Written By: Nameless_N00b_15
I do not like flying. My ears never pressurize properly, I can’t sleep on planes and I watched way too many episodes of Seconds from Disaster as a child. However, I do like Flight a whole hell of a lot. Hailing geographically from Norway and temporally from 1976, this quartet takes to the skies with a sound steeped in the sensibilities of the ’70s. Their 2015 debut was serviceable but never quite got to cruising altitude. Now, with a stable line-up and a longer writing process has Flight melded their many influences into an airtight aeronautic marvel?
The band members themselves cite Saxon, Camel and Winterhawk, but even a cursory listen will reveal a myriad of other artists present within their music such as Kansas, Boston, and early Judas Priest.1 Given that A Leap through Matter sports influences from just about every ’70s band with a guitarist, it would be entirely possible if not plausible that the tracks here are nothing more than pale imitations of the source material. Fortunately for listeners of all ages—72-year-old grandparents, 48-year-old parents, and myself, Flight have composed eight worthy homages that are wildly enjoyable regardless of the color of hair atop your head. Every single song here falls somewhere between good and great.
Things start off with an instrumental intro in “Arrival” that feels entirely necessary and fully developed, which is rare these days. From there you’ll encounter Rush-lite compositions on the title track, Boston-inspired moodiness on “Pendulum” and Jimmy Page-worship solos scattered throughout several songs. “Ride On” barely edges out the competition for best song on the album, due to an amazing riff as its central theme that feels like a higher energy version of the opening riff to Hällas’ “Star Rider.” In addition to the abundant supply of good guitar work, Jonas Bye’s omnipresent bass develops from soothing rumble to something far more interesting upon repeated listens. While I initially wasn’t enamored with Christoffer Bråthen’s even keeled androgynous vocal delivery, his ability to emote without utilizing a large vocal range grew on me and eventually reminded me of Donald Roeser from Blue Oyster Cult.
A Leap through Matter gets a lot right. It possesses a replay value to rival some of my favorite albums, even if it isn’t quite as good. This is due to three main factors; uniformly good songs, a lithe 42-minute runtime and a crystal clear production job that balances immediacy and depth about as well as can be done. The only thing holding Flight back from a gaudier score is the lack of standout moments. I was being very literal when I said the songs are uniformly good here. There isn’t a single weak track or wasted moment on A Leap Through Matter, but there is also a distinct lack of amazing moments that an album needs to surmount the mark of “great.” Flight established a fantastic baseline for an “average” song, but never introduces any peaks within that baseline to truly conjure musical magic. Given that this is their first album with all four members involved in the writing process, their sophomore effort ends up acting more as a second debut than as a true follow up.
I really enjoyed my time with A Leap through Matter. My musical journey began with many of the bands Flight is influenced by, and it’s a testament to their skill that they still manage to sound entirely unique with so many iconic inspirations. The performances are as tight as the runtime, the production as stellar as the phenomenal artwork. Now that the band has had time to fuse into a cohesive unit and get their second “debut” done, I expect that the baseline of good songwriting demonstrated on A Leap through Matter will be injected with some truly inspiring moments that catapult a band from good to great. There has been a recent spate of exemplary retro prog rock, Southern Empire and Hällas in particular coming to mind, and Flight’s next effort could see them ascending to similarly vertiginous heights.
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: High Roller Records
Websites: flightheavymetal.bandcamp.com | flightheavymetal.com | facebook.com/heavyflight
Releases Worldwide: November 23rd, 2018
Written By: Nameless_N00b_14
In hindsight, my wife likely now realizes the grievous error she made last Christmas when she gifted me a turntable, despite my reputation as a notorious collector. No sooner could you say “second cactus,”2 then I was down a rabbit hole of crate-digging and Discogs forums, acquiring new and dusty vinyl at an alarming rate. ‘80s metal LPs from my youth that had been sitting unloved for more than 30 years were restored to glorious life. Initially, my fervor and appetite knew no bounds, but with time, my reason slowly returned. I became a more discerning consumer once again, discovering that delicate balance between our all-you-can-stream present and the nostalgic allure of the needle drop. However, what this diversion into the world of vinyl did provide me with, besides a lighter wallet, was a newfound appreciation for the album-based hard rock, heavy metal, and prog of the ‘70s; bands like Captain Beyond, Dust, Wishbone Ash, Camel, and early Judas Priest. It was apropos then that I was issued Flight’s A Leap through Matter from the promo bin. Heavily indebted to the bands above, NWoBHM, and more recent peers like Graveyard, it’s a solid slab of old-school worship that fans of traditional hard rock will enjoy.
Established in Norway in 2012, Flight are a four piece that released their self-titled debut in 2015 to little fanfare. This sophomore effort ups the ante with regards to the ‘70s influences and overall vibe with its stripped-back sound, raw production, sci-fi lyrical themes, and progressive time-changes. At the core of their sound is a dual-lead approach a la Iron Maiden and Wishbone Ash that isn’t overly fussy or showy. Two guitars are put to brilliant use on tasty harmonies (“Arrival,” “Ride On”) and addictive riffs that threaten to make one’s head bop into oblivion (“Reviving the Waves,” “One with the Sun”), not to mention the many superlative leads that pepper the album. The rhythm section is no slouch, either, with bassist Jonas Bye providing the driving lines that have been this genre’s stock-in-trade since Hawkwind, with ear-pleasing choices that complement and counterpoint the guitar melodies. Drummer Carl Christian Holmes brings everything home with a kick-ass performance that again, isn’t flashy, but is just what the album needs.
Harkening back to the ’70s homage, this is an album in the truest sense; a collection of tunes held together thematically, in this case, movement through space and time. I’m not sure whether it’s bravery or stupidity for an unknown band to open things with a lengthy instrumental, but with the 3-minute “Arrival” sets the tone—and starts the journey—for the whole album. Second track “One with the Sun” launches us into the album proper, and is arguably the killer cut with its riff-driven instrumental intro, catchy chorus, time-changes, and old-school guitar harmonies. If the song titles didn’t give it away (“Ride On,” “Traveler,” etc.), the lyrics all reinforce the metaphorical journey of the listener, though poetically they’re nothing to write home about. While the album has progressive elements, it’s prog without the pretense; no track drifts past the 7-minute mark, so its brisk 40-minute running time seems to sail by.
Unfortunately, the vocals are the weak link here. While Christoffer Bråthen knows how to craft a hook—I can hum the chorus of every track by memory—his delivery lacks punch and edge. It also feels like he’s struggling to hit the notes at times, such as during the verses on “One with the Sun,” and a particularly high note during the second chorus of “The Pendulum.” His entire sound here is eerily reminiscent of Denis Bélanger’s approach on Voivod’s controversial Angel Rat, and while I initially struggled to parse what was lacking, the only word I could think of was conviction; he sounds a little too laid back. Overall, it’s not a deal breaker. Once I accepted it and moved on, I came to like the odd nuances of his delivery as part of the album’s charm.
This album was a grower for me. I initially wrote it off as a mediocre also-ran, but the more I listened, the more I came to appreciate the musicianship and technique on display here. A Leap through Matter is a hooky, memorable, head-bopping record that I can see myself returning to again and again—so much so that I considered buying the vinyl, if not for the exorbitant shipping to the States. These guys deserve an audience.
- Wait, this isn’t Imperialist worship? – Dr. Wvrm ↩
- “I had a friend once. He had a cactus. Same cactus sitting on his windowsill for 15 years. And then one day, someone gave him a second cactus. And within six months… he had to move to a bigger house with enough space for his cactus collection.” – “Forever Dreaming,” The Detectorists. ↩