It is rare that a local band start to 'make waves', but that is exactly what Devon's The Fallen State are beginning to do. After learning their craft around the venues of the South West, the band five-piece rockers have gone on to support some big names in the genre over the past couple of years. Halestorm and 3 Doors Down are just a couple of bands The Fallen State have shared stages with, and it is fair to say they are starting to gain a bit of a reputation. 2017 promises to be a watershed year for the band. The band's fifth EP The View from Ruin was released last month, and this month sees the band embark on their first headline tour which takes in some of the major cities of England. The tour started in their hometown of Barnstaple, and came to Plymouth the following day. The Fallen State have played in Plymouth quite a few times in the past, but this show at Mutley Plain's Underground venue was the first one I had been able to make for various reasons. While the place was never full at any point during the evening, there was a respectable crowd gathered for a Sunday night and the atmosphere throughout was always very good. It was clear that The Fallen State already already have quite a few dedicated fans in Plymouth, and I am sure this will only increase over time. Another draw for me was the fact that fellow South West-based rockers Departed were opening the show, and they were another band I had been wanting to see live for a while.
The aforementioned Departed got the evening off to a fine start with 30 minute or so of polished and melodic classic rock played with real heart and class. Mark Pascall (vocals) and Ben Brookland (guitar/vocals) both have good rock pedigree and are veterans of many bands. I have seen Pascall as part of both Morph and Empire of Fools over the years, and Brookland was a founding member of Cambridge-based hard rockers The Treatment who had the best years of their life while Brookland was up there on stage with them. In fact I last saw Brookland at the Capital FM Arena (as was) in Nottingham back in 2013 when The Treatment supported Slash. It is clear that these experiences have shaped Departed, and there was not a weak song among their set. Brookland's fiery riffing drove the set, and Pascall really relished the frontman role. In all the previous times I have seen him he has been playing an instrument as well as singing, and he seemed a new man without these shackles. It is safe to say I was impressed by the Departed, and purchased a copy of their self-titled debut EP right after their set finished. I look forward to digesting it and hopefully seeing the band live again soon.
It is fair to say that Liberty Lies did not make the same impact on me as Departed did. I had seen the band once before playing an extremely truncated set in Birmingham supporting Heaven's Basement a couple of years ago. They failed to make an impression then and they failed to make an impression this time too. Their mix of nu-metal and classic rock influences is just strange and you feel that the band is caught between while sound they wish to pursue and instead have created some kind of hybrid which fails to really work - for me at least. Short bursts of harsh vocals just do not sit well with the less-heavy music that is going on behind, and the choruses just lacked the necessary hooks to really take hold. A misplaced cover of Rage Against the Machine's Testify just exacerbated the band's image crisis and I cannot say I was too disappointed when their set was over.
While The Fallen State's music is sometimes too grounded in modern rock for my classic rock loving mind, there is no doubt that they are a hell of a live band! From when they hit the stage with the big chorus of Hope in Revival, they held the audiences' attention for the next hour plus and delievered a fast-paced set packed with punchy riffs, hooky choruses, and the odd fluid guitar solo from Jon Price (guitar/vocals). Frontman Ben Stenning, while not possessing the greatest voice the genre has ever heard, more than makes up for this in attitude and he really knows how to work a crowd. There were many moments throughout the night where he ordered the crowd to sing, and they did, and this just shows the effect that grassroots touring can really have. Naturally, the new material was featured prominently in the set, with every song from The View from Ruin featured throughout the evening, along with cuts from their other releases. The slower-paced Sons of Avarice was an early highlight, and the heavier newer material really took hold during the set's second half, with the heavy The Quickening standing out. Another highlight was the ballad Nova, which the band have recently released a video for, which was extremely well-received by the crowd and saw lots of passionate singing from the fans. The main set came to an end with the pummelling and anthemic Sinner, which also saw a lot of crowd interaction, and the band left the stage to strong applause. There was time for a couple more however and, after singing happy birthday to Dan Oke (guitar), saw Send up the World and another new number Lifetime bring the evening to a raucous end.
It is always great to see local bands starting to get national attention, and that is just what The Fallen State are doing. I am glad that I finally got to catch them live as I have been wanting to see them for some time. They did not disappoint and I will certainly go and see them again next time they play locally.