CYHRA is back again with their sophomore album, “No Halos in Hell”! Known for being a bit of a “super-group,” made up of former members of IN FLAMES and AMARANTHE to name a few, they came out surprising and strong with their debut, “Letters to Myself,” back in 2017. We’ve been wondering how their sound will evolve on the second album, so we had to give it a listen.
The album starts hard and strong with the first single, “Out of My Life.” There’s no beating around the bush with this song – it’s full power, full catchy, and the message is pretty clear through the lyrics. The pop elements are more subtle than on the first album but it maintains the same type of catchy melodies. It’s on the short side but it also stops when it should – any longer would have been boring. The title track that follows is heavier with those traditional Jesper Strömblad guitars, with a really catchy chorus and milder pop feeling, which is not a bad thing in this case.
The energy changes a bit for “Battle from Within,” not exactly slowing down but mellowing out a bit. The song is a beautiful piece dedicated to Jake E.‘s late brother and has a beautiful message. The addition of piano parts is a nice treat. “I Am the One” has some really strong guitar melodies and again, the electronica influences are really tastefully done and not overwhelming. The repetition of “I am the one” in the chorus adds a necessary touch of grit into the sound. “Bye Bye Forever” is another pretty clear message and very poppy and easily digestible. It’s one of the least heavy tracks on the album, yet it’s still easy to appreciate Jake‘s high vocals in the chorus, despite the verses being pretty standard. This is very radio-friendly and we wouldn’t be surprised if this was a single in the future. The song gets surprising with its acoustic guitar solo; it’s a welcome addition, but feels almost out of place as it’s so different from the rest of the song.
Next up is “Dreams Gone Wrong,” which had a harder time catching our attention and perhaps the compositional simplicity is starting to catch up to them. We then enter ballad territory then with “Lost in Time.” It has a bit familiar, if still very effective dynamic build-up, and the chorus has some of Jake‘s most powerful vocals. In fact, it almost has a classic MANOWAR piano ballad vibe to it (think a mature, modernized version of “Heart of Steel”). The astoundingly short “Kings Tonight” (less than 3 minutes), though doesn’t seem short in the moment. The synths are really peppy and are the main saving part of the track, adding a bit of needed luster.
“I Had Your Back” has some deeper, heavier bass and one short mildly thrashy bit, and a soft piano line in the back that is vaguely like HIM, but also has a less memorable chorus. The guitar solo is pretty nice – classic Slash/G’N’R style. “Blood Brothers” is easily the best and most unique/diverse song on the album and a personal highlight, with it’s guitar riffs that are reminiscent of IRON MAIDEN, yet has almost (non-fantasy) BLIND GUARDIAN guitars and drums in other parts. This song feels like an experiment gone really right, and hopefully they do more of this in the future. The listener can feel the force and passion and skill so easily.
“Hit Me” is relatively repetitive and feels a bit like a filler song, but is a bit heavier and has a certain aggression to it – we were a bit divided on this one, tossing up between loving it’s energy or getting bored by the chorus. And lastly, I’m not sure if it was intentional to have a melodic line similar to “Out of My Life” in the album’s finale, “Man of Eternal Rain,” but if it was intentional, it was very well done. The beginning and end tracks on the album make the whole thing feel like a complete entity that comes full circle, which is always a good thing. It’s a pretty solid depiction of what the album has to offer, and is perhaps my personal second favorite after “Blood Brothers.” It also has another great traditional guitar solo. Hats off to Euge Valovirta!
Overall, “No Halos in Hell” feels like a very good step forward for these guys. It’s still got the emotional power and provocativeness of their debut, but with an even better overall sound and the electronica/pop elements in this album feel perhaps more tastefully done than on “Letters to Myself.” Furthermore, the overall sound feels a little bit more diverse than before – while the compositions are fairly same-y, the fact that something or things are highlighted and show off the band’s skills are what make it work nevertheless. It still tends to lean to the heavily produced, a bit plasticy feel, and while Jake is a fantastic singer, a lot if the way he sings is a bit too familiar, doing the same things as on the first album; it could use a bit more diversity there. Nevertheless, it’s a great album within its genre, which may not be for hardcore metal fans but if you were a fan of the first album, I suspect you’ll like this one too.
Written by Bear Wiseman
- Out of My Life
- No Halos in Hell
- Battle from Within
- I Am the One
- Bye Bye Forever
- Dreams Gone Wrong
- Lost in Time
- Kings Tonight
- I Had Your Back
- Blood Brothers
- Hit Me
- Man of Eternal Rain
Jake E – lead vocals
Jesper Strömblad – rhythm guitar, keyboards
Alex Landenburg – drums
Euge Valovirta – lead guitar, backing vocals
Nuclear Blast Records