Wednesday 4 March 2020

The Night Flight Orchestra - Aeromantic (2020)

Country: Sweden
Style: Melodic Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 28 Feb 2020
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The goal of the Night Flight Orchestra, from its founding in Helsingborg in 2007, has been to rediscover the classic melodies of the seventies and early eighties. It might be surprising to find, therefore, that the key players in the band are Björn Strid and David Andersson of Soilwork, along with members of melodic death band Arch Enemy and power metal outfit Mean Streak. This is only their fifth album in thirteen years because the various musicians still play in those other bands as their primary gigs.

They certainly have an interesting sound. Servants of the Air, the first of a dozen tracks on offer, is a heavy song, not to the degrees of some of the bands mentioned above, but still heavy like early eighties arena rock with a side of prog. Then they launch into Divinyls, which is a bouncy mix of a-ha, Jefferson Starship and Journey. The pop sensibilities beneath it come right back for If Tonight is Our Only Chance, with an even more overt pop/rock mix of keyboards and drums. It's almost Euro disco at points with an overt Abba influence vying with the Jeffersons for supremacy. This isn't what I expect from melodic rock but it's certainly wild stuff.

The seventies were an interesting time for music, with new styles and genres splitting off in all directions, not all of which I've explored. Curves digs even deeper into funk than any song before it and that stretches my ability to compare it to anything. I may have a wide range of musical taste but I'm not without my gaps and mine often revolve around American pop music in the seventies, whether it's funk, soul or disco, even soft rock. It feels odd to suddenly have a need to know more about them.

What I can say is that the Night Flight Orchestra delve into all of those to greater or lesser degrees, even closing out Carmencita Seven with a sitar in Indian fashion and introducing Dead of Winter with Tangerine Dream synths. I have to admire the band's reach on this, because they're plucking the genres out of the seventies and early eighties and crafting into something new and oddly consistent.

I left my first runthrough with the impression that they've been paying lots of attention to mid-seventies Jefferson Starship, but flavouring that with a variety of pop influences, some Abba as you might expect from a Swedish band but surprisingly little compared to American bands I'm not likely to name. I do hear a lot of AOR here but, while the backing music is often reminiscent of pomp-filled arena legends like Journey and Night Ranger, the vocals don't and the keyboards often don't either.

My other key note was that, while this is a complete synthesis of old styles of music, I think it probably works better today than it would back then. If the Night Flight Orchestra leapt through a portal in time to 1975 or 1980, I don't think they would do particularly well. They need hindsight to work. If Kiss got away with mixing disco and arena rock, it was due to perfect timing and a strong sense of invulnerability. Adding funk and new wave and Swedish harmonies to that mix would have tipped the scales from chart hit to perhaps cult success and more likely failure.

Today, on the other hand, it's rather intriguing, all the more because this throwback melting pot is created by artists whose day jobs are in the metal community. I need to listen more and read up more too, because I just don't have the grounding for this.

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