Indiana metalcore up-and-comers The Wise Man’s Fear have just released their second full-length “The Lost City”, but we have both an exclusive stream of it and a track-by-track for you right now! The record is an epic adventure that will give the listener several different emotions. Click the video below to embark and if you like what you hear, be sure to order the record off the band’s website. Read our review of “The Lost City” here!
There is a saying that the best endings of stories are beginnings, and the best beginnings are endings. I think this holds a good deal of truth. And so it is that our story begins at its end, an apocalyptic flash-forward to a horrific scene of a man on an island that is sinking into the ocean…
“Cataclysm” recounts the greatest tragedy to ever occur in our music’s universe, Pneuma (more on that in track 2). It is the lament of a man who is despairing at what he has done and what has become of his life and home.
We went for a sort of Egyptian sound with this track for a couple of reasons: firstly it is meant to evoke an ancient/mysterious feeling. Secondly, the story for the album was inspired in large part by Plato’s dialogue “Timaeus.” In that dialogue, Plato talks about a man named Timaeus who travelled to Egypt where he met an ancient priest. The priest tells Timaeus that the Greeks were far from the first great civilization, and that “there have been and will be again many destructions of mankind…”
He goes on to tell Timaeus about a highly advanced civilization that once nearly overthrew the entire known world many thousands of years before written history of any sort existed. He describes extreme detail (down to the system of government, geographic features, and cultural idiosyncrasies) an island that was the home to this civilization, an island once located somewhere in the north Atlantic…It is the source material for the Atlantis mythos.
Lyrically there are a handful of noteworthy things to point out in this song. Several of the lines are heavily influenced by Percy Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias” (my favorite of all-time. I highly recommend you read it here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/resources/learning/core-poems/detail/46565). This again plays to the Egyptian theme of the song as the poem is about a traveler from “an antique land” who documents a time he saw the crumbled ruins of an ancient Pharaoh’s statue. In the poem he weighs the significance of life in light of the fact that even the empires of the most powerful rulers are reduced to dust in time.
The song carries a tone of regret and horror throughout. The narrative voice is half-mad with grief and is trying desperately to ensure that the tragedy that happened and that the “cursed memory” of the island will not be forgotten, but will serve as a warning to others.
The song also uses a lot of atmospheric symbolism: “the air is sick with bloodlust,” “breathe in ash and dust,” “days without sunlight,” “starless nights,” etc. This motif emerges several times throughout the rest of the record, most often as a metaphor used to describe the state of a place or character.
One last fun fact about the lyrics: when I was in the Brooklyn museum last September there was a massive Egyptian exhibit that included about a dozen mummies (I’ve been fascinated by ancient Egypt for as long as I can remember). Framed across one wall in the room was a massive scroll that had a benediction for one of the pharaohs written in hieroglyphics with the translation on a plaque below. One of the lines translated to “the two doors in the earth lie open for me.” There was something so haunting and entrancing about that line that I immediately wrote it down in my phone notes for later use.
Pneuma was a song name that our guitarist Codi came up with and shared one day, telling us it meant “breath of life” or “soul.” This name fit perfectly for the song’s purpose: a formal introduction of the world in which our story takes place.
Relaying the creation sequence of a fictional world is a big task for one song, so we wrote this one as a primarily instrumental track to let the music do the talking. Codi and Nathan worked hard to build a sound that that is equal parts entrancing, invigorating, and saddening all at once.
At the beginning of the song there is a spoken-word reading of a passage from Plato’s “Timaeus” that says: “And I will tell you again, there have been and will be again many destructions of mankind arising out of many causes, the greatest of these have been brought about by fire and water.” Here again we have some pretty ominous foreshadowing, but this time it’s coupled with a hopeful tone as the world has not yet seen the terrible things that will eventually destroy it.
The song delivers a glimpse of the world when it was young at the dawning of time and everything is beautiful and wondrous.
The narrative voice for this song also bears a lot of weight. Whereas the majority of the rest of the record alternates between different first-person narrators, this song takes a third-person limited point of view, framing it as a documentation.
3. Grey King
This song introduces the first main character in our story, and ruler of the Kingdom of the Mountain, the Grey King. The title Grey King is a nod to some Arthurian legends where King Arthur is called the Grey King. Like Arthur, the Grey King is something of a tragic figure.
The first verse describes him by borrowing literary devices from the Biblical figure of Nebuchadnezzar in which he has:
“iron fists” (a tendency towards hard/iron rule)
“silvern lips” (persuasive words),
“clay feet” (treacherous foundation)
and a “stomach of gold” (hunger for wealth).
He is called a monument to all mankind, a double entendre that can be read as either a great hero of the ages or a gravestone in memorandum to humanity (again calling back to Ozymandias here). Through this we see a character that is neither black nor white in terms of his morality (Grey King is Grey), but a much more human, 3-dimensional character capable of both good and evil.
The song’s chorus depicts a slow loss of control over his kingdom that begins to eat away at him as he desperately tries to maintain what he built. At the heart of this conflict lies a strained relationship with his son Cairne who is heir to the throne. As the song progresses, so does his mental decay until he is taken by a paranoia that begins to erode his mind.
The second time he is described in a series of four metaphors (after the first chorus) we can see his disposition has slightly changed. He still has a “heart like fire” (bold spirit) and “face like stone” (stern demeanor), but now he is inwardly troubled. He has a “mind of water” (weird, elusive/shifting thoughts) and an “iron soul” (paranoia is causing him to become more and more calloused to the suffering of others).
By the end of the song his mental state has devolved to an advanced paranoia. He is impatient, yet terrified by the passage of time. For the first time in his life he can see that his youth is fading and he feels old and frightened. Cairne runs away from his father’s kingdom as their relationship finally completely breaks down. Knowing that he drove his own son from home, he goes out in search of him in a terrible place of ancient evil, a place called Blackroot Forest…
4. Blackroot Forest
Blackroot Forest is probably the most story-heavy track on the record, which is one of the reasons we chose to shoot a music video for this song. The video offers a bit of extra perspective and narrates some things that are only included implicitly in the lyrics.
The song begins with Cairne (the king’s son and heir to the throne) leaving home and making his way into Blackroot Forest. The forest is infamous for being home to all sorts of dangerous creatures and dark forces. By this time the conflict with his father has become so severe that he is beyond reasoning and wants to start a new life away from his upbringing.
Atmospheric symbolism returns with the stench of death “still linger[ing] on the breeze,” and “skies crashing in upon burning skies” (the collision of two kingdoms or forces). Another big theme of the album also emerges in this song: the idea of home or feeling at home. Cairne leaving his father’s kingdom is more than just abandonment: he is setting out to build an army by joining with the dark forces in Blackroot Forest and overthrow the kingdom of the mountain with a force of his own.
Alluded to as the “withered hand” that scrawls out Chaotica’s name in track 6 of Castle in the Clouds, Wither is a new character that has been pulling strings behind the scenes for a long time. He is the epicenter of all the evil and darkness in Blackroot Forest, and his only motive is to create destruction and chaos in the world. When he sees Cairne’s rebellion against his father he takes advantage of the opportunity to sow the seeds of war.
By the end of the song, Cairne has become poisoned by Wither’s hatred and desire for destruction, closing the door on any chance to rebuild his relationship with the kingdom of the mountain once and for all. Although his father doesn’t want to believe it, he is lost beyond all hope, and mad with the desire for vengeance against the kingdom he believes to have let him down.
After corrupting his mind, Wither sends Cairne into the world and christens him with a new name, one worthy of his mission. He sets Carine forth to destroy the kingdom of the mountain as his newest disciple, “Chaotica”…
5. What Time Brings
Cairne and Timaeus have been steadily driving the wedge between their worlds deeper and deeper, and their pride has made each unwilling to make amends with the other.
All the while there is another element at play for Carine, one that served as the initial catalyst for his rebellion. Since he was young he has had a romantic infatuation with a woman from a neighboring kingdom named Rosetta. Their relationship was kept secret for years out of necessity as the political tension between their kingdoms made it dangerous to reveal.
Finally, after much deliberation Cairne decided to open up to his father about the situation. Rather than showing empathy or grace, Timaeus forbids him from speaking to Rosetta again, telling him his foolish actions could have jeopardized a delicate peace resultant of years of warfare between his nation and hers.
“What Time Brings” is written from the perspective of Rosetta when Cairne (now Chaotica) visits her one night after his corruption in Blackroot Forest, the first time they have seen each other in seven years. He tells her of a wild plan to destroy his father’s kingdom, claiming that once Timaeus is dead and he rules what is left of the kingdom of the mountain they can finally stop living in secret.
When Rosetta hears what he has to say, she knows that he has been corrupted and rejects him saying she cannot go with him.
Chaotica storms out and doubles his resolve to take vengeance on his father.
6. The Forges of Ire
Fueled with rage from the loss of Rosetta, Chaotica blames his father and begins mustering an army to overthrow him, rallying under a new state, the Kingdom of Ire. “The Forges of Ire” is a declaration of his hatred as he builds his forces and vows to kill his father.
Fire plays a key role in the symbolism of this song/the rest of the album, standing for war and conflict (specifically as a perversion of the fire in the chorus of Blackroot Forest, which stood for life and legacy). Fire heats the forges of Ire, Chaotica accuses his father of “stacking your fire with the bones of your dead,” etc.
The song is essentially a curse from Chaotica to Timaeus, the boiling over of his rage. The song has a wild and energetic style that serves as a vehicle to deliver that unbridled anger.
His curse targets Timaeus the way only someone close to him could: “May you wander the earth as a nomad, nameless until the day you die” attacks the king’s words from the chorus of Blackroot when he asks for his name to be saved. “Your sons are dead…your daughters have fled” condemns him for driving away his own family, and general paranoia is wished upon him to heighten his fears from track 3.
7. The Deepest Dark
Sometime between the events of tracks 6 and 7 Chaotica mounts the first attack of the Kingdom of Ire on the Kingdom of the Mountain. In this campaign he razes a small town outside of the capitol to the ground, burning everything and salting the earth.
He later learns that his own mother was among those killed in the raid.
For the first time since track 4, Chaotica begins to seriously question Wither’s words and his decision to fight his own father. He begins to encounter some of the same demons as his father, jumping at shadows and generally becoming paranoid and alone.
But the damage is done. While the chorus muses about home, the heart, and misery, it is too late for him to take back his actions…
Until this point in the record, King Timaeus has hoped that his son will find the fault in his ways and come back to him.
When he hears about the death of his wife in a raid by the Kingdom of Ire, the fragile grip he has on his mind completely snaps.
This song portrays the total, sadistic hatred of a man who has lost what he loves the most at the hands of someone he once loved. Chaotica has finally provoked the king, opening Pandora ’s Box. The king now hates his son more than Chotica hates him.
The structure of this song seeks to capture the brutal malice of the king. It is slow, methodical, and utterly hateful.
He sets out on a crusade of attrition, vowing the total destruction of the Kingdom of Ire.
Key elements in this song:
Lots of fire-related symbolism to invoke a spirit of war.
“Father like Romulus” – Legendary founding father of Rome literally raised by wolves
Serpent that eats its own tail – The serpent is the symbol of the Kingdom of Ire; eating its own tail indicates self-destruction
“Descendants of fire” – Makes claims about the unavoidable cyclical warfare of generations and nations
“Brothers like sand and glass” – Fire is the element that converts one to the other
The war between the Kingdom of Ire and the Kingdom of the Mountain continues for over 2 decades. Neither side is able to gain a significant advantage over the other, and the body count continues to rise as the factions become more and more embittered towards one another.
The fighting becomes so furious and so relentless that the island itself begins to split in two from the bombardment of constant warfare. Still, even faced with the destruction of their entire home and the death of everyone on the island, Chaotica and Timaeus cannot stop fighting.
In “Codex,” Timaeus realizes that the force of the conflict is going to cause the island to sink, and that it is too late to reverse the damage they have done to Pneuma.
He frantically begins to inscribe a massive stone tablet with words of warning in ancient runes. He cautions whoever may find the stone against the mistakes of his life and hopes that perhaps some good can come of this terrible conflict, if in another life.
It is only now, after decades of loss and death that Timaeus is able to really see the truth of things: that while Chaotica has wronged him in many ways, a share of the blame will always belong to him as well for responding to fire with fire. Knowing this gives him some clarity, if not peace.
This song contains a few callbacks to “Secret of the Stone” from our previous record both lyrically and instrumentally. In a way it is a darker companion song to Stone, dwelling on shaping one’s story, the path ahead, and the unknown in the desperate way of a man who is waiting to die.
The chorus revisits the notion of home and how at death’s door the king is finally able to see some light at the end of the tunnel. It’s definitely not a totally happy realization, but for the first time since he can remember his outlook is not totally bleak either.
King Timaeus also has one last card to play before the death of the island. Before she died, the queen gave birth to a second son that was immediately sent away to a far-off village for safekeeping from the war, before he was even given a name…
“Dreamscape” documents the final instance of truly human thought to cross Chaotica’s mind. On the night before the last day of the island, Chaotica dreams of Rosetta, an occurrence that takes him by surprise. He realizes that he does not even know if she is dead or alive.
Even more surprising to Chaotica than remembering Rosetta is the fact that he feels remorse at the way his life turned out, and regret that he chose a life of warfare over peace.
The memory shakes him and weakens a resolve for destruction that he has spent years building.
11. The Lost City
It has been a long way since the foreshadowing in “Cataclysm” alluded to a sinking island, a cursed memory, the folly of mankind.
Now that it has arrived, Timaeus has no more thoughts of war and destruction, but of remorse and warning. He orders a ship to be loaded with the giant stone tablet he engraved in track 9, and orders his second son be taken from his safe house and sent aboard the ship, bound for a new land.
The line “The sky meets the earth and devours all my grief” wraps up the atmospheric symbolism while invoking a “the sky is falling” brand of apocalypse. There is also a quick reference to King Timaeus’ enemy being “the eye of the storm,” establishing Chaotica as a master of the sea. Chaotica’s curse has come to fruition as the king is now always restless and looking over his shoulder.
And so it came to pass that a ship set sail for an unknown land, carrying a knight with no name, and a megalithic stone nobody can read over a sea that is now home to an ancient evil…