Nuclear Blast [Release Date 28.02.20]
One of the unlikeliest phenomena in the rock world in recent times have been the Night Flight Orchestra, their reputation and exposure growing over what is now a five album career.
Many artists have drawn on the soft rock sounds of the seventies and early eighties for retro inspiration- The Feeling and that movement of French bands like Phoenix and Daft Punk spring to mind- but not usually groups drawn from the ranks of Swedish death metallers such as Soilwork and Arch Enemy.
Their image and live shows has also drawn on the glanour of the golden age of air travel and ‘Aeromantic’ takes this a stage further with some art deco cover artwork and an opener in ‘Servants the Air’. It’s a bit of a curate’s egg, not their strongest song but enlivened by some spectacular synths and stabbing keyboards, and also slightly misleading, being by some distance the heaviest on the album.
However, first single ‘Divinyls’ (one of those songs where the title is nowhere in the lyrics) is a change of style, poppier and with the disco overtones that were starting to creep into their last album ‘Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough’. Despite an irritatingly earworm hook it failed to convince me, but ‘If Tonight Is Our Only Chance’ with its catchy synth riff and big chorus reminding me of early 80’s greats like Toto and Franke and the Knockouts more than compensated and despite its synth pop influences, ‘This Boy’s Last Summer’ has an equally strong chorus.
However the period inspirations at times take them too far away for my liking from AOR, let alone heavy rock, with ‘Curves’ having the vibe of Michael McDonald-era Doobies, and ‘Transmission’ the electronic sounds of a Visage or early Depeche Mode: guitar is almost absent, though there is a violin solo from guest Rachel Hall. Allied to some rather obtuse lyrics in what is described as an ‘airborne soap opera’, I found myself struggling with the album at times.
Nevertheless the title track has a joyful feel to it, and ‘Golden Swansdown’ is another with a Toto vibe, with some great dynamics, backing vocals from the ‘airline Annas’, and what seems to be almost David Andersson’s first guitar solo of the album in vintage eighties power ballad style. Meantime the synths of ‘Taurus’ have a very pomp feel to them.
These dizzying stylistic shifts settle down in the closing few tracks, which straddle soft rock and AOR, but worthy of note are Bjorn Strid’s vocals which I always felt betrayed his metal roots but are noticeably more melodic this time round. David Andersson has a rare chance to let rip on guitar on ‘Carmencita Seven’ and ‘Sister Mercurial’, while ‘Dead of Winter’ harks back to the style of their previous two albums, though overall this album falls just short of their quality for me.
Taking a few stylistic chances and moving even farther away from their roots if that were possible, it is a mixed bag of an album, but approach with an open mind and there is still much to enjoy. *** 1/2
Review by Andy Nathan
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