Birmingham heavy hitters SHVPES strive for the unconventional with their debut album, ‘Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair.’ And they start well, as opener, ‘Bone Theory,’ powers through with a stomp and a swagger.
The quality doesn’t dip with the lead single either. ‘Skin & Bones’ is easily the most accessible song on the album, boasts an arena sized “wo-oah” that is perfectly weighted for the live experience and has the anthemic quality which should help SHVPES score hefty live sing-alongs. This is a real triumphant moment for the band and one forged by the fiery proficiency of frontman Griffin Dickinson.
However Dickinson’s vocal performance doesn’t hit the same heights regularly enough. And, despite showing competence with most of the multitude of styles SHVPES strive for, the vocalist does struggle with a few of the sub-genres they insist on throwing into the mix. With the prime instigator being repeated doses of nu metal. Sorry, Griffin, but the Zack de la Rocha derived rapping is a sub-genre too far.
For a band which boast about their broadening of musical constraints, there isn’t ever really enough experimentation throughout the record to justify the talk of genre-busting expansion. Most of the material on offer is good enough, and SHVPES should be commended for at least attempting to broaden their sound. But few songs truly deviate from a pretty straightforward path sonically. There is a smattering of catchy choruses and some wicked turns of pace, but the metal itself is pretty stock, with few riffs or breakdowns ever really able to stand out on their own.
Still, for a debut record, SHVPES show that they are at least going in the right direction with ‘Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair.’. They’ve crafted enough solid moments and controlled chaos that should help them keep up with their extensive touring schedule. However, it is a shame that their grand idea of genre-expansion only ever really stretches to a few iffy call-backs to nu-metal.
‘Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair’ by SHVPES is released on October 14th on Search and Destroy/Spinefarm Records.
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Words by Joe Philpott (@joe_philpott)