A band who assign their music an exclusive label will always get our attention. Indiana sextet, The Wise Man’s Fear, call their art Fantasycore and present us with a concept a hundred years from now where an elite of the world’s most powerful warriors confer in an underground dungeon and pledge to destroy five dangerous relics. Er, okay…
Valley of Kings is the completion of a trilogy following 2015’s Castle in the Clouds and 2017’s Lost City and their first on a record label. With five million streams as an independent band, it’s easy to see why SharpTone signed these boys. The level of musicianship is high and the diversity of the influences a strong recipe for success from a group that play progressive metalcore and experiment with djent rhythms. As we all know, most artists who approach the latter genre have insane levels of technical ability and worship Periphery.
The obvious reference point for The Wise Man’s Fear is Veil Of Maya’s Matriarch album, and vocalist Tyler Eads makes numerous attempts to eclipse Lukas Magyar’s glorious chorus on ‘Mikasa’. Unfortunately, he doesn’t quite succeed, but the likes of ‘The Tree of Life’ and ‘The Sands of Time’ are fine efforts at mixing pop melodies with furious roars. Yet the main problem with the song-writing is the predictable switch from growls and hardcore shouts to clean choruses. Take ‘The Cave’, which is a brutal slice of deathcore with symphonic keyboards and a Shadow of Intent vibe. It’s a quality piece of extreme metal but suffers from the emo melodies of a chorus that recalls Fallout Boy at their most annoying (which is all the time!). The same thing happens on ‘Breath of the Wild’, a tune that could make the cut for Periphery II if not for the inclusion of clean vocals like the Backstreet Boys. Any middle-aged metaller loving the riffs will soon cringe when they hear the R&B harmonies in ‘The Relics of Nihlux’ and the pop-punk intro to the closing track. At this point you’re forced to ask if this music is targeting teenage girls, like latter day Bring Me The Horizon.
Yet despite these flaws, Valley of Kings will pique your attention. This band oozes talent and knows how to bash out a good dose of metallic mayhem. ‘Firefall’ is like Suicide Silence on steroids and could rival anything from the last Carnifex album. This is how you write a deathcore stomp! ‘The Door to Nowhere’ is like Born of Osiris with dual death vocals and one of the heaviest breakdowns you’ll hear for a long while.
Though they miss the mark on this record, there’s more than enough on display to be excited about the future. The Wise Man’s Fear can evolve into a big hitter among the prog metal giants if they wind down the pop vocals and expand their sound with more symphonic flourishes. A listen to Slice the Cake’s Odyssey to the West should point them in the right direction.
Release Date: 29/05/2020
Record Label: SharpTone Records
Standout tracks: The Relics of Nihlux, The Cave, Firefall
Suggested Further Listening: Veil of Maya – Matriarch (2015), Periphery – Juggernaut Alpha/ Juggernaut Omega (2015), Slice the Cake – Odyssey to the West (2016)