With two great softer albums released last week, I decided to shake things up by finding something harder to play. Much harder. Receiving a submission to the site about a month ago, I have given much playtime to my friends over at The Wise Man’s Fear, a post-hardcore/metalcore band from Indiana. Dubbing their music further as “fantasycore,” their latest album follows a concept loosely based around the book of the same name written by author Patrick Rothfuss, a story riddled with knights and castles. Readers already know about my lack of knowledge in that department, but is still a subject that always finds its way into my life. To be honest, I didn’t even know metalcore contained any concept artists besides the beginning phases of Between the Buried and Me, so I was very interested in checking out their latest album “Castle in the Clouds.”
The Wise Man’s Fear consists of Paul Lierman on drums, Joe Dennis on vocals, Cody Chambers on lead guitar, Tyler Eads on bass guitar/vocals, and Nathan Kane on rhythm guitar. A sound somewhere between Pierce the Veil and The Fall of Troy, these guys definitely fall into the metalcore genre, but have also expanded beyond the clichés present in a majority of those bands. To my utter surprise, members of The Wise Man’s Fear have already been featured on this site in the past. Familiar with the names Paul Lierman and Nathan Kane? They are better known as the masterminds behind indie rock band Whale Bones, whose presence is definitely felt in this album as well. Finding out about this information just yesterday, I have now been listening to this album with entirely new ears.
Post-hardcore/metalcore is a genre known for complete hits and misses. Not long ago, I experienced the latter with Slaves’ newest album, an album all too lacking and uninspiring. As much as I love this genre, it’d be a lie if I said I loved every album the genre has ever produced. Luckily, The Wise Man’s Fear have created an album in “Castle in the Clouds” that will stand out amongst the others, one that has definitely earned its repeated listens. The great quality of the band’s instrumentation and lyrical content make it one of the best albums to be released this year.
For an album to need that necessary punch, it will need full participation from its rhythm section. Drummer Lierman and bassist Eads do just that. Following along with the chuggy guitar riffs, Lierman is in control with amazing footwork on the bass pedals and powerful crashes on the cymbals. The track “Chaotica” provides the best example of Lierman’s power and skill. But the album isn’t all opened note strumming, which helps Lierman to break away from the conventional bassy sound. The upbeat drumming of “Prayer of the Prey” adds to the addictiveness of the song’s chorus, a much needed change of pace considering the album’s brutality. It’s interesting to hear the contrast in his style of play between The Wise Man’s Fear and Whale Bones, but there is enough of his signature sound present in both projects. Eads also chimes in on several moments throughout “Castle in the Clouds,” particularly the heavy bass lines in the song “The Sea at Storm.”
Leading the way in orchestrations are Chambers and Kane on their guitars, providing amazing dual chords and arrangements. The balance between both guitarists in the songs “In Reach (Out of Touch)” and the title track “Castle in the Clouds” is truly amazing, one playing a more airy lead riff with the other providing higher-noted chords. The following song “With My Lesser Self” is much slower than the rest of the album, a song that easily reminds me of anything off of Whale Bones’ “The Seaside EP.” With a more melodic arrangement, The Wise Man’s Fear provide some much needed depth, giving the listener a moment’s break to gather their thoughts. Much of the album follows this pattern, with a few harder songs segmented with softer, lighter pieces.
The vocal duties are split between Joe Dennis and bassist Tyler Eads, but with Dennis providing one of the most intense vocal performances I’ve heard in a long time. The juxtaposition of the delivery styles is interesting, considering the immense difference between the higher-toned clean vocals, the shrieking screams and the deep guttural growls. The song “Wrath of a Gentle Man” contains the greatest variety of these vocals, beginning with airy mid-register vocals over synthesizers, only to be broken up by deep growls and guitar rhythms. As important as it is to deliver a lyric, it’s just as important to have a lyric worth delivering. As stated earlier, The Wise Man’s Fear loosely bases their concept around a series of books written by author Patrick Rothfuss. With such passion behind the lyrics, Dennis succeeds in delivering an ambitious performance, acting as the perfect storyteller for such a story. My two favorite tracks off this album “Prayer of the Prey” and “Vitality” contain the most passionately sung lyrics, along with the most moving vocal performance on “Castle in the Clouds.” These two songs alone are reason to give this album a listen.
As much as I love “Castle in the Clouds,” the album suffers from the fault that most metalcore albums have: they’re too damn short. Being a fan of progressive rock music and concept albums, I’m used to fewer songs and hour-plus long albums that delve deep into the lyrics. Containing 11 songs lasting roughly 37 minutes, I crave more every time I listen to this album, and hope they can add an extra ten or so minutes to their next album. I know it’s quite a trite complaint, but I’m fairly picky when it comes to music. Even with this lone fault, though, I would still recommend this album to fans of harder rock and metal. Please support The Wise Man’s Fear by checking out their album on their Bandcamp page, and by following them on their Facebook and Twitter pages for band and tour updates.