Saturday, 25 March 2017

The Fallen State's 'The View from Ruin' - EP Review

It is quite rare that a local band starts to make some traction in the rock world, but that is what Devon's The Fallen State have been doing over the past couple of years. With some impressive support slots under their belt, the band released their fifth EP, The View from Ruin, last month which follows on from their impressive previous studio outings. For a band who are yet to record a full-length album, they are doing extremely well for themselves. Certain corners of the music industry are convinced that the traditional album format is now dead in an age of streaming and digital downloads, and it seems that The Fallen State have embraced this seemingly new 'little and often' approach to releasing new music. Recording a handful of new songs at a time when they are fresh and getting them out to their ever-growing fanbase quickly helps to keep fans interested in this era of poor attention spans, and this approach seems to be paying off for The Fallen State. The first three of the band's five EPs, the 'numbered trilogy' if you like, were all released in quick succession in 2014. The three-track releases certainly laid the foundations with The Fallen State's sound, but it was on 2016's Crown Your Shadows where the band's modern hard rock sound was really honed. The earlier releases definitely borrowed a lot from the past, but Crown Your Shadows certainly introduced the slightly darker and heavier sound the band now use. This has continued on The View from Ruin, and while the songs no longer seem as anthemic as on those early releases, there is a distinct vibe and energy around the band now that makes them stand out. Once again the EP was produced, mixed, and mastered by David Jones (aka Jonny Rocker - Heaven's Basement) who's previous band was probably a big influence on The Fallen State's early sound. Jones seems to be the go-to man these days when it comes to new rock bands recording EPs, and his fat sound which focuses on big guitar tones is perfect for this type of music.

Opening with a somewhat industrial-sounding section, the EP gets off to a great start with The Quickening. A heavy riff soon kicks in which leads into a strident verse with a shard guitar pattern which is perfect for frontman Ben Stenning's vocals to sit atop. He almost partakes in a call-and-response vocal approach with the guitars initially, but this changes up as the song progresses and the guitars take on a bigger role. The chorus is a pretty strong one too, with subtle harmony vocals to boost Stenning's presence and some strong melodies to latch on to. The Fallen State are still very much influenced by classic rock when it comes to guitar solos, and lead guitarist Jon Price impresses here with a bluesy solo that fits the heavier song well. Despite a heavier intro, Four Letter Word is definitely more laid back, with a mellow verse with lots of chiming guitar notes which work well with Stenning's more poppy delivery here. The sound suits the band well too, and bassist Greg Butler impresses here with a really melodic and groovy bassline during the verses. The song ramps up for the choruses, with a soundscape of heavier guitar chords in background and Stenning's rawer vocal delivery. Rhythm guitarist Dan Oke breaks into a crunching riff part-way through, and this is a cue for Price to solo once again. It is a lengthy one this time and has all the class and finesse of many of the genre's guitar greats. Nova is more of a ballad and the song that has been used to promote the release with a video filmed for it. Ballads have never been the band's strongest point in my opinion, but this is easily their best slower song yet with a really warm guitar sound throughout and a passionate and convincing vocal performance. The chorus is extremely catchy, and hits home in that earnest Shinedown-esque way with plenty of emotional grit. Price's guitar leads in the chorus help boost the musical weight of the piece, and his bluesy solo hits the spot as solos in ballads should. Sleepless returns to the heavier vibe of The Quickening with a real headbanging metal riff, which is backed up by some tight double bass drumming by Rich Walker. It is these types of songs that I feel the band really excel at, and they seem more at home in heavier territory. That being said, the chorus is probably the EP's best, with a really strong vocal performance and driving guitars. A heavy instrumental section part-way through the song emphasises the heavy riffing of Price and Oke, before Stenning starts to shout over the top in a style that recalls modern Papa Roach with a strong punk vibe. Lifetime is the fifth and final song on the EP and is probably the song with the sound that is closest to their early EPs with more of a classic rock sound. It is an instantly memorable one, with a basic chorus and some tight simple riffing throughout which roars out of the speakers. This is definitely more lighthearted after some of the emotionally-heavy songs here, and works well to close out this impressive EP. Overall, The View from Ruin sees The Fallen State further hone their sound and have a produced something they can be very proud of. The band has recently completed their first headlining UK tour, so things are really looking up for the band from Devon.

The self-released EP was released on 24th February 2017. Below is the band's promotional video for Nova.

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