REVIEW: CYHRA – “Letters To Myself”
Comprised of a star-studded cast of some of Sweden’s finest metal musicians including two-fifths of former In Flames members as well as Jake E. from Amaranthe, CyHra are a unique and frankly, promising outfit. As we know, there’s plenty in a name and CyHra’s is memorable, but what of the music itself? Well, on their debut record, ‘Letters To Myself’, a solid foundation of catchy melodic guitar passages, trance-influenced synths and gliding vocal lines is formed to create the basis of the band’s sound. And while this isn’t alternative metal approach isn’t a new sound by any means, it works cleverly in the context of the musicians’ paths with their previous projects while creating something that stands out completely.
‘Letters To Myself’ is rooted in catharsis. The album opener, “Karma”, gives this away pretty fully with a message about leaving the past behind and refusing to stay held down. Whether either of these things are an implication of past musical transgressions remains to be seen, but even if they aren’t, the message is painted clearly and in a way that makes the song addictive. Thankfully, the record follows this trend from start to finish and much of that is owed to the divine combination of Jesper Stromblad‘s well-known, by now legendary melodic sensibilities on guitar and Jake E’s surprisingly smooth and vast range as a singer. The guitar tends to add energy, as in the aforementioned “Karma”, while the keyboards create mood. This is exemplified in “Closure” as well as “Inside A Lullaby”.
The best moments come when the sound is both emotional and still driving. “Here To Save You” is possibly the record’s best moment in that way. Combining dramatic vocal delivery with huge guitar lines and drums make this song balanced and exceptional without playing it safe. That’s not to say this record is heavy. Heaviness is not CyHra’s goal despite its members’ experience in playing extreme metal. No, I would say ‘Letters To Myself’ could nestle itself in between ‘A Sense of Purpose’ and ‘Sounds of a Playground Fading’ stylistically as a means of gauging its direction. It’s hook-driven in an enjoyable way, but it doesn’t skimp on musicality either. For instance, “Rescue Ride” and “Black Wings” experiment a bit by adding darker, driving sensibilities and textures to CyHra’s sound and successfully so at that. This is an emotionally heavy record however, seeming to touch on the tough moments of human struggle such as break-ups and coming to terms with the self. And while I wouldn’t consider CyHra gothic by any stretch of the imagination, the moodier moments add a tinge of its influence. The guitar solos, Jesper’s signature, bring things back to fun and over-the-top though, never letting things get too overly serious. I find it worth adding that it seems too that there is more than one voice that contributed to the lyrical process, so the cathartic aspect of the record ends up being its most prevalent theme from multiple perspectives. Addiction specifically is touched on a few times.
Despite its perfect ordering and smooth sound, I did find that ‘Letters To Myself’ dragged during the softer, ballad moments. Though this only made me further appreciate the more upbeat songs the album had to offer. “Muted Life”, “Rescue Ride” and the like had the sound down to a science. I simply felt that the softer songs had more room to progress that wasn’t taken advantage of. This didn’t affect the messages conveyed rather it made me hopeful that bigger songs in this format are yet to come.
It’s cool to see that after years of making music in more established projects, the excellent musicians here are still raring to go and clearly excited about making new music. Perhaps cooler that the project itself plays like a best-of their combined efforts: In Flames’ huge guitar-driven melodies, Amaranthe’s infectious vocal hooks and both’s tendency to write huge anthems. CyHra, as it is, comes from the heart and the possibilities of its future direction are potentially more of a hype point than this awesome debut. A more frontal CyHra or an industrial CyHra that could naturally be birthed from ‘Letters’ To Myself’s wide direction? Maybe even both on the same record? Now that’s something to drink to.