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Kyyria was an interesting band that rose and fell in the 1990's. Their music was difficult to classify, but it started and ended as more or less progressive metal or hard rock, with some of the metal content gradually being depleted along their career. They are best remembered as the band that introduced to a wider audience misters Ville Tuomi and Mika "Kaasu" Karppinen, of (ex-)Amorphis and HIM, respectively. Most of the people who know those connections, however, do not know anything about the music of the band, and would not recognize any songs by Kyyria. The band has remained in relative obscurity, but this might change, due to recent re-release of their first album.
Kyyria's music was never very metallic. The basic sound is close to Sub-urban Tribe, Tuomi's later band, with a few additional progressive metal aspects and synths. It generally drifted on the border between metal and hard rock, staying progressive all the time. Innovative songwriting and high-quality musicianship were the mainstays of the group, and it's strange that they never made a real breakthrough in Finland. The history of the band ended with Inner Wellness, and, all things considered, maybe the timing was good.
The early works of the band were joyoys and musically playful EPs, and the first full-length, Blessed Ravings, has been one of my long-time favourites. By the time they made the next album, Alien, something was already missing, and the album never really got my appetite high enough to get much time in the CD player. The Inner Wellness is perhaps a bit better album than Alien in some respects, but sounds like an obligatory work, and remains a somewhat indifferent product in the end.
Contemporary reviews mentioned the first track, Evelyn, as the absolute high point of the album, and possibly the apex of the whole Kyyria's discography. I beg to disagree: the fourth song, Gift, is much better, but still cannot compete with many of the songs on the Blessed Ravings. However, it should have been the direction to pursue on the whole album, as it is by far the most atmospheric of all the tracks, being quite slow and depressed. Good depression beats general indifference any time.
The singing of Ville Tuomi is very interesting: he has an excellent clean voice, but I've never been able to make out what he says in any band without using printed lyrics. He also takes considerable liberties with the written lyrics, but in such irrational collections of words as average Kyyria songs, it makes no real difference. He is worthy of all the praise he gets; good tenors are a statistical rarity among Finnish males in any case, even in classical music, and Tuomi is good.
The problem I have with the album is a kind of creative tiredness. The playing is suberb, production has nothing to complain about, and everything seems to be fine, but something essential is missing. Maybe the well of ideas had been exhausted, and they made the album with the inertia of their earlier works. The spark of the early EPs is missing, and with the exeption of a couple of songs, Inner Wellness sounds like more of the same from the start to the finish. There's a serious lack of interesting hooks in majority of the songs. Maybe there are bright ideas somewhere, but they stay there, under the surface, and the end-result is flat.
The visual idea someone created for the album is another failure. There seems to be a some kind of drug theme, with glassy eyes, pills, and general sweaty haziness on the sleeve and in the band photographs. Oddly enough, it fits the tiredness of the music. A druggy nonchalance could very well describe the lack of innovation on most of the songs; the execution is professional, but not inspired. The lyrics are classical Kyyria in the sense that they are complete jumbles of words, but there are frequent mentions of "feeling better" after "letting me in". Drugs, anyone? Maybe just as an image thing, but still disturbingly close to the atmosphere of the album. If drugs induce this kind of loss of creativity, I'm fanatically going to continue not using them.
After the break-up of the band, Kaasu has worked with HIM, but continues other projects too. Some of them are already in the Encyclopaedia, and all are worth listening. Ville Tuomi has joined Sub-urban Tribe, a hard rock band created by Janne Joutsenniemi of earlier Stone fame; Stone rules, even posthumously. Tuomi is still one of the best, if not the best, clean male rock vocalists in Finland. Sub-urban Tribe is also worth listening, if you're into modern hard rock.
This album feels like a tired product of a fading band. The songs are pretty much OK, the playing is OK, the singing is OK, and the production is OK. But that's as far as it goes, it's just OK. And mellow, dispirited, and ultimately rather boring. It's a pity, this could have been so much more.