SHVPES are in a dangerous position as a band, but it’s certainly not a new one. It’s one that will essentially define the rest of their career off the back of the success of this debut album, simply because of the mounds of hype that have been piled on them. It’s a level of hype that steadily been getting bigger and bigger too – formed from the ashes of post-hardcore upstarts Cytota, a band who too had been tipped for bigger things until the shift to this new moniker in late 2014, the band drafted in Griffin Dickinson on vocals, son of talismanic Iron Maiden frontman Bruce. If those few details don’t already scream of an engulfing industry furore, the handful of preview tracks they’ve dropped have been snaffled up by those already deeming them the future of British metalcore. As a result, debut full-length Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair. is the kind of album that can’t afford to fail, even though any final product that even mildly deviates from expectations will be seen as a failure.
And unfortunately, that may be the case, as SHVPES’ debut isn’t the metalcore masterstroke that everyone wanted it to be. But here’s the thing – while Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair. isn’t a great album, there’s enough here to suggest that greatness may well come down the line. The fact that it’s an ultimately bitty album is it primary downfall, but at its best, SHVPES tap into some of the most exhilarating, dynamic metalcore released this year. That’s because, for as omnipresent as nu-metalcore has become in 2016, Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair. spins the fusion of the two genres completely literally – there are genuinely moments on this album that would sound like if Papa Roach or Limp Bizkit made the shift to metalcore. And while that’s probably enough for some people to avoid this band’s name for as long as they live, SHVPES have enough musical chops to pull it off, as Two Minutes Of Pain lifts the slithering keyboard line from Bizkit’s Counterfeit for its groove-driven verses and False Teeth reveals itself as a swaggering, slamming jam. Granted, the two bands’ influence can be fairly passive, particularly on False Teeth whose nu-metal-isms are well-masked behind its Stray From The Path-style exterior, but there’s a welcome dearth of the same, tired Korn and Linkin Park callbacks that form the nucleus of most present-day nu-metalcore.
But that’s actually dependent on whether SHVPES can be called nu-metalcore at all, as for the majority of Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair., the ‘nu’ prefix is dropped altogether. And while in most cases that would be the cue for an understandable groan and rolling of eyes, SHVPES are far better than their cookie-cutter genre conventions would have you believe. There’s a welcome twinge of Bullet For My Valentine-esque riffing to tracks like Bone Theory, and though he can’t compare to his father in terms of power, Griffin Dickinson’s natural grit and feel for melody give some potency and punch to God Warrior and the excellent Breaking The Silence. But away from that, there’s a reticence to continue this expectation, and a solid chunk of this album really falls flat. It’s a couple of pegs above the really derivative stuff thanks to the skill of the band, but there are tracks like the title track or The Otherside that feel as though they’re there to fill up space. They’re not bad per se, but they bring nothing to the table that scores of other bands haven’t tried before. It can feel like SHVPES undercutting themselves in terms of their own abilities, but it’s more likely a case of your standard, directionless debut album. It’s admirable that SHVPES are trying, but as they scatter around to pick up whatever pieces of modern metal they can, the final result is largely formless and unfortunately scattershot in its fire.
And that’s a shame because SHVPES clearly have a real spark that’s just waiting to be tapped into, yet is only done so in fragments here. Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair. feels as though it probably would’ve been better as a fantastic EP than an okay album, removing all the filler and keeping the very best of what’s on offer. But if mistakes are to be made it’s better off to make them early, and even though the band are far from reaching their full potential, Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair. is recommended listening regardless, if only for its better moments. When SHVPES hit their stride they’re a credit to everything that’s good about metalcore; let’s just hope they get a second chance to show what they can really do with a bit more consistency.
For fans of: Bullet For My Valentine, Rise To Remain, Papa Roach
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair.’ by SHVPES is released on 14th October on Search And Destroy Records / Spinefarm Records.