REVIEW: THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA – “Aeromantic”
Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes describes 1984s rite of passage blockbuster ‘The Karate Kid’ as “utterly predictable and wholly of its time, but warm, sincere, and difficult to resist.” The same could be said of Sweden’s The Night Flight Orchestra’s (TNFO) 5th record ‘Aeromantic’, which despite being slated for release in 2020 (February 28th via Nuclear Blast), is a genuine sounding spiritual successor to any number of rock-oriented pop records released in the mid-1980s.
The sugary sweet driving anthem “Curves” is a perfect pop song, and the music video writes itself. Singer Soilwork’s Björn Strid open shirted and clad in white, barrels his way down the California freeway in a Camaro IROC on his way to meet his bandmates at a yacht party… “Lights descending on the freeway/I’m a million miles from home…” The video flashes back to an argument between Strid and an awesomely 80’s styled video vixen. Simply add a few slow-motion shots of champagne flutes breaking, and voila instant hit! “Curves I’m trying to say I’m sorry/Curves I don’t know what to do/Curves I’m here if you still want me/And I’m trying to somehow make it up to you/Whoa! /To you!” The ultra-masculine, straight-faced gusto of Strid’s confident croon over hooky synthesizers, funk-lite guitars, bass-in-your-face, and four-on-the-floor drums is impossible to resist. In fact, it’s so genuinely retro that I’m pretty sure that “Curves” is just as much a tongue in cheek faux-machismo reference to the anatomy of the female subject of the song as it is to the winding freeway.
The sappy ballad “Golden Swansdown” doubles down on “Curves” retro sentimentality with an electric piano sound that’s straight out of a Peter Cetera song, a big chorus, and an even bigger guitar solo.
“If Tonight is our Only Chance” is another record highlight. Keyboardist Von Benzo’s Richard Larsson’s melodic synth riff plays off of a minor chord sequence played over a danceable bouncy beat courtesy of TNFO’s secret weapon—an expert rhythm section comprised of bass player Sharlee D’Angelo (Arch Enemy, Spiritual Beggars) and drummer Jonas Källsbäck (Mean Streak). Synth arpeggios ride the spare gentle gallop and stuttering melodies of the verses, before the slick refrain of the chorus with its windmill guitar chords and ear-worm melody, bores its way into our hearts and minds like coke snorted from a golden pinky nail.
The lively title track splits the difference between Night Ranger and ABBA. Disco beats rub fringe jacketed elbows with synth arpeggios, phased falsetto background vocals, and an oversized chorus. “Aeromancy” is defined as a “divination conducted by interpreting atmospheric conditions,” but TNFO has claimed the word in the name of the Mile-High Club. In a move frequently employed in the set, a slightly darker middle-eight is followed by a “blink and you’ll miss it” guitar break that hints at David Andersson’s (Soilwork) metal origins. These fleeting glimpses are the closest the record comes to the metal that the band members have built their career on.
The second half of the record sidesteps TNFO’s Yacht Rock tendencies to some extent by introducing some heavier and proggier moments. This mostly takes the form of tight dynamic synthesizer led workouts that recall some of Arena Rock’s more progressive tendencies. The dazzling instrumental breaks in “Taurus”, “Carmencita Seven”, and “Dead of Winter” belie the record’s understated in-service-to-the-song musical proficiency, and while the textured gypsy scale synths at the beginning of “Sister Mercurial” don’t do a whole lot to enhance the song, they serve as a welcome change in atmosphere.
In general, I’m flying high on the perfect execution and pure fun of ‘Aeromantic’, but the one minor criticism I could level at the record is that it feels a little overlong. While each song works well, the formulaic nature of the set gets a bit tedious at times. Consider it a very minor complaint.
If the idea of members of your favorite extreme metal bands playing schmaltzy, 80s AOR makes you angry, then: a). lighten up, and b). there’s nothing to see here. For the rest of you, The Night Flight Orchestra’s new record ‘Aeromantic’ is the shockingly well-executed and undeniably catchy soundtrack to all your favorite, decades-old pop-culture referencing American movie montages.