Pointing out that Shvpes singer Griffin Dickinson is, indeed, the son of Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson, might not be the biggest selling point, given his brother Austin’s track record with the quickly dismissed Rise to Remain and As Lions. Nevertheless, while it may have taken them a couple of albums for them to come into their own, the Birmingham quintet’s second fell-length offering provides hope that their may still be some hope left for the Dickinson gene pool yet.
Relating Shvpes’s sound to that of Dickinson senior isn’t particularly helpful either. Like his older sibling, the decidedly more metal-named Griffin, has foregone the spoils of traditional heavy metal for a more modern, core-adjacent sound. Unlike Austin, however, Shvpes flirt more with the edges and many different branches of mainstream metalcore as opposed to playing it straight down the middle. There’s also a prominent hip-hop/nu metal influence in play, with the end result having more in common with the likes of hardcore progenies letlive. and Stray From the Path than the usual roster of indiscriminate Atreyu imitators (salt intended).
Greater Than is a much more mature effort than their previous offering, 2016’s Pain. Joy. Ecstacy. Despair. That album declared its party rock intentions upfront, with its cover brandishing four half-empty bottles of alcohol (one for each of its titular emotional stages). Greater Than is still a light-weight, uplifting affair, but its one whose attitude and musicality are undeniably more refined than those shown on Shvpes’ debut. The record puts its strongest foot forward with the back-to-back, bouncy tech-metal bangers “Calloused Hands” and “Undertones”—each of which sound like a less aggressive Monuments fronted by an, again, less aggressive version of letlive’s Jason Butler (now of The Fever 333). The Butlerisms carry over to “Afterlife”, which, following its shaky nu metal beginnings, culminates in an anthemic climax that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on letlive’s swansong, If I’m The Devil… (2016).
It’s not long from there, however, that the immaturity sets back in. “Someone Else” sees the band go full Stray From the Path, except that it neglects that band’s poignant political message for such charming rebukes against an unfaithful partner as, “there’s no looking back when there’s cum on your back from someone else”, and the final verse’s woeful disclaimer “don’t you dare tell me, this track’s about misogyny” is hardly enough to get them off the hook; especially considering the track is rounded by a call of “you fucking bitch”. Its following, sultry counter-part “Two Wrongs, No Rights” is even worse—lacking the kinetic force of its predecessor to drive it through and featuring such insightful witticisms as “she might be veggie but she want the beef”. The later “I’m Stuck” provides a much stronger take on the hip-hop side of the band’s sound and “Rain”, which features a barely discernible guest spot from Trivium‘s Matt Heafy, and the bouncy, Monuments-esque “War” quickly get things back on track. Likewise, general irreverence is put to better, more effective use use later on, during the intro to closer “Counterfit” (“…for more options, or to kill this motherfucker, press star”). Even so, the bad taste leftover by these early blunders undoes a lot of the good work put in by the band elsewhere.
There’s enough consistent quality throughout Greater Than to forgive its few, ill-considered missteps. Nevertheless, Shvpes would do well to extend some of their newfound maturity applied in their musicianship to to the lyrical side of things. With this record, Griffin Dickinson has stepped out from his father’s shadow and proved himself both a considerable talent and formidable frontman. Yet, some of his decisions remain questionable—rendering him simultaneously the band’s greatest strength and its one remaining drawback.
Greater Than is out now on Spinefarm Records.