CyHra - Letters to Myself

CyHra Letters to Myself cover
Letters to Myself
Spinefarm Records
It’s true that since In Flames toured with Slipknot, they turned their collective heads towards America and just fizzled out into a pop producing entity with guitars with the songwriting as well going down the shitter at some point even Jesper, who was one of the founding members, jumped out of the ship. Basically, CyHra is Peter Iwers (bass) and Jesper Strömblad (guitar), both former In Flames, joined by former Amaranthe “clean” singer Joacim “Jake E” Lundberg, as well as current LT’s Rhapsody drummer Alex Landenburg and former Shining guitarist Euge Valovirta. All in all, a fine gathering of talented musicians.
With Jake E singing, it would be safe to assume that this was never gonna be “death metal”, but at least, while it’s poppy and modern, CyHra’s debut still has some rather “strong” guitar presence that sounds neither forced or unimaginative, but rather inspired and song-serving rather than self-serving, which seemed to be the case in the last few In Flames albums, with singer Ander Friden probably having hijacked everything, while leaving former Gardenian guitarist Niclas Engelin shoulder the songwriting after he managed to almost drive the band to the ground with “Siren Charms”, their highly disappointing “major” label debut.
Let’s not pussyfoot about it; this is a mix of Linkin Park with post millennial In Flames, without any harsh vocals or “typical” rapping, although Jake’s style can be quite rhythmical at times. So, think Amaranthe without female vocals, although some harmonics do make J’E’s vocals sound too “soft”.
The bottom-line is while this album is unapologetically “radio friendly” it is also hands down, easily much better than anything In Flames ever attempted past “Clayman” and far better than the boring by the numbers bubblegum of Amaranthe past their debut, which now seems to solely rely on the charms and ability of their female singer Elize Ryd, instead of songs to get the crowds going, taking a huge nosedive since the release of “Nexus”.
While it lacks the clarity of say these Amaranthe albums in the production department, the fuller drum sound makes it sound more organic and less artificial and the guitars are a lot more present in the mix, which is a huge plus. The only slight issue I take, is with the vocal production, in that does sound a bit clinical. Since JakeE is a capable singer, I’d like to see him getting a bit more adventurous on the vocals and a little edgier and dirtier vocally. Even some more extreme/exaggerated vocals wouldn’t feel out of place here… but it would only have to be phrases to make things edgier and a bit more varied and interesting.
“Karma” is the opener and lead of single and it manages to mix the flammable parts with a neat LP-like chorus and some Amaranthe like bridges and patterns; it’s as much a guilty pleasure as most of the material on the debut Amaranthe album was, but with nicer, fuller guitars.
“Heartrage” shifts between a softer melodic part and a quite dramatic heavier part with a nice chorus that bridges them together capably. Nice but not blunt dynamics keep this mid-tempo song that could have easily descended into boredom from doing so.
“Here to Save You” broadens the spectrum of the band’s somewhat limited sonic palette, by mixing things up a bit, blurring the lines between styles, while keeping them still identifiable. Think power pop vocals, with some attitude, a nice guitar, with some nice all enveloping harmonies all over and the mix of all, working just great, over a cool chorus… what more could you possibly want?
“Muted Life” is a nu-ballad, you know, softer parts, piano, leads and a release over a chorus. Not breaking new ground or reinventing the wheel, but “working out” within the constraints of the style just fine, while including some nice guitar histrionics in there for good measure.
“Closure” is post-trippy and seemingly “cathartic”… if one pays attention to the lyrics and while it’s kind of melodramatic and almost cringy in parts, it’s chorus is so inspired that it makes you forget all about it… as does the nice melodic but also very passionate solo that bleeds ya dry, while it hardly leaves a mark…
To save themselves from depression, CyHra self-address a “Letter to Myself” – ahem themselves and this is really another In-Amaranthe-Flames tune. A riff and melody that’s very “IF”, but a chorus that’s very Amaranthe, showing that his marginalization in the latter was probably a grave mistake as the kid seems to have some pretty neat ideas, when it comes to vocal melodies. Melodic and “big” sounding, this is anthemic without losing neither its pop appeal, or its rock cred.
“Dark Clarity” has some more adventurous vocals, I’d say; this is how I’d like to hear Jake’E singing, in a more “approximate” way… also dropping the “electronic” elements here or there, might work to their advantage, as despite giving the material a “modern” flair, it tends to mar the mix a bit, plus it gets old rather fast.
“Holding Your Breath” is another song where CyHra experiment within the bounds of their “sound”, trying to find different way to mix up the elements. It gets points for trying and a good solo but despite having a decent chorus, fatigue starts to develop and shows.
I love the half spoken, half sung intro to “Rescue Ride”, but it soon goes into a cliché “explosion”. It’s the melodic parts that make it work. As “copy” cat as this would be, here some parts seem to beg for a female vocal, but that would be too “Amaranthe-like”. So be it. This chorus would have sounded 100 times better with the contrast two vocalists would offer.
“Black Wings” starts almost straight away, almost segued up after “Rescue Ride”… and it keeps the atmosphere similar, before a dramatic crescendo in the chorus. Another “catharsis” seems to occur in the lyrics of this song? Did I say that I like the solos on this album? They are rather unconventional, but always work rather well, without outstaying their welcome.
“Inside a Lullaby” is the lighter app moment, the spartan orchestrated “fragile” piece, with JakeE bleeding his heart out; it’s nice, you know… again not breaking new ground but works well.
Finally, “Dead to Me” seems to be Stormblad’s purge of bad feelings in a spoken part monologue, that occurs throughout. Also Jake E can be heard both as his usual “double tracked” self, where he harmonizes around all that, but also on a “singular” vocal that sounds, so much better, you know – his natural voice, offering a much needed variety…
While finding it hard to establish a 100% identity of their own – as they do feature a couple of guys that must have been significant proponents in their respective former bands composition activities, CyHra, effortlessly, do blend the best aspects of non-death metal In Flames and Amaranthe in a potent, honest and quite catchy mix that doesn’t feel forced, but rather natural occurring. As such it will please people that liked In Flames in recent years, but thought they started to sound uninspired, people that liked Amaranthe and potentially Linking Park fans. Not Manowarriors then!
Still if you’re looking for a nice, modern and rocking album “Letters to Myself” seems to be ticking quite a few of the right boxes and reignite the excitement about what you originally liked in some of the characters involved in its making (ie riffing, melodies etc.). At the very least, do yourself a favor and give it a spin, you might actually end up liking it, quite more than you might have expected. Hope they can refine the sound and diversify a little more on a sophomore and this could in turn make them really erupt, if they play their cards right.