Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair
Alternative metal was a positive way to label nu-metal artists of the 90s/00s. Both styles combined metal with outside influences like hip hop, jazz, or funk; however, nu-metal was seen as being more dumbed-down than alternative metal (often deservedly so), yet nu-metal has seen a surprising resurgence with nu-metalcore. The style takes modern metalcore and influence from groups like Slipknot, Linkin Park, and the like. Unfortunately, it’s often quite awful, taking the worst parts of both styles into something devoid of melody and replacing that with unintentionally hilarious lyrics and bad breakdowns. There are exceptions to the rule, as with anything, but nu-metalcore isn’t typically a label known for its quality.
Enter in British group Shvpes. With a name like that, it’d be fair to assume we’re dealing with a djent band; however, that’s not really the case at all. The band’s sound is shaped by a love of big, stadium-filling mid-00s metalcore and big, riff-y modern hardcore. Their base sound is a mix of peak Bullet For My Valentine, Stray From The Path, and While She Sleeps, which is to say it’s filled to the brim with metallic glory. The songs that don’t stray from their metalcore path: “Tear Down the Walls”, “God Warrior”, and “Breaking The Silence” are meaty and unabashedly melodic. It doesn’t always work out, as the title track and “Smoke and Mirrors” are less than stellar. Vocalist Griffin Dickinson (son of Iron Maiden’s vocalist) deserves a lot of credit here. His screams are impassioned and impressive, if a bit generic. His melodic vocals are soaring, coming across as a slightly lower register Claudio Sanchez (It doesn’t hurt that “The Otherside” sounds especially Coheed-like).
It’s important that Shvpes’ musical foundation is solid because their more eclectic influences are a bit less impressive. A few tracks delve into Rage Against the Machine-isms, with Dickinson providing somewhat awkward rapping, and the guitar-work getting a tad too Morello-like and really feeling out of place. “Two Minutes of Hate” is the biggest wayward error. The frantic, bombastic ending is a nice end to the otherwise problematic track. The ocassional bursts of funk are fine enough, and the rare electronic excursions are well done. Overall, the “alternative” or nu-metal inclinations are more of a spice that adds diversity than a problem or a success. Although on “Breaking The Silence”, the funky ending is sublime. Dickinson’s urbanized screaming is probably the best aspect of the outside influences, though it’s not that much different from fellow nu-metalcore group Stray From The Path.
Overall, Shvpes’ debut is an impressive success. Not all their influences mesh together perfectly, but when they focus on delivering big, bold, and brash anthems, the British band show a laudable ability in that department. Their brand of, let’s call it alternative metalcore is well done and definitely a huge cut above the glut of other nu-metalcore groups. There’s a lot of promise for greater things ahead, but the current results are fun, too.