Review Summary: Consistency is key, and on this album, the door remains locked.
“Supergroups” usually don’t fare well. There of course are a few standouts, some of which include Bloodbath and Down, but generally these groups just end up resulting in music that has great ideas but is exectued poorly and is generally very forgettable. Case and point, Cyhra, the long awaited project led by former In Flames guitarist and songwriter Jesper Strömblad and consisting also of former In Flames bassist Peter Iwers, former Amaranthe vocalist Jake E, and Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody drummer Alex Landenburg. Now I cannot say that upon initially hearing about this band, I was logical enough to be skeptical. In fact, I was pretty excited about it, and hearing the first two singles delivered on my expectations. So when this album dropped, I was excited and ready to hear something that would blow my mind. Instead, I was left with nothing more than disappointment, frustration, and a feeling of stupidity for having such high expectations. The lack of consistency and quality in songwriting really kept this album from having any sort of impact, and the subpar vocals and lyrics didn’t really do anything to help.
One thing Letters To Myself does right is that it opens fairly optimistically with its lead single, “Karma,” which is by no means a bad song. The riff on this song in particular is very reminiscent of the glory days of classic in Flames, with Jesper shredding through it just as well as ever. Sadly, it’s probably the best song on the entire album, and while it’s certainly far better than anything In Flames has made since Jesper’s departure, it’s by no means one of the single greatest songs I have ever heard. This is mainly because of two problems which cast a shadow over the entire album. First of all, this album is a much more “modern” metal album than previous In Flames material, and by that I mean it makes much more noticable use of effects and electronics, and it’s much more polished than what I’m used to from In Flames. Part of this may be due to the involvement of Amaranthe vocalist Jake E, seeing as there are many elements of Amaranthe’s sound present throughout the album, such as electronics and an increased focus on clean vocals. However, while these stylings work for Amaranthe, the songwriting on this album is far too lacking for these elements to really enhance anything, and it instead just makes the overly polished, ultra-melodic sound much more annoying than beneficial. Another reason this album suffers is because of Jake E’s voice, which I guess is not too much of a surprise for me considering that even on the singles, I wasn’t much of a fan of it. One of the biggest appeals Amaranthe has is its approach to vocals and having them handled by three different vocalists. Elize Ryd does female clean vocals, Henrik Wilhemsson currently handles growles, and when Jake E was still in the band (before making a permanent departure... to do this album of all things) he handled the male clean vocals and he sounded just fine... in Amaranthe with two other people singing in order to give the music some variation and keep things interesting. On this album, there is none of that. No growles, no Elize Ryd, no Anders Friden screeching, nothing. Just Jake E singing with the same voice... for over forty minutes. Now objectively speaking, Jake E is not a bad vocalist, far from one at that, but his voice gets pretty tiring after about ten minutes, so you can imagine the toll it can take on you after 45 minutes.
So it is clear that yes, this album does have its fair share of shortcomings, but many of these are problems that a lot of bands that I love have. Hell, Anders Friden’s voice isn’t great and In Flames were always a tiny bit repetitive, so what separates good from bad in this situation" Well it is important to remember two things. Firstly, In Flames were pretty much the only band that sounded like In Flames when they were starting out. However, this is not the case at all today, and because In Flames were naturally so influential, it isn’t hard to find In Flames imitation in the current metal scene. This is part of what makes Cyhra seem so uninspired. They just sound like every other modern metal band that tries to be In Flames, except for one thing: they forgot to incorporate decent lyrics and any sort of context or variation into their music. I’m not saying lyrics are a huge deal, especially considering the fact that broken English was a staple of In Flames’ older material, but it just really doesn’t seem quite right to hear a band of grown men in their forties performing music with lyrics akin to bands like Bring Me The Horizon. Worse than that, the album really doesn’t seem to have any sort of consistency or order to what it does. It just feels like a bunch of random songs which all sound eerily similar thrown together into something that completely fails to leave any sort of impression due to its lack of focus. This, as well as every other problem with this album, stems from one flaw that plagues its very existence: it isn’t very creative or original. It’s an album full of recycled ideas sloppily mixed in with weak lyrics and songwriting that lacks focus and results in something that is quite frankly VERY disappointing considering the amount of talent the members of this band have. Being bad due to sheer obsurdity is one thing, because even though albums like Celtic Frost’s Prototype and Morbid Angel’s Illud Divinum Insanus are some of the most fundamentally broken albums ever recorded, they’re still fun to occasionally listen to just to laugh at how incomprehensibly terrible they are. This album however is the worst breed of bad an album can be: boring and forgettable to the point that no fun can be made of it.
Letters to Myself had every reason to be amazing, and it’s a crying shame that it was instead the most disappointing album I’ve heard this year. While it is overall pretty bad, it does at least have some moments that I actually like. “Karma” is still a great song that I like to listen to from time to time, “Heartrage” is pretty good for what it is, and while it’s nothing special, “Rescue Ride” was a song that stood out to me. That said, for every “Karma” on this album, there are about three songs like “Closure” which just seem to drag on and on and make you wish you had bought The Sin and the Sentence instead. Letters to Myself is far from the worst album I’ve ever heard or even the worst album this year. However overall, it’s a very uninspired album that falls short of all of its expectations, and about half way through it, all that will be in your head is the chorus of “Karma”: “Kill me, I’m out of here.”
If you haven’t listened to this album, don’t waste your time, and unless you just really want to support the band, your money would be much better spent on pretty much anything else.