The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic (Nuclear Blast)Friday, 21st February 2020
How often can one experience musical euphoria? Lately, it seems to be about once every year or two, as The Night Flight Orchestra releases a new album that somehow manages to surpass the gargantuan expectations that was laid before it with previous releases. Aeromantic, the band’s fifth album, follows up the intergalactic vibes of Sometime’s the World Ain’t Enough by bringing things back down to Earth in a way that sounds even more like TNFO than ever, yet with the band continuing to explore new forays and influences further.
To these ears, it seemed that The Night Flight Orchestra had carried its evolving retro sound as far as it possibly could with Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough. It seemed to have it all: funky grooves, majestic ‘70s/’80s riffs and melodies, swoonful synths, and massive choruses meant to worm their way into your ears for weeks. But Aeromantic sees them somehow level up once more with the addition of something you never realized the band was missing: melodrama. The biggest difference that Aeromantic has in comparison to their previous materials is that of a certain urgency to it. You can hear at as the opening track, “Servants of the Air” rolls out with big, bombastic riffs and ‘raise your fist’ chorus. Later in the track, heavy groove-driven bass and guitarwork reaches further into the dramatic, urging you to partake as they launch both a flashy guitar and keyboard solo. It feels like it’s building towards something larger than life.
That notion continues until it’s culmination on the finale, “Dead of Winter,” which may arguably be the band’s finest hour to date. Opening with some dark yet inviting synthwork, it takes the grandeur of the band’s longer tracks that close out previous efforts and condenses it into 6-minutes of dramatic bliss. The build-up of the synths into the rolling riffage and near over-the-top keys instantly hooks you on the first listen. It builds anticipation to the chorus effectively, and then unleashes a gripping moment that is as powerful as it is addictive. There’s a grounded emotional aspect to the track that makes it fun to listen to, yet there’s an undeniable depth (and some self-reflection) to it at the same time. The explosive melody that hits right before the 5-minute mark before delivering one more return to the chorus is nothing short of awe-inspiring, even dozens of listens later.
But for all of the increased stakes this time around, it wouldn’t be The Night Flight Orchestra without a big dose of fun. The upbeat and joyous tones of “Curves” are so sugary-sweet and danceable that you can practically see the ‘80s montage of a sunny day crusing to the beach and frollicking with friends in your head. Likewise, the hook-driven rock of “This Boy’s Last Summer” and “Taurus” will have you cranking the volume to the max and belting along, full of swagger as your hips start shaking, whether you want them to or not. But that urgency rears its head with these tracks too, with some spectacular effects added in several cuts. “If Tonight is Our Only Chance” imbues an otherwise disco-rock funhouse with a vital theatrical flair that only increases its infectiousness. The night-time grooves and synthwave/guitar riffing of “Transmissions” is magnificent in its own right, but the extended violin work that concludes the track is spine-shivering and takes the track to a whole new level.
Even with all of the illustrious musicianship that exists on Aeromantic, there’s something special about some of the vocal work here. For one, the “Airline Annas” [Anna-Mia Bonde and Anna Brygård] are given more to do than ever, and the title track and “Divinyls” are proof positive that the chorus of voices not only gives it a stronger ‘retro’ vibe, but enhances the band’s firepower. Bjorn Strid himself somehow stretches himself even further, particularly on the sultry “Golden Swansdown” – conjuring up charisma over quieter synth-led parts and a sincere and impactful chorus. For all of his successes with Soilwork, hearing him croon over a more traditional cut like “Sister Mercurial” makes it hard not to think that this is what his singing voice was truly meant for.
The Night Flight Orchestra continue to strive based on having something special about them. Their ability to capture the strongest bits from the ‘70s/’80s period and make it seem fresh and compelling is their strongest weapon. They manage to soar above the competition because of their genuine love and appreciation for the times, which carries over into the music itself. Aeromantic hits with the same level of addictiveness and wonder after each listen (this scribe has already logged over 50 at time of writing), and there are few bands that can deliver an experience that resonates so profoundly. It may be fun music at the end of the day, but it’s also emotionally impactful to its core. One can only imagine the heights they’ll continue to climb to in the future.