Despite the high drama of opening track Servants of the Air – imagine UK pompsters Cats in Space jamming on a previously unheard Touch track – Aeromantics doesn’t truly get going until second track (and already released single) Divinyls. Whilst not, sadly, a paean to the much-lamented Aussie chanteuse Chrissy Amphlett, there is still an awful lot to commend to you about this track. Night Flight Orchestra are now fully established as a band in their own right – this is no longer Björn Strid’s ‘easy listening’ side project and nothing more – so the stakes are high as the band seeks to cement it’s reputation as a purveyor of high quality, retroactive hard rock thrills n’spills.
Divinyls does just that, riding in on an anthemic refrain before exploding into a deliriously sumptuous chorus; Strid doesn’t over sing – he doesn’t need to – preferring to allow the spine tingling instrumentation do all the heavy lifting for him. David Andersson and Richard Larsson (guitars and keyboards respectively) link up perfectly, weaving a wall of sound over which Strid towers with the first of many bravura performances.
Third track If Tonight Is Our Only Chance ramps up the drama again, mixing icy late-eighties AOR with more than a hint of Abba on the strident chorus and a Survivorish thud in the bass department thanks to long serving four stringer Sharlee D’Angelo. This Boy’s Last Summer stays in the late seventies, adding an edgy, new wave feel to proceedings before unleashing a chorus that heads back to memories of something Robert John ‘Mutt’ Lange might have produced early on in his career. Urgent yet still displaying the opulence we’ve come to expect from NFO, it’s a nice, surprising left turn that shows there’s really nothing this band can’t achieve within their chosen sphere.
Curves is a little closer to what we’ve come to expect, locking into a 1978 West Coast groove; it’s meat and drink for the band of course, yet just sounds a little under powered in comparison to what’s gone before. I’m pretty sure it’ll sound great on Sentinel Daily Radio, though…
… Anyways, Transmissions gets things back on an even keel – and how! A soaring piece of disco rock that somehow replicates the best work of the Seventies Bee Gees without falling into pastiche, you’ll find it impossible to be anywhere in the vicinity of this track without some sort of involuntary reaction. Just don’t risk walking down the street with it blasting out of the headphones of your Walkman lest your helpless strutting and posturing makes you a target of passer-by derision… And I haven’t even mentioned the sumptuous violin solo at the end of the song that adds a scarcely-needed extra of layer of brilliance to proceedings. In a strong field, this is absolutely the best song The Night Flight Orchestra has thus far committed to wax.
Of course the title track can’t quite live up to such astounding brilliance; however as a piece of blaring prog metal in its own right it’s not half bad. 10cc on steroids gets you into the song’s postcode, if not quite renting you a room in it’s basement. At this point there’s a fair chance both listener and band might collapse under the sheer weight of pomp majesty that’s building up, so Golden Swansdown offers a welcome respite, building sparsely into another marvellous chorus, augmented by Andersson’s best solo of the album and a gorgeous, spine-tingling key change that ushers in the end of the song.
Taurus follows, the simplest cut on offer and also the shortest at under three minutes. It’s not the worst track you’ll ever hear, but were we living in 1979 as this band clearly so dearly wishes it could, it’s have ‘second single b-side’ written all over it.
Next track Carmencita Seven is possibly the place to find this band at its most ambitious. The shimmering keyboard intro is Philip Glass by way of Peter Gabriel, underpinned by that ethereal violin sound again; the track twists through a serpentine verse before hitting paydirt with another big chorus which then reverts to the Koyaanisqatsiesque keyboard chimes. It’s a headswirling combination of moods and colours, the ethereality of the verses contrasting the bombast of the chorus and solo perfectly. If Transmissions is the best thing the band has ever done in sheer pomptastic enjoyment terms, then Carmencita Seven is the band’s apogee in the field of artistic achievement – without surrendering any listenability whatsoever.
Sister Mercurial turns the spotlight back on the band’s fun side again, being a bouncy romp through the late seventies power pop of names like The Motors and The Knack, whilst penultimate track Dead of Winter is altogether weightier. The intro fuses the synth mastery of Jean-Michel Jarre to the pomp rock bombast of early Survivor with, it has to be noted, rather pleasing results before settling into a strident groove and an anthemic chorus that might have fans of the first Asia album nodding along appreciatively.
Closing track City Lights And Moonbeams is another tack guaranteed to bring a smile to the dial, rounding out matters with a spring in the step and a glint in the eye. I’ll be honest – I was a little underwhelmed by the band’s last album, 2018’s Sometimes The World Ain’t Enough, and feared that maybe here was a project that had reached the end of it’s creative road. Aeromantic proves that (a), not only was I wrong, but (b) there’s plenty of good stuff still to come from Camp Night Flight. Long may they cruise the nocturnal skyways!
Aeromantic is released by Nuclear Blast on February 28th.