whelan was confronted with the reality that he had Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). The cancer diagnosis would mean a bone marrow transplant in addition to chemotherapy treatment. Given the prognosis, it was tough to remain optimistic - let alone focused on his craft. 

The subsequent months would mean a grueling course of treatment, one that tested Whelan's personal and artistic resilience. As doctors worked to rid his body of cancer, Whelan somehow stuck to the plan and continued to press on creatively with what would be Fuming Mouth's next chapter. 

Some nine months after receiving the life-changing news, Whelan confirmed that he was in fact, cancer-free. Undergoing extensive treatment and surgery, the songwriter emerged on the other side with the kind of resolve that could only come from staring finality in the face. 

Last Day of Sun marks an important personal and professional triumph for Whelan. While the project has been discussed as a release that almost never was, it's eventual release was something that managed to motivate Whelan during the darkest stretches of his health ordeal.

Committed to his craft and intent on sharing this music with the world, the songwriter went to hell and back and poured it all into his latest album. 

There has been a lot of mention about Last Day of Sun being an album that almost never was. Given how resilient and persistent you have been, was there ever any thought in your mind that this was an album that wasn’t going to happen? How determined were you, even during the toughest parts of treatment and recovery to see this project through?

WhelanThe night before my bone marrow transplant I recorded demo vocals in my room for 'Respect & Blasphemy'. Regardless of what I thought, I was always working on the album.

Can you put into words the kind of fulfillment you have got, both personally and professionally, with releasing this particular record?

Whelan - It’s been a huge relief. I’d say putting together the layout for the vinyl/CD was one of the most unexpected and fulfilling things. My fiancé and I took the picture of the candle inside and seeing it in print took on this whole new meaning.

There is a track on the record, “Kill the Disease” that is especially poignant given your health ordeal. How did your battle with cancer change your approach, your perspective, your mindset as a songwriter?

Whelan - 'Kill the Disease' I sang into my phone while I was in my hospital bed during my transplant. It was a voice memo we found later on before going into God City to record. Songwriting has become less serious to me since then. I don’t hold on to riffs that I “need” anymore and I try and live in the moment.

Last Day of Sun has rightfully been praised as being one of the best albums of the year. Is there any concern that the album’s backstory is distracting from its own merit?

Whelan - Absolutely. People think going through this ordeal has brought this promotion to it but it’s done the opposite. I can’t stop hearing how we were “inactive” or “while I was away” like I was on some kind of vacation. It’s gross I hate hearing that stuff behind the scenes.

You were weeks away from recording this album before being diagnosed. How much did Last Day of Sun change during that time? Is what you had prior to your diagnosis pretty consistent with what you had coming out of your treatment and recovery? Did that experience really change the creative direction of the record?

Whelan - It’s very similar but a lot of the darker more disgusting death metal songs got brought to the album after going through treatment. I would see and hear people die every day in the hospital so it was what surrounded me.

Fuming Mouth toes a fine line between death metal and hardcore. Kurt Ballou seems like the perfect person to extract that best parts of both of those words and bring them together for this record. How vital was he in seeing this project to its full potential? 

Whelan - He was essential. He was the one to put the fire underneath me to get back to recording and playing. He also had the same mindset as us and let things play out instead of other producers who are controlling.

During some of your darkest times, was there any fear that you wouldn’t see the stage anymore and now that you are back and seemingly better than ever - what have those performances been like for you personally? 

Whelan - Yeah, that was real. I really wasn’t sure if I was gonna play live again. The album I was always focused on. But to play live again... That’s something I’ll always be grateful for.

I’ve been getting stronger at every performance. I won’t lie, I still have my ups and downs with my guitar performances due to my conditioning from chemo and the transplant. I still mess up and miss notes and certain parts. But when I do I just remind myself I’m alive and try and have as much fun as I can.

What is the one thing you hope people take away from Last Day of Sun?

Whelan - Don't give up. 


Last Day of Sun from Fuming Mouth is currently available via Nuclear Blast Records. Order the album - HERE

Fuming Mouth is currently trekking in support of their latest album along with Devil Master and Final Gasp. The U.S. run extends into the first week of December. Fuming Mouth will then embark on a UK run with Celestial Sanctuary. A current list of live dates can be found below. 

FUMING MOUTH North American Tour Dates:

Nov 24 - Austin, TX - Mohawk
Nov 25 - Dallas, TX - Cheap Steaks
Nov 28 - Tampa, FL - The Orpheum
Nov 29 - Atlanta, GA - The Earl
Nov 30 - Chapel Hill, NC - Local 506
Dec 1 - Richmond, VA - Canal Club
Dec 2 - Baltimore, MD - Ottobar
Dec 3 - Philadelphia, PA - Underground Art

Jan 13 - London, UK - Reality Unfolds Festival
Jan 14 - Bristol, UK - Exchange
Jan 15 - Newcastle, UK - The Cluny 2
Jan 16 - Glasgow, UK - Audio
Jan 17 - Manchester, UK - The Star & Garter
Jan 18 - Birmingham, UK - Muthers Studio
Jan 19 - Southampton, UK - The Joiners
Jan 20 - Norwich, UK - Waterfront Studio
Back to blog
1 of 3