Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Album Review: Night Flight Orchestra - Sometimes The World Ain't Enough

I'm not sure what to make of it when a side project overtakes the main gig. That's not exactly what is happening here, but Bjorn Strid's way to blow of steam is releasing an album for the second consecutive year, while Soilwork is still toiling away at their next album. Part of me wonders if that signals a shift in heart, or if there would be wisdom to not using so many ideas up when trying to write for two different bands. I've heard many people get stretched too thin with these projects, where they all suffer from not being given the right amount of time and focus. Is that what's happening here?

The Night Flight Orchestra has found a time machine to the 80s, picking up where "Amber Galactic" left off. I'm not really a child of the 80s rock scene, so I don't get the nostalgia for that particular era of sound, but this is a group that can perfectly capture that time.

We get started with "This Time", which heaps strings onto that 80s sound, rocking through with a balance of synth-rock, prog, and good ol' rock and roll. Bjorn sounds right at home singing this slightly cheesy music, which is still hard to imagine, given where he made his name. With the right amount of reverb put on his voice, you can easily hear him fitting in on the charts next to Hall & Oates. His voice is smooth, and you can almost hear his tongue in his cheek as he sings this material.

The title track is a harder rocking affair, with the opening thrust giving allusions to Journey's "Separate Ways". Likewise, it isn't the track bearing their name, but "Moments Of Thunder" that sounds like an REO Speedwagon song, hinting at being a ballad, while still offering up some drama. The backing vocals in particular have echoes of Jim Steinman in them, which is always a welcome detail for me.

As I said about the previous album, The Night Flight Orchestra is great at capturing that vein of the rock universe. If you like 80s rock, particularly of the mainstream variety, this group is a tremendous nostalgia trip. There are a lot of bands that are trying to bring back this type of rock (though I'm not sure why), and none do it this well. They are undeniably the best 80s-themed rock band going right now, and that includes the actual 80s bands that have yet to retire.

The only issue I have is that the music is so tied to that particular era of the past that it doesn't speak to me. I came of musical age a few years after this sound had already played out, and while I remember hearing those Journey and Speedwagon songs on the radio, it was already passe by the time I heard it. Unless you were heavily invested in this rock scene at the time, I don't see the appeal of the actual sonic choices. It was an era filled with reverb and tacky synths, neither of which has ever sounded good since. By choosing the adopt the tropes of that time, I find the potential audience limited. The good news for the band is that the metal audience has been aging, so there will be plenty of fans who will be of the age to eat this up.

This isn't my first go-round with The Night Flight Orchestra, and each time I've come away saying the same thing. They are great at what they do, but what they do isn't aimed at me. But if you are more generous to 80s rock than I am, don't miss out on the best recreation you'll ever hear.

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