Artist: The Night Flight Orchestra
Album Title: Aeromantic
Label: Nuclear Blast
Date of Release: 28 February 2020
You’d think that given my love of Soilwork and melodic rock music that The Night Flight Orchestra would be a total no-brainer for me. But the truth is that I’ve never really got into the band, despite the dulcet tones of Björn ‘Speed’ Strid behind the mic and a line-up of musicians that should have me salivating at the very prospect. But no, I’ve never given them the time and attention that they perhaps deserved. Don’t ask me why, I have no idea; they’re perhaps just one of the inevitable casualties that we all have from time to time when faced with so much great music the world over. Whatever the reason, that’s why, in 2020, and with album number five, I am finally breaking my review virginity where The Night Flight Orchestra are concerned. About time too, I can hear many of you cry!
You probably already know all this, but for those of you who have been as out of the loop as I have, The Night Flight Orchestra (henceforth referred to as TNFO) are comprised of lead vocalist Björn Strid, guitarists David Andersson and Sebastian Forslund (who is also credited for percussion and Special FX duties), bassist Sharlee D’Angelo (Arch Enemy), drummer Jonas Källsbäck and backing vocalists Anna-Mia Bonde and Anna Brygård (The Airline Annas). In addition, for this album, the band welcome a couple of guests in the form of Big Big Train’s violinist Rachel Hall and keyboardist John Lönnmyr.
As I sit on a packed train to Scotland for work, I find myself listening to ’Aeromantic’ and I’m tempted to bang my head repeatedly on the tray table in front of me. In fact, were it not for the threat of a broken laptop and a scalding by piping hot coffee, I’d almost certainly admonish myself because on the basis of ’Aeromantic’, I have been missing out. A lot.
Given the personnel involved, it goes without saying that the performances are of the highest calibre and the music just sounds effortless, as if (excuse the unintentional pun), the guys and gals are on autopilot. Mind you, it takes immense skill to create music that sounds this good, so perhaps that’s not a fair thing to say in retrospect. But you get what I mean. You get the feeling listening to this record that the band are having real fun, despite the fact that the subject matter on ’Aeromantics’ isn’t all throw-away, fluffy sweetness and light; there’s a depth to the subject matter that could go unnoticed but which further demonstrates the prowess of Strid and Co. as songwriters and performers. To quote the band themselves via their press release, ’Aeromantic’:
”…is a street opera based upon shattered dreams, broken illusions, and the fact that we are all something much less than the person we were supposed to be. But in the darkness, there’s always a glimmer of hope. And from that glimmer of hope, with the right mindset, you can sculpt and create a whole lot of Swedish classic rock melodrama.”
Musically, there are so many highlights to pick out of the thirteen tracks that sit proudly on ’Aeromantic’. It’’s literally an hour-long ride that unashamedly revels in the sounds of classic rock, AOR and more mainstream pop music from a bygone but much-loved age. Gone is the extremity that dominates Soilwork and Arch Enemy for example, and in comes influences that range from Abba to Journey and everything in between.
One of the most immediate cuts is the sublime ‘Divinyls’ which features some of the catchiest hooks on the entire record. The bass pulses alongside some subtle synths during the verses that are dominated by Speed’s silky vocals but the chorus is incredibly irresistible, with dare I say it, a touch of ‘Flashdance’ about it? You tell me, but whatever, it’s a stunning song and one that I can’t stop listening to.
Mind you, the immediate follow-up, ‘If tonight Is Our Only Chance’ is equally as engaging thanks go yet more irresistible melodies and 70s disco vibes. Normally, I’d baulk at this kind of overtly pop-influenced music, but in the hands of TNFO, it is a masterful homage to a time gone by whilst sounding strangely up-to-date and relevant in today’s world.
‘This Boy’s Last Summer’ has a vague UK punk feel to it at the outset, before launching into another urgent melodic hard rock chorus. ‘Curves’ is another song I should hate but I lap up thanks to the style and panache with which it is delivered, alongside another great performance from Strid at the centre of what is, unarguably, a mainstream pop song with massive crossover appeal; it’s the kind of song that you, your parents, your metal-hating mates and your Gram will probably all enjoy.
The Abba influences loom large over ‘Transmissions’ but despite not being the biggest fan of the Swedish pop legends, I love this song; it’s so damn catchy, melodic and addictive. There is just enough guitar to add a slight rock appeal and without wishing to sound like a broken record, Strid delivers a faultless performance. The violin of Hall towards the end is a wonderful addition, lending the song something of a melancholy hint, as well as significant gravitas.
The ballad ‘Golden Swansdown’ begins with electronics that are pure 80s pop but don’t let that fool you because it is another song that gets quickly under your skin and refuses to let go, however much you might wish, for credibility purposes, it would. Mind you, you can’t really argue with the guitar solo towards the end.
I could go on, but I think by now you get the idea – TNFO appear to be masters of creating music that we shouldn’t like, but which we cannot help but enjoy enormously. I wouldn’t refer to ‘Aeromantic’ as a guilty pleasure because I don’t feel even remotely guilty for enjoying the music that is served up to us here. Just about everything is on point on this record, which means it cannot be ignored and only the churlish would consider it beneath them. If you want to have a good time and chill out with some feel-good music with intelligence and heart, allow TNFO and ‘Aeromantic’ into your life and remember what it is like to smile and have some fun.
The Score of Much Metal: 90%
Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: