AMG.com has ridden the The Night Flight Orchestra (“NFO”) horse pretty hard since the release of their first album in 2012. The illustrious Dr. Fisting (then masquerading as Fisting Andrew Golota) was their discoverer and therefore the designated reviewer thus far. Now that he is absent, presumed dead1, I have taken up this mantle to impart opinions on a band that our founder abhors. The quicker among you may have noticed that it has been but a year since the release of 2017’s Amber Galactic but now the Bond-style Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough (“SWAE“) is due for disbursement. This is a shockingly short break compared with their other albums so should you be concerned?
If you are unfamiliar with the NFO sound, these Swedes cherish a decade in musical history between about 1975 and 1985. It is impossible to avoid that they are intentionally derivative, proudly brandishing their classic rock influences such that half of the fun is identifying which band inspired particular parts. For my year-end summary of Amber Galactic, I noted Toto, Van Halen, Billy Joel, Steely Dan, Journey and Whitesnake. These same bands are still in the melting pot but SWAE is definitely less heavy and guitar-driven than previously. The guitars, while good, are moved another row further back in the bus, while the keyboards move forwards yet again. It is disingenuous to call it ‘disco’ as I’ve seen it described in our internal channels, but I also appreciate that NFO stray ever-further from their metal-oriented day jobs2. To demonstrate this point, two additional bands can be thrown into the pot: ABBA and the Bee Gees, both of whom can be heard on the more disco-heavy tracks, such as “Paralyzed,” “Pretty Thing Closing In” and “Winged and Serpentine.”
But what is it that means your should curtail your concerns? What is it that has always made NFO such a success? The songs, the songs, the songs. It still staggers me that the same individuals who can write such bland melodeath can also write such incredibly catchy tunes for this project. As enjoyable as SWAE is across its duration, it is usual for a few tracks to rise to the top and that holds true here. “Turn to Miami” and the title track are pure 80s pop-rock magic with huge choruses that show off the talented backup singers that the band now employs. I have read “Moments of Thunder” compared with the finale to the opening act of musical theatre which is apt; it’s bombastic and over-the-top, even by NFO‘s ridiculous standards. And “Lovers in the Rain” is the obligatory ballad which wrings our every ounce of melodrama from its emotive guitar lines and soppy lyrics. While it isn’t as awesome as its equivalents from Internal Affairs and Skyline Whispers, I also want to mention the long-form closer called “The Last of the Independent Romantics” with its moodier introduction, great riffs in its second passage and relative complexity in its second half. I enjoy when these guys stretch their song-writing a little and was disappointed by the effort from Amber Galactic.
So why not a 4.5 after such enthusiasm? Why not 5? I think the NFO gleam is fading just slightly, if only through simple consistency. They have written four exceptional rock records but I can finally contain my glee that such a band, fusing so many awesome 70s and 80s bands, exists3. SWAE also tails off somewhat in its second half. While it re-surges for the final two tracks, I would argue that it’s not quite as amazing as the first three records are. This also makes it feel a touch longer than it is; the hour speeds by but the second-half dip in quality drags things out a bit.
The tl;dr version is that if you are an old hater, you will probably hate SWAE even more on account of its disco influences and fewer riffs. But NFO forces me to binge listen in a way that almost not other artist can; that must signify that they are doing something right. There have been groans and grumbles at AMG.com that this year has had a lack of stand-out releases. This is a view with which I disagree and this record demonstrates this point given that I can already say that it will be on my year-end list. Just in time for Summer.