Although it was barely a year and a half ago, it seems another lifetime when we reviewed Night Flight Orchestra’s “Aeromantic” album, a couple short weeks before the world went all to hell in a hurry. The band themselves, despite their name and all its trappings, were not able to fly above the fray. A few weeks into their ambitious tour supporting the 2020 album, venues were shutting down, flights were being cancelled, and the tour was brought to its premature end.
While this would usually mean misfortune in the music business, many acts used the downtime to turn lemons into some quality lemonade, and NFO has been no exception. Soilwork’s infamous Björn “Speed” Strid took the boys shopping for an exciting new keyboard persona, and found it in the form of John Lönnmayr, recommended by guitarist Sebastian Forslund. With Lönnmayr’s jazzy-poppy pedigree, the band may have found the last ingredient to perfect their “Miami Vice Goes Disco” sound they’ve been chasing in the last few years.
The new album for 2021, “Aeromantic II,” really does feel like a spiritual successor to its predecessor. Let’s be real for a moment. If you enjoyed “Aeromantic,” you can just skip the analysis and go buy the record. You will enjoy it. Of course, if you just cannot bear the wait, and want to know all about this new offering, we have plenty of good news to share.
The album’s opener, “Violent Indigo,” (not a typo) truly is back for revenge, and lets us know with its nearly Vangelis synth opening that the band is recharged and ready to give us more. The song is laden with lyrics full of allusion to the love-across-the-miles travel theme so present in the 2020 album. The 80s pop instrumentation, riffs, leads, and big rich chorus really set the stage for the rest of the album.
With a driving 4/4 dancing discotheque beat, “Midnight Marvelous” carries the torch well for the album’s unrelenting nature. Aside from some cool beats, funky basslines, mysterious female spoken word bits, and some sweet keyboard leads, the song seems to be all about defanging mom’s lessons about how nothing good ever happens after midnight. An up-tempo little number described by Björn as “90s Deep Purple on cocaine,” the track entitled “How Long” has one of the strongest and most ear-wormy choruses of the album. Make no mistake, the riffs are a really cool vehicle to get us from one catchy chorus to the next.
“Burn for Me” missed its cue to appear on a Phil Collins solo album, but that’s OK, because it’s right at home flying full time with the Night Flight Orchestra. Aside from the big reverb snare fun and old school piano chords, the song has great major-key energy, and the band is marketing the video as a post-Corona good times celebration. Let’s hope it’s a good omen. “Chardonnay Nights” however, is thankfully more lively than dinner party conversation over white wine and continental cheeses. It’s kind of like if Dennis De Young wrote a disco song with Styx. Don’t worry, that’s better than it probably sounds. No one let JY sing on this one.
“Change” once again removes all doubt about whether the improved keyboards presence makes a difference on this album. From the piano synth chords, to the driving kick drum beat, to the cool synth embellishments, it is almost music for Rocky IV training montage. Almost. Which is no mean feat. If we return from fight time with Ivan Drago to something a little more poppy, it would be “Amber Through a Window.” Hopefully the song’s protagonist is appreciating the young lady through a window and not defenestrating her, but in any scenario, it’s an interesting prog-pop fusion, and one for a future “Greatest Hits” collection.
The song “I Will Try” is a surprise favorite of the album. The opening and the main beat are like some nostalgic revival of mid-80s Journey fused with 80s Genesis, and maybe a hint of Tina Turner. “You Belong to the Night” is textbook NFO, from its disco beat to its Latin percussion to its mix and songwriting. While there may not be anything especially noteworthy in the song, it’s a solid track and gets us well prepped for the less usual “Zodiac.” From spanky single coil guitar strumming, to meandering basslines, to a chorus guitar riff that’s almost in-your-face like “Beat It,” it’s a cool little song to be sure. It is also worth noting the subtle female spoken word bits again, which are blessedly in English. Not that there is anything wrong with Swedish, or any language really, but we pointed out the bits of Swedish radio chatter on the previous album, and hinted that sticking to English makes the music more portable to international commerce. Of course, the band has a rabid following at home, and cannot be blamed for the occasional localized shout out.
The next track, “White Jeans,” is gay. No, seriously. The band penned the track as a tip of the hat to their friends in the gay and lesbian community, especially in the music scene, and for real, the song is actually very cool, just bursting with energy and attitude, up-tempo pacing and cool guitar riffs. The album ends with “Moonlit Skies,” which somehow manages to have the keyboard feels of an 80s Synth Pop act like Men Without Hats or the Human League, and simultaneously have the guitar sounds of Maiden’s “Somewhere in Time” album. The tempo has calmed down a little bit, as has the energy, but the song is quasi-serious enough to bring the album to a tasteful conclusion.
The analysis of this record is straightforward; the album is a worthy successor to its namesake. Arguably, it is even better with the improved soundscapes created by keyboard and synth usage. We also must award huge extra credit for the bonus cover of Cheap Trick’s “Reach Out” from the Heavy Metal motion picture soundtrack. We’ll let you decide if it’s better than the original, but it’s heartening to hear an old favorite get a victory lap. Otherwise, this album is really solid in virtually every way. Considering NFO is bound by a somewhat limiting formula, they still manage to remain creative and inventive. The mix is ideal in what could end up being an overcrowded mess in the wrong hands. This album, and hopefully an Aeromantic World Tour, are ready for takeoff. We wish the band (and hopefully the “Airline Annas” much success as the music world gets back to rocking.
In the meantime, look for the new album from the Nuclear Blast label on September 3, online or at a store near you.
Released By: Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: September 3rd, 2021
Genre: Melodic Pop Rock
- Björn Strid / Lead and Backing vocals
- David Andersson / Guitars
- Sharlee D’Angelo / Bass
- Sebastian Forslund / Guitars, percussion
- Jonas Källsbäck / Drums
- John Manhattan Lönnmyr / Keyboards
- Anna Brygård / Backing Vocals
- AnnaMia Bonde / Backing Vocals
“Aeromantic II” Track-Listing:
1. Violent Indigo
2. Midnight Marvelous
3. How Long
4. Burn For Me
5. Chardonnay Nights
7. Amber Through A Window
8. I Will Try
9. You Belong To The Night
11. White Jeans
12. Moonlit Skies
13. Reach Out (Cheap Trick‘s cover)
This makes two great albums in as many years from the Night Flight Orchestra. This one scored even better than its predecessor, and with good reason. Great songwriting, catchy choruses, fun beats, and amazing keyboard soundscapes make Aeromantic II an album not to miss for fun retro rock nostalgia