Everyone’s favorite extreme metal-turned-AOR act is back, with their third album in four years. Aeromantic is The Night Flight Orchestra’s fifth album, and sees the band fleshed out into a full eight-piece ensemble now, with backing vocalists and an additional all-round musician joining the already-established group. Can this result in too much of a great thing, though?
Back in 2017, Amber Galactic was this reviewer’s record of the year. It featured ten nearly-perfect hard rock tunes that were slavishly devoted to the late ’70s and early ’80s, hearkening back to the time of bands like Toto, Journey, Loverboy, and more. Amber Galactic was the ultimate guilty pleasure.
2018’s Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough didn’t quite deliver the same magic, but was thrilling nonetheless. And here we are again, with more cheesy AOR songs for our leisure-suited pleasure. This time around, the homages to the sound of days gone by is so over the top that even actual bands in the ’80s didn’t sound this ’80s.
Leading it all, aside from Bjorn Strid’s impassioned vocals, are the keyboards. Aeromantic is nearly devoid of guitar hooks, something that pushed Amber Galactic over the top. Here synth patches are heavily featured, resulting in a number of tunes that Abba would have been proud to have co-written. The band has been moving in this direction, and it results in an overall mellower sound.
That’s not to say these are bad songs; rather, they lack the immediacy and memorability of past Night Flight Orchestra outings. “Divinyls,” “Transmissions,” and “If Tonight is Our Only Chance” are fantastic walks down FM radio’s golden halls, and I’m sure they will garner far more airplay on my speakers than is proper. But there’s no denying the contagious fever multiple plays induces.
The problem is that there is just too much here. Twelve songs and nearly an hour of heartfelt fromage is too much for most of us to bear, and in fact Aeromantic does peter out as the album comes to an end. All the songs still sound great, and Strid continues to show he’s one of the greatest retro frontmen out there, but the album does drag itself down in a few spots.
Aeromantic is still a heckuva fun romp, but it’s clear that The Night Flight Orchestra are working at an unsustainable pace. Hopefully they regroup after this Aeromantic flight and come back in a few years with a taut, concise ripper of an album. With all that being said, though, it’s quite possible this will be my most-played 3.5 album of the year.
(released February 28, 2020 on Nuclear Blast)
Heavy Music Headquarters Rating:
Watch The Night Flight Orchestra – “Divinyls” Video