In 2010, Jesper Strömblad left IN FLAMES, followed by Peter Iwers in 2016. Sometime after, it was announced that these two would be joining forces, accompanied by Jake E., who left AMARANTHE earlier this year. With Alex Landenburg [ex-ANNIHILATOR], they formed CYHRA, and were later joined by session guitarist Euge Valovirta [ex-SHINING] to make a full five members. CYHRA‘s debut album, “Letters to Myself,” was released on October 20th, 2017, with their live debut to follow at Nosturi in Helsinki on October 27th. Naturally, with Musicalypse favorite EMBER FALLS opening, alongside the unknown EYES WIDE OPEN, this was a night to brave the early autumn snow and head into town. Check out our interview with Peter Iwers here, and have a look at the full gallery here.
The doors to Nosturi opened at 20:00 and already there was a short queue outside, eagerly waiting to get in to the front row. EMBER FALLS started their set at 20:30, opening with “The Cost of Doing Business” and following it with “Falling Rain,” which never fails to fill me with joy. These guys performed excellently, with a great deal of enthusiasm. I’ve seen them what feels like a thousand times this year, and I’m still roaring to see them more. “The Enemy You Need” had some great vocal harmonization I haven’t noticed before, and “Rising Tide” featured a really cool brotherly rockout moment between Jay V and Calu. “One More Time” was sped up a bit and I didn’t quite recognize it at first, and I was surprised, yet thrilled, that they’ve still got “The Lamb Lies Down in Sacrifice” on their set.
They ended, naturally, with “Shut Down with Me,” and here is where I must cease my endless praise for but a moment. Every song on the set was performed beautifully, save this one. This is the track where they play around with the formula, toy with the vocal lines, and so on. It’s standard business for live shows, but this isn’t the first time this song has come across as messy because of it. I’m all for changing up songs on stage and having fun with them, but since these guys are a newer band and known first and foremost for “SDWM,” this is the song that should be their ultimate performance on stage. The other songs could easily have a looser feel if they were so compelled and wouldn’t suffer if they get messed up a little, but if a listener only knows them for their big hit, they might not be impressed when it’s performed sloppily. If I could make one change to their live sets after seeing them so many times, that would be it. Nevertheless, it was really wonderful to see them again and I don’t think I’ll be skipping any of their shows in the future. I’m still not sick of them, and that says a lot.
Second up on stage was EYES WIDE OPEN, hailing from Sweden. This is a band I’d never heard of before, and on the first song, I wasn’t especially impressed by the vocals. However, as their set went on, the quality improved, making me wonder if the singer does any vocal warm-ups before the show, and if not, maybe he should. He started with an almost thrash metal -style tunelessness, that got a bit more even and melodic as their set went on.
Musically, they were quite fine. Their style was fairly balanced between melodic metal, tipping occasionally into metalcore areas. They sound like they’ve been very heavily influenced by IN FLAMES, as a lot of their songs had a familiar feel to them, though tuned down quite a bit from what you’d expect from IF‘s older material – imagine perhaps “Soundtrack to Your Escape” -era IN FLAMES, but executed in the modern IF style. The set was performed well, but I can’t say they offered anything new or shocking to the genre. If you like them on their albums, I don’t see why you wouldn’t enjoy them live. For me personally, they were perfectly okay to hear in between two bands I was excited about, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see them again.
CYHRA took the stage around 22:30, with the spoken word track from “Dead to Me” as an intro before Jake E. came on stage, to be joined shortly by the rest of the band – the opposite of how it’s usually done. I immediately learned that Strömblad was the rhythm guitarist, and realized that I should have known that based on his history. That left Valovirta to take care of the soloing, and he used his entire body to do it, in a way that reminded me a bit of Janick Gers [IRON MAIDEN]. They followed with “Muted Life” and by then we were already enjoying their live songs even more than on the album.
The heavy intro to “Letter to Myself” was fantastic, and after that, Jake E. finally greeted the crowd, saying it was fucking fantastic to be back in Helsinki, and to give Valovirta a big round of applause, as he’s a local. “We are CyHra from Sweden,” he said, and mentioned that their debut came out last week and thanked everyone from the bottom of his heart for being at the show. He then announced a song that they really love, “Heartrage.”
The show was, unfortunately, plagued by some sound issues. The high end was scratchy and it wasn’t uncommon for Jake E.‘s vocal pitch to be lower than the backing track, as Atte pointed out. However, the performance itself was really nice and the crowd was willing to put their phones up for “Closure,” one of the ballads. I will say that I’m a bit sad that they didn’t play the other ballad, “Inside a Lullaby,” though I can understand the reason, as it’s mostly just Jake E. and a piano, so naturally it was the one they left out. However, it’s a gorgeous song and I’d have liked to hear it live.
After “Black Wings,” Jake E. mentioned that it’s been a long time since most of them have been on stage, and did the crowd know them from any other bands? He then told a short story from when he was 18 years old, saving up his lunch money to go to Gothenburg to hear Jesper and Peter playing in a club like Nosturi, and here he is 15 years later, playing on stage with them. He then said that the next song was one of the hardest he’s ever written, and asked the crowd to sing along if they know the words. “Holding Your Breath” seems indeed like a really tough song to sing, especially live with the vocal overlaps and very high notes, and I was impressed that he chose to sing the hardest parts and not only that, but he nailed them! That was one hell of a memorable performance.
The electronica aspects had been downplayed a lot live, but were more evident in “Here to Save You” and “Rescue Ride.” Jake E. asked how many people had bought or listened to the album, and then thanked the crowd for believing in them, declared that it meant everything to them, and then asked for a round of applause for the opening acts as well. After “Rescue Ride,” he made one more short speech, saying that they are a band new band and they’d love to do this again. “Without you, we are nothing. Thank you so fucking much!” They then closed out their set with “Karma,” their first release. That song somehow worked so much better live than on the album, standing out a bit from the other songs with its more equal balance between heavy and electronica. It was a great song to close with.
One interesting thing about the band was that each member had their own style. Landenburg is efficient and tight, Strömblad is stoic with the occasional smile, Iwers is straight-up cool, Valovirta is a showman, and Jake E. is passionate. They’re all excellent players, but they will need to get to know one another on stage a bit more before their shows become really fluent. Still, I think there’s quite a lot of potential in there. It’s a shame that the sound was problematic throughout the show though.
So CYHRA is officially on the map! While there is evidence of a newness to being on stage together, these are all seasoned professionals who play their music very well, and I suspect that in time they’re going to be a great live group, each with their own style to offer. While it’s uncertain as to whether the live show would convince anyone who’s on the fence about these guys, I’m confident that if you liked the album, you’d really like the live show, and I’d recommend taking the opportunity to see them in that case.
1. Dead to Me
2. Muted Life
3. Letter to Myself
5. Dark Clarity
7. Holding Your Breath
8. Black Wings
9. Here to Save You
10. Rescue Ride
Written by Bear Wiseman
Photos by Janne Puronen