Indianapolis based ‘FantasyCore’ band The Wise Man’s Fear have recently signed to SharpTone Records and are set to release new album Valley Of Kings on 29th May 2020. We at RAMzine caught up with the band to ask how they are getting on over the otherside of the world and if the global crises has had much effect on their forthcoming release. We also delve into Valley of Kings to find out more about the story line.
Read below how “the overall narrative is a bit like if ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ and ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ were combined into one book and then dropped through the looking glass in ‘Alice in Wonderland’“.
RAMzine: Hello, how’s it going? We’re still in lockdown in the UK at the moment. What’s the situation with the pandemic like over in Indianapolis and how are you dealing with it individually and as a band?
TWMF: Hello! It’s going well, all things considered. We are still under a stay-at-home order in Indianapolis, although the state began a 5-week rollout strategy a little while ago to get the economy running again. As a band things have really been pretty good for us! We are in the process of ramping up for the release of our third full-length record called Valley of Kings via Sharptone Records. In some respects, the social distancing has worked in our favour to create more time and focus for promotional activity. Most of our individual members have been able to either pivot seamlessly to work from home or already worked from home to begin with. Our bassist Thomas has probably experienced the most turbulence as his college schedule was disrupted and he had to finish school online and move away from campus.
RAMzine: We’ve been listening to your new album Valley of Kings. There’s a lot to take in, but on the face of it it’s got classic metalcore grit with a whole load of interesting sounds along the way and quite a few surprises. Tell us about your recording process, was it all smooth sailing?
TWMF: The writing and recording process itself was quite smooth for us. We wrote the most collaborative record we have ever made by far, and we returned to Johnny Frank for tracking/production for the third time which all equated to a streamlined workflow. Johnny really understands our sound after working with us for years, and we are able to communicate well and record super efficiently with him. We finished tracking for the record ahead of schedule and that gave us plenty of time to really drill down and focus on the fantasy elements for the tracks.
Honestly the only obstacles we ran into for this record cycle were on the music video production front – we had two different directors go in for surprise surgeries which set things back months. Then we ran into formatting issues and had to reshoot most of an entire video, and just generally ran into a bunch of circumstantial issues.
RAMzine: Regardless of if people are new to the story line that the band has, the album takes you on a journey, it feels that way throughout, going through different spaces. What is the story behind the journey of this album?
TWMF: The story line behind Valley of Kings is unique for us because it takes place 1000 years after the events of our prior two records. The overall narrative is a bit like if ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ and ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ were combined into one book and then dropped through the looking glass in ‘Alice in Wonderland’.
The story is about five of the greatest warriors of the age banding together and swearing a blood pact to destroy five evil relics that were created by the antagonist (Chaotica) from our last record (‘The Lost City’). To accomplish this they must find the legendary Valley of Kings. The album chronicles the trials and horrors of their journey as they descend deep below the surface of the earth on their quest. Thematically, the record is an observation of internal reflection and navigating different philosophical worldviews (the deeper into the earth the characters go the deeper the subject matter of the songs dives into the subconscious).
Even though the story of the record doesn’t directly dovetail into the other two it does have strong ties and callbacks to the others and a bit of a surprise ending that makes it the perfect way to round off the trilogy.
RAMzine: Tell us about some of the non-conventional instruments/sounds used on the album. EG: During ‘Tree of Life’ we hear something a bit different towards the end of the track…
TWMF: When we approach writing a new record we generally will have some idea of what specific fantasy sound we are going for. It helps create a cohesive sound for the record as well as differentiate it from other material we’ve made and give it unique character. We went with a lot of ancient Celtic instruments on this album to augment the storytelling, so there’s everything from dulcimer and bodhran to fiddle and harp.
We had finished tracking the instrumentals for ‘Tree of Life’ and were going back through the song and playing around with different fantasy elements. We had a list of Celtic instruments we wanted to include on the record and panflute was one we hadn’t worked in yet. We found this absolutely insane sample and threw it over the song’s climax breakdown just to see what it would sound like. The first time we heard that flute over the breakdown we all just cracked up laughing in the studio for seriously probably 5 straight minutes. After we listened to it a few times Johnny convinced us to leave it in there until we had vocals on the track to see if it worked. Sure enough, once we heard it with vocals we thought “this is kind of ridiculous but it absolutely works.” We knew we had to keep it.
RAMzine: You recently released a new video for ‘The Relics Of Nihlux’ off the album, where were the various parts of the video filmed? And what are these hooded men up to?
TWMF: That music video was shot in Detroit, Michigan in an old cathedral that is no longer in use. The hooded figures are the five warriors from the album story and the music video portrays them signing the blood pact in secret. You can also see them bring all the relics of Nihlux together as they begin their quest to destroy them.
RAMzine: Your band name ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ was inspired by the books written by Patrick Rothfuss, however his storyline is unrelated to yours. What meaning does your band name hold within your story line?
TWMF: We repurposed the name to be a statement against the destructive power of pride. It’s a sort of Socratic stance on life saying that the more wisdom and knowledge you attain the more it opens your eyes to how much you don’t know. It’s essentially impossible to be both wise and prideful at the same time.
RAMzine: If your band could share one message to the world, what would it be?
TWMF: A lot of our motifs revolve around understanding others first. Issues like generational warfare, class divides, religious and cultural differences, etc can only really be addressed if we make a full effort to understand not just what someone is saying, but where they are coming from contextually. A little empathy goes a long way! That’s not to say everyone needs to agree or arrive at the same decision about every issue, but truly understanding someone else’s reasoning allows you to put differences into perspective.
RAMzine: Does the story continue after Valley of Kings?
TWMF: It does! We’re working right now on setting course for the next record’s story line. The chapter is closing on the story arc specific to this trilogy, but there is so much to explore in the Pneuma universe that we are excited to bring to life.
RAMzine: Do you have any plans for later this year or beyond and will those plans include any time in the UK?
TWMF: We actually have some tentative plans to begin tracking new material this year. Nothing is concrete due to the pandemic but we’d like to record some of what we have been writing and get a jumpstart on the next album. Once live shows are possible again we want to tour in support of Valley of Kings as much as we can. We’d love to make it to the UK but unfortunately at this point in time it’s hard to say when that will be.
Valley of Kings will be released on 29th May via SharpTone Records, you can pre-order HERE.