Written by on 2021-01-29

The very first conversation I had with Shyanna about rock’n’roll lead us to discuss our favorite bands. When her turn arrived, without batting an eye she spat out : “I love TOTO”. I ask her to confirm and she does: “Yeah, TOTO”. The completely has been sextet whose claim to fame is boring radio friendly songs like “Rosanna”, “Hold The Line” and worst of all the horrendous “Africa”? Naturally, I laughed. Hard.

Except that now we are ten years later, and she is now the one laughing. Harder. Because she was right TOTO is awesome. Today I put “Africa” at its rightful place among the best songs ever written. And thanks to the changes of perspective, I was finally able to open myself to a whole new realm of music by going back to the golden age of 80s AOR and just purely enjoy it. And most of all, I could finally get into THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA. It turns out that being wrong is sometimes pretty good.


Released on 28/02/2020 / Nuclear Blast

Links :

Tracklist :

01. Servants Of The Air
02. Divinyls
03. If Tonight Is Our Only Chance
04. This Boy’s Last Summer
05. Curves
06. Transmission
07. Aeromantic
08. Golden Swansdown
09. Taurus
10. Carmencita Seven
11. Sister Mercurial
12. Dead Of Winter

Line-up :

Björn « Speed » Strid (Vocals)
David Andersson (Guitar)
Sebastian Forslund (Guitar)
Richard Larsson (Keyboards)
Sharlee D’Angelo (Bass)
Jonas Källsbäck (Drums)
Anna-mia Blonde (Backup vocals)
Anna Brygård (Backup vocals)

Direct flight straight to 1985

The band came to be in 2007 when Bjorn « Speed » Strid and David Andersson from SOILWORK had an idea: go back in time between 1977 and 1985 and just stay in that general period of time. A little bit because of nostalgia, but mostly because, and I quote: “It’s about an art of writing and playing songs that has been lost for a while but we believe it to be timeless and very organic.” They were then joined by bass player Sharlee D’Angelo (ARCHE ENEMY), drummer Jonas Källsbäck (MEAN STREAK), multi-instrumentalist Sebastian Forslund (KADWATHA) and keyboardist Richard Larsson (VON BENZO), who was replaced in 2020 par John Lönnmyr.

“Aeromantic” is their fifth record and even though the base of the recipe is still the same, there are enough differences with the previous one to avoid an easy and lazy repetition.

The first thing that jumps out is the absolutely perfect mix. It’s a perfect work of art. Everything is clear and each time you will go through the album you will discover a new layer in the music that you will notice every single time after that.

Because yes, in addition to its perfect sound, this record, just like those of TOTO, has a tremendous amount of layers that you will need several spins to discover all of them. You just have to listen to “Servants Of The Air” and “Divinyls” and focus on the bass for a fraction of a second to realise that bass that fluid, important and clear is extremely rare in that type of rock. And we get so much of it that it’s a real pleasure because Sharlee D’Angelo just rolls through killer line after killer line and supports the drums as much as the guitar without just following one or the other. Without him I’m not sure if « If Tonight Is Our Only Chance » is as efficient or if “Sister Mercurial” is such an earworm.

I was also very surprised when I realized that most tracks actually rely more on the keyboard/bass duo than the traditional guitar/keyboard combo usually found in 80s AOR. To be fair the excessive amount of keyboards is often justifiably mocked in that 80s sound but when it is used properly it is absolutely fabulous. It’s especially good on the way too cheesy “golden Swansdown” that was pulled straight from a SURVIVOR or a FOREIGNER greatest hits compilation. Or in the verses from “Taurus” that would fit in the soundtrack of a “Footloose” or a “Flashdance” at the critical point, where the hero must make the most important choice of its life, has to do it with the collest dance sequence ever, because dancing just fixes everything in 1985.

One might think that it’s all just tired clichés but because they were able to change just enough things to surprise us once again. Even though they are still present, the YES, KANSAS and BOSTON influences are slightly put in the background for an even more grandiloquent and radio-ready result than before : “DIvinyls” is an absolute hit in the making, immediately catchy and absolutely fantastic, “Golden Swansdowns” is the epitomy of a power ballad, so cheesy that it becomes genius, “Sister Mercurial”, with its irrestible rhythm will stay in your ears for days and “If Tonight’s Our Only Chance” is an anthem carried by an epic chorus.

Even the weaker tracks like “Carmencita Seven” or “Curves” all have their own thing that will make you appreciate them (drums for the first, the weird keyboards for the second one).

But the cornerstone of the whole album is the masterful “Transmissions”, with its delicate melancholy, a guitar that appears at the perfect moment and just builds up the majestic violin solo played by Rachel Hall. All those things make this track a memorable timeless moment that you will go back to again and again without a doubt.

And even after all of this, the real commander of this airline, the one that makes the magic happen is none other than Bjorn Strid who is once again beyond reproach . We are getting used to him just hamming it up just to show he is the boss of that plane but thinks it keeps working and that he obviously has a ton of fun doing it, he is right to keep doing it especially nopw that he is supported by choristers Anna-Mia Blonde et Anna Brygård. Thank to those three, the industrial quantity of harmonies all though « Aeromantic” make it a TOTO/ABBA hybrid and give it all its charm.

Of course it’s possible to find issues with this one : less hard rock than their previous efforts, the drums are a bit too much in the background, the riffs are a bit buried under the many layers… But in the end, this album is pure candy, a moment of sweetness and pleasure that I clearly needed in 2020. And despite those small problems, I went back to it over and over again all through the year, to the point where I had to admit it: this is a killer album.

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