Album Title: No Halos In Hell
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Date of Release: 15 November 2019
It is inescapable and as inevitable as death and taxes…a band like CyHra will always receive flak from certain sections of the heavy metal community. ‘These guys aren’t metal’, ‘this is rubbish pop with guitars’, ‘sellouts’, ‘they’re just cynically writing music for radio airplay’; you know the drill.
The fact is, though, that CyHra are none of these things. For a start, they never pretended to be anything other than a modern melodic metal band. Yes, their ranks boast an ex-In Flames guitarist in Jesper Strömblad, but he never came out and said ‘we’re going to make ‘The Jester Race Part II’ or anything (although the acoustic intro to ‘Blood Brothers’ does remind me of something…); CyHra have always wanted to create this kind of music – catchy, melodic, sing-along-worthy.
Naturally, when the band also features ex-Amaranthe clean vocalist Jake E., there are going to be comparisons to his old band too and whilst the parallels are more pronounced here, there is plenty to differentiate the two as well. The press release suggests that this record demonstrates that CyHra have more of a unique identity than the debut and I’d certainly agree with that to a greater or lesser extent.
Add the talents of Kamelot drummer Alex Landenburg and ex-Shining guitarist Euge Valovirta into the mix and we’re sailing dangerously close to ‘supergroup’ territory as much as I hate that term.
But most importantly for me at least, CyHra are most certainly metal – unless you have cloth for ears, you’ll realise this. Sure, they’re not extreme, or underground, or technically challenging. But they are metal. The bottom line is that CyHra is comprised of a group of guys that are making the music that they want to make. Kudos to them, I say.
And you know what? I really like this music. I like Enslaved, I like Meshuggah, I like Haken, I like Nile…and I like CyHra too. Certainly based on the output on their sophomore release, ‘No Halos In Hell’ that is.
It’s a bold, brash and polished release, produced by Jacob Hansen, that delivers hooks aplenty and just enough crunch to mean that it satisfies my need for heavy music. The sense of energy and enjoyment comes through the music too, which is an oft-overlooked quality. It means that the songs carry with them a more pronounced infectious edge; this is the kind of music that you can turn up loud and sing along to with real gusto should you feel the need to do so. And given the catchiness of the material, that’s a distinct possibility.
‘Out Of My Life’, after a brief electronic intro, bursts into life with an effervescent and upbeat joie-de-vivre. The chorus slows things down demonstrably to introduce Jake E. before we’re blown away by an enormous hook-laden chorus which then segues into a riff that’s a little reminiscent of modern Evergrey. It might only last a little over three minutes (radio-ready perhaps?) but it packs a huge punch, plants a huge grin on my face and wipes away the stresses of the day.
The title track follows and, whilst it drops the pace a little, it features a gigantic chorus that’s almost ballad-like in its delivery. It’s a bold move but trust me, if you’re a fan of a sense of the epic and melodies that live long in the memory, you’ll love this; it is possibly the closest to Amaranthe that CyHra get, but make no mistake, this is a beautifully irresistible song in its own right and on its own considerable merits.
Unless you want me to repeat the words ‘melodic’, ‘hook-laden’, or ‘memorable’ ad nauseum, I will refrain from giving you a blow by blow description of the twelve tracks that make up ‘No Halos In Hell’. Instead, I’ll pick out a favourite few tracks.
On that score, ‘I Am The One’ catches my ear over and above some others thanks to an urgent opening riff and the layered vocal delivery in the chorus which, alongside the punchy guitar work reminds me of Hammerfall just a touch.
I also really like the guitar solo in the punchy and groovy ‘I Had Your Back’ which channels Valovirta’s inner Slash, thereby sounding reminiscent of Guns ‘N Roses in tone and feel. The heavy riffs by contrast sound similar to ‘Clayman’-era In Flames and it’s a nice blend which works well for my tastes. I also approve of ‘Hit Me’ with its simple and effective chorus that lingers long in the memory as well as the more abrasive and muscular ‘Kings Tonight’ that juxtaposes the heaviest riff on the album with some striking electronic sounds.
Ultimately, whether you like CyHra and their second album, will depend on whether you are open to unashamedly sugar-coated and melodic heavy music. If not, then there’s nothing I can say further that will tempt you into giving them a chance – that’s if you’ve even made it this far. But if, like me, you occasionally get a strong desire to listen to something that is fun, energetic and thoroughly addictive, then I cannot see any reason why ‘No Halos In Hell’ won’t be a big hit with you. Life is serious and miserable enough as it is; why not allow yourself to get swept away with some music that’ll raise the gloom for just a little while? CyHra, I’d humbly suggest, might be the perfect answer.
The Score of Much Metal: 87%
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from 2019:
Klone – Le Grand Voyage
Vanden Plas – The Ghost Xperiment: Awakening
King – Coldest of Cold
Alcest – Spiritual Instinct
Port Noir – The New Routine
Nile – Vile Nilotic Rites
Ray Alder – What The Water Wants
Borknagar – True North
Leprous – Pitfalls
Myrath – Shehili
Prehistoric Animals – Consider It A Work Of Art
Voyager – Colours In The Sun
Odd Logic – Last Watch Of The Nightingale
Avandra – Descender
Darkwater – Human
ZW Band / Zonder Wehrkamp – If It’s Real
Teramaze – Are We Soldiers
Rendezvous Point – Universal Chaos
Our Destiny – Awakening
Evergrey – The Atlantic
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: