Review by Jeff Maki
The much-hyped new “supergroup,” CyHra—featuring former In Flames members, bassist Peter Iwers and guitarist Jesper Strömblad, alongside ex-Amaranthe singer Joacim “Jake E” Lundberg and drummer Alex Landenburg (Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody)—released its debut album “Letters to Myself,” Oct. 20 on an unsuspecting audience, and for those fans who’s expectations are high, lower them immediately.
Much of In Flames’ diehard fan base had become convinced both Iwers and Strömblad departed their former band due to stylistic differences (at least that was the perception that was given), but “Letters to Myself,” if anything, is an extension of the members’ former bands. Yes, Strömblad’s riffs, at times, harken back to the early 2000s, but with a clean vocalist like Jake E.—as talented as he may be—the accompanying music also has to be mostly clean, right?
Here’s what Jake E. said about CyHra’s musical style:
“When it comes to a style, I’d just say that this is really catchy metal!” You can hear where we’re coming from but we’re not cut’n’pasting anything from our old bands. We have our own ways of singing and playing so yeah, it’s recognisable. I don’t put labels on music. For me it’s either good music or bad music – they’re the only categories I have! I guess we aimed to get some kind of elements from our other bands. I’ve always been focused on choruses, but I also wanted to add some more modern touches, some of that alternative metal vibe. It’s hard to put a label on it, though, and that’s a great problem to have.”
This is by no means a bad album, yet despite stating explicitly in the press that this band is NOT a side project, it sounds the contrary—an extension of In Flames’ “Battles” and Amaranthe (with “Battles” weighing in heavier on the scale). Fans of these bands will want to pick it up, probably out of curiosity alone. Jake E.’s performance is the standout here, and this has the feel of being “his band.” His lyrics seem close to the heart and personal.
Prior to writing this, being an In Flames fan (of all eras and lineups), I realized this could have been a biased review. However difficult, my job is is take in the music as it is, regardless of band members or past history. If anything, I was excited to hear what these guys had come up with, expecting it to be nothing short of greatness.
While there is a lot to like on this alterna-metal album (namely Jake E.), and without a doubt, there are talented musicians present here, “Letters to Myself” doesn’t have a clear direction or “sense of purpose,” sitting somewhere uncomfortably in a grey area (much like the album cover), a hard rock and metal purgatory, if you will—lack of originality and surprisingly average songwriting hold this album way back.
Spinefarm Records, October 20, 2017