On the day their new album 'Valley Of Kings' is released, we find out everything there is to know about the innovators of Fantasycore.
The Wise Man's Fear are a band unlike any other.
Aside from delivering slab upon slab of modern metalcore brilliance on a musical level, the self-professed Fantasycore sextet have spent the last 6 years putting together and releasing a trilogy of albums called The Codex. Taking place in the Pnuema universe and telling the tale of five warriors as they journey to find meaning in a strange and unforgiving world, the band's devotion to the craft of storytelling is second to none.
On the day that the third and final part of the puzzle 'Valley Of Kings' is released via SharpTone Records, we chat to drummer and lyricist Paul Lierman about the trilogy and what the future beyond Pnuema looks like...
What does this trilogy of albums represent? What was the initial goal with these records?
Says Paul Lierman: “We started this back in 2014. That’s when we started writing for the first instalment. At that point we were sick of hearing bands talking about how they had written about everyday life. It seemed like the default. So we wanted to go a bit above and beyond.
“We decided to write an allegory, a la The Pilgrim’s Progress, that was charting a lot of the milestones of human existence. There are triumphs and there are tragedies. We were trying to write an 11-track trajectory that’s charting a man’s quest for meaning. He is ultimately searching for the castle in the clouds, which is representative of the meaning of life, and it charts all the stuff he sees along the way. We were trying to encapsulate the human experience within that.
“From there we decided to not just focus on one man and him representing everything, but how does he fit into the dynamic of other people and how that is representative of generational and cultural interaction. We were then trying to get a broader perspective of humanity rather than just a microcosm."
So how does your new album ‘Valley Of Kings’ round things off?
"The first record ‘Castle In The Clouds’ is very much man vs. environment. The second 'The Lost City' is man vs. man, basically the antagonist from ‘Castle In The Clouds’ telling his back-story and how he became what he became. Then ‘Valley Of Kings’ is man vs. self. It’s trying to round off all three kinds of conflict and demonstrate how they can be different but also similar.”
So who are the characters that appear within this story and what roles do they play along the way?
“In the scope of the record, they are supposed to be the five greatest warriors of the age. We named the characters after philosophical thinkers that represent each of their viewpoints and thus each character stands for a different worldview. So we have atheistic existentialism, monotheistic existentialism, absurbism, nihilism and the fifth guy just represents a blank canvas. He has no previous disposition towards a worldview and lives life openly.
“A lot of ‘Valley Of Kings’, which as I mentioned is man vs. self, is full of introspection and pits these different worldviews against each other. Stacking them up and seeing where their pitfalls are or which ones stand the test of each other.”
So what has pitting these views and ideas against each other within this universe done for you as not just a band but for you as an individual? What has it taught you?
“I had a talk recently with our clean vocalist Tyler [Eads] and we were putting together a little blurb for ‘What Went Wrong’. He took the lead on the lyrics and then showed it to us. But it was cool to hear his perspective on where those lyrics came from. In story terms we knew we wanted that song to almost be the falling out of these characters, in a The Fellowship of The Ring way. Though hearing his perspective and how he had drawn that from his own life, talking about struggles I didn’t even know he went through, was very enlightening. Being able to connect with the guys in that way has been cool. It’s been a very collaborative process and the further along we have gone and the more we’ve seen how people spin things to their own lives or interpret things and extrapolate out has been pretty revealing and exciting.”
So how big is the universe that these characters exist in? How much have you considered the scope of what this world is?
“We’ve sat on this record for essentially a year, and what we have been trying to hash out in the mean time is where exactly we go next. How do we want to improve or expand without diverting away from our core sound? I think the idea we are working with is that we approach things as if it’s a fantasy multi-verse. We wanted this Pnuema trilogy to be a self-fulfilling loop in one sector, then we go and bridge it over to other universes, or even our own universe.
“We just want to make it as broad and open ended as possible. That’s for a couple of reasons. The stuff we have set up in Pneuma is cool but we’ve tied it off to a point where I don’t think we want to revisit those character arcs and that situation again. We’re not letting a specific time or place dictate what we do."
How is it for you blending such a rich storyline with the right levels of heaviness within the actual music then? How does the story influence the sound?
“We have a bit of a weird writing process in the way that we will write both concept and music simultaneously. Then when we prepare for the studio and do pre-production we will play mix and match with what we have. So one point of the record will be about despair, so do we have a track that sounds desperate or hopeless? It’s matching the tone of the lyrics with the tone of the songs. Generally we will establish what the broad story arc is and that will inform what other fantasy elements we want to incorporate."
What other elements have you attempted to incorporate?
“Well, for example ‘The Lost City’ is kind of a tragedy and was inspired by the Atlantis mythos. Egyptian music has that element of mystery to it, so we pulled instruments like sitars in. For ‘Valley Of Kings’ we approached it with more Celtic instruments, which have a strong warrior feel to it. We try and let some parts of the songs really soar and create different dynamics compared to a modern metalcore song.”
So how has what you want to produce with this band changed and how does that bode for you as you move forwards?
“The thing that has changed is the intentionality with which we are trying to make the music. Records can become a snapshot of a time in someone’s life, and we are almost hedging against that by creating this story for made up characters. When the lyrics for our first record were written, we were in a very different place in life. Though we tried to preserve that time in a way that if I went back and listened to that record, I wouldn’t cringe. It’s about encoding all of this into a format that is much more timeless and temporal. It kills me when I see artists write a whole album about a single break-up and then two years down the road they’re married. Is that not awkward to discuss or sing about?
“Now with us, whatever crazy outlandish idea we like is on the table and we’re able to pursue whatever new ideas to get excited about rather than just trying to record something that is a little more small-minded.”
Valley of Kings is out today via SharpTone Records, available HERE.