When the news broke that Jake E. had left Amaranthe back in 2016 and was joining forces with his longtime friend Jesper Strömblad (ex-guitarist of In Flames), bassist Peter Iwers (also ex-In Flames), and drummer Alex Landenburg (currently from Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody), to form a new band, the hype and anticipation regarding this metal “super-group” was off the charts. For the purposes of this review I will avoid speaking about Jake parting ways with Amaranthe as well as Peter recently leaving In Flames. This is all about CyHra and their debut album Letters To Myself, out October 20, 2017 on Spinefarm/Universal Records.
The album kicks off with a song that most people are quite familiar with by now, the heavy riffing and ultra-melodic Karma. This song was the perfect single to release, as it is the perfect blend of what Jake’s warm melodic vocals would sound like if he were fronting early era In Flames. The song is flat out kickass melodic metal with a modern edge. The band keeps the pedal to the metal with the next track Heartrage (which I was lucky enough to hear an early demo version over a year ago). Lundenburg’s power metal drum style fits the song perfectly with a fast tempo and a soaring melodic chorus that shows why Jake E. is one of the best vocalists in metal today. The guitar riffs are everything you have come to expect from Strömblad, razor sharp and crushingly heavy, but always holding onto a strong melody.
Here To Save You is another heavy rocker with touches of electronica interspersed in the verses, with a catchy refrain and strong memorable chorus. A driving rhythm and harmony guitar lead intro on Muted Life leads into a mid-tempo verse with emotionally charged vocals from Jake and subtle electronica and keyboards filling out the sound and adding an additional layer of melody. Strömblad has a nice guitar solo mid-song showing his considerable chops.
Closure slows things down with a quasi-power ballad highlighting Jake’s warm vocals with a background filled with keyboards and modern electronic sounds. Strömblad’s guitar solo follows the songs main melody with a great deal of emotion in his playing. The title track, Letter To Myself, brings the heaviness back in spades with a punishing rhythm from Landenburg and Iwers, and crushing riffs from Strömblad. Jake’s warm vocal tone carries the songs strong melody along with the underlying keyboards.
Dark Clarity is a slower mid-tempo song with some fine lead and rhythm guitars along with Jake’s strong vocals and his penchant for writing very catchy vocal melodies. Holding Your Breath utilizes a more modern approach with the use of electronic sounds and effects along with Jake’s soaring high vocals showing his power and range. Rescue Ride begins slowly with a solitary piano and Jake’s vocals and soon transforms into an energetic rocker with another strong catchy chorus.
Black Wings is another mid-tempo metal track with a huge emotional vibe. Jake’s vocal performance is strong and powerful and Strömblad’s guitars are stellar with some incredible lead work. The albums most poignant and emotionally powerful ballad, Inside A Lullaby, is a true work of art with Jake’s heartfelt vocals along with a beautifully arranged piano and strings accompaniment.
The albums closing song, the emotionally charged Dead To Me, starts slowly with a spoken word over a acoustic guitar and keyboard and Jake’s emotive vocals, and builds to a crescendo of crushing riffs, harmony lead guitars and thunderous drums and bass with the final spoken words You’re All Dead To Me. An interesting way to end the album for sure, but nevertheless, Letters To Myself is a powerful statement from CyHra and an impressive debut album from a band whose collective members have a strong pedigree in the world of heavy music. Fans of Amaranthe, early In Flames, as well as melodic metal fans in general will love this release. Highly recommended!