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Review: The Fallen State – Underground, Plymouth

It was a bit draughty, to say the least, outside Plymouth’s Underground… made all the more cutting by being forced to stand out in it longer than expected, as the advertised ‘doors open’ time of 6pm slipped to half past… but nothing was going to deter me from attending this eagerly-anticipated bill of Departed, Liberty Lies, and headliners The Fallen State… not even frostbite! Okay, my hands got a bit cold, but you get the point.

The Underground is typical of many of the venues that are the lifeblood of the current rock and metal scene. It’s small, it’s subterranean, the lighting is crappy (from a photographer’s point of view), the stage is low, small, and cramped, but the bar is well stocked (and reasonably priced), and as Departed take to the stage, we discover the sound system to be pretty decent too. So… the important bits are right!

Departed - Fallen StateI’ve seen Departed on bigger stages, but tonight they just seemed… better. Perhaps it’s musical tightness and increased confidence gained from being on the road. Maybe it’s the rawness and heaviness of a live performance (over their familiar recorded counterparts). One thing it definitely is, is the power in Mark Pascall’s voice. It’s always had that ‘classic rock’ timbre, but now it’s delivered with enough force to keep Ben Brookland’s Les Paul honest. Tonight’s short set was all taken from the current album. I’ve been assured new material is on it’s way, but tonight it was the familiar ‘Don’t Follow Me’, the rocking ‘Superstitious’, and the audience participation-begging ‘All I Want’ that were the highlights warming the crowd up nicely. What a start!

Liberty Lies - Fallen StateLiberty Lies were the ‘wild card’ for me tonight, having not heard them before. Turns out, that’s been a serious shortcoming on my part. From the off, the Midlands-based five-piece delivered a high-energy set that defied pigeon-holing. Shaun Richards’ magnificent vocals rode in on tsunami of precise, powerful riffs, beats and grooves, and delivered a powerhouse performance of clean melody, punctuated with measured, aggressive growls. Lurching over the monitors, he cajoled the crowd into life in no uncertain terms. “This is a fucking rock ‘n’roll show!”, he taunted. Flanked on either side by guitarists Josh and Liam, the three of them were like the England front row, pushing, pushing, forcing their will forwards. As a result, I could barely see the engine room of the two Adams, but their presence was undeniable, creating the platform from which the others could leap. Confession time: I got a bit carried away by Liberty Lies, and forgot to make any notes, but that’s a good sign, right? Suffice to say I want – correction, NEED – to see these guys on a bigger stage. They were like caged animals tonight. I want to see them unleashed, unconfined… out in the wild! If Liberty Lies come within pasty-throwing distance of Devon again, I’ll be there. No notepad, no camera, just a ticket and beer tokens!

Speaking to Ben Stenning, The Fallen State vocalist, before the show, he was saying how tonight’s show, a sweatbox venue on a Sunday night, was a ‘thank you’ to their hardcore following at the opposite end of their home county. Judging by the number of Fallen State shirts in the crowd, and the lyric knowledge of the singing (not to mention the euphoric whoops and applause), that’s exactly who was in the house tonight!

Bearing in mind this tour is primarily to promote the new EP, ‘The View From Ruin’, the set list was carefully constructed, easing us in with a pair of belters from ‘Three’, followed by a couple from the last EP, ‘Crown Your Shadows’, before hitting us with the up tempo ‘Sleepless’, followed by the extremely catchy ‘Four Letter Word’. Both get enthusiastic reactions from the crowd, many already word perfect!

‘Nova’, the current single, stands out, with its obvious commercial appeal, and tonight, it is exquisitely performed, Stenning’s soulful vocal really making an impact. We returned to the back catalogue for the rest of the set, rounding things out with ‘Sinner’, perhaps The Fallen State’s best known track to date, thanks to some valuable network rotation. The enthusiastic calls for an encore “One more song!”, which soon became “Two more songs!” would be honoured, but first we had to wish a suitably embarrassed guitarist, Dan Oke, a happy birthday!

I said at the top that these small venues are the lifeblood of the modern rock and metal scene. Tonight reaffirmed that belief. Tonight, we were treated to three great sets from three great bands, up close and personal. Bands and fans as one… an extended family, united in music. Yes, seeing legends perform at an enormo-dome is spectacular, but venture underground, and for the price of a pint, there’s a very real chance you’ll stumble across your next favourite band. A band for whom you buying a tee from keeps them on the road, keeps them making music. A band you can’t wait to tell your mates about.

So, here we are, friends. I’m telling you there’s a great show from The Fallen State heading to Birmingham, Nottingham, and Manchester this week. Thank me later.

 

Review and Images: Rob Nankivell

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