If your expectations for Cyhra are driven by the album art and the presence of In Flames alumni Peter Iwers (bass) and Jesper Strömblad (guitar), you might be in for a surprise. If you come to the band via ex-Amaranthe vocalist Jake E however, your expectations might be more on point. Alongside Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody drummer Alex Landenburg, Iwers, Strömblad, and Jake E have formed a band that might broadly be called Power Metal, but that strategically infuses what could only be called mainstream or even pop elements to its music. It’s an interesting combination that works better in some tracks than others, but overall Cyhra’s debut album Letters to Myself is a solid offering.

The album signals its intentions in the opening of ‘Karma,’ which includes electronic elements alongside the heavy guitars. Jake E brings a modern Metal sensibility to his vocals, and the whole feel is lively and energetic. Strömblad’s solo in this song is melodic and holds the mood, though is nothing special for an opening track.

‘Heartrage’ is a little heavier and more dramatic. Still fast-paced, the vocals have a touch of Marc Hudson of DragonForce. The pop sensibility becomes apparent in the bridge, with its mainstream feel that at this stage of the album seems a little incongruous, though it is interesting for pushing the boundaries in its fusion.

‘Here to Save You’ is one of the two strongest tracks on the album, with verses that move through some very vocal and electronic-focused parts. The chorus is catchy and emotive chorus, and ends climactically to lead into what is one of the best solos on the album. ‘Here to Save You’ is an exemplary, well-balanced track that pulls together all the elements that seem to make up Cyhra in a way that really works.

The urgency picks up a little with ‘Muted Life,’ which moves between intense drama and interesting restraint over a solid beat. If anything, the chorus could be compared to earlier In This Moment, and the guitar work is spot-on.

‘Closure’ works well as the first of several more sombre, contemplative tracks. The lyrics seem to address depression, taking an emotive approach without being too overwrought. There is a sense the track is edging towards a more mainstream / popular space, but it works in the context.

‘Letter to Myself’ comes right back in with some heavy riffing, feeling a little like a Labyrinth track and really emphasising the Power Metal side of the band. Though ultimately this is a solid but almost paint-by-numbers Power Metal track, it is executed well.

‘Dark Clarity’ follows, standing alongside ‘Here to Save You’ as one of the album’s best tracks. The chunky riffs are underscored nicely by the electronic elements, and the track overall really speaks to the strengths of the band and what they’re really doing right. It’s fast-paced but not frenetic, more invested in the emotion than outright, in-your-face impact. By contrast, ‘Holding your Breath’ is not a standout track, despite being kind of catchy.

‘Rescue Ride’ is one of the most pop-infused tracks on the album, with the vocal lines running together over a prominent beat. Even the chorus is leaning more towards a pop sensibility, despite the Metal backing that really is more of a background. As the track progresses however, the Power Metal elements emerge in the chorus and bridge.

The rest of the album fails to capture the listener so well as the previous tracks. “Black Wings’ becomes quite dramatic with some nice solo work and full riffing, but overall leads a wind-down that’s somewhat disappointing. The quiet and introspective ‘Inside a Lullaby’ fails to really reach a climax, while ‘Dead to Me’ introduces a spoken word element that is jarring at best, if not completely out of place and setting the wrong mood – it felt like a monologue from Supernatural before someone summons a crossroads demon, which probably wasn’t quite the intended mental tangent. The album ends incongruously with the return of the spoken word with the simple message, “You’re all dead to me.”

Letters to Myself brings new elements to the catalogues of the esteemed artists involved, and blazes an interesting trail that has potential for future albums. It’s certainly worth a listen, and the standout tracks are ones the listener can come back to over and over again. A reasonably strong debut, fans will no doubt look forward to seeing where Cyhra go from here.