“…and the award for ALBUM OF THE YEAR, 1979 goes to…THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA for AMBER GALACTIC!!!!” This is how it played out in an alternate universe somewhere, where this album actually came out in the time when it deserved to come out. This album would not only fit in the mid to late 70’s, but it would dominate, and what’s even better, it’s done by some hardcore metalers.
Let’s start at the beginning, when I get a chance to listen to something brand new I try to listen to it before I read anything about the band. I don’t even really want to know the genre, simply because I don’t want to be swayed by other people’s perception as to what this really is. So all I had was the band name, The Night Flight Orchestra, and that they were from Sweden. Now, I am guilty of trying to guess what I’m in for, and I initially thought “old school power metal.”
I pop on the first track, entitled “Midnight Flyer” (with a title like that, looks like I was right on) and not only is it NOT power metal, it’s not really metal at all. It borders on metal, but it’s more 70’s rock, and I don’t mean like a retro act doing 70’s sounding rock, this song sounds like it was written in ’77. Old school synth, harmonized guitars, and a singer with a ballsy high end reminiscent of Ian Gillen, or Rik Emmett set up for an interesting romp through nostalgia. “Midnight Flyer” borders on prog at times, and as much as I wished for a retro prog act with this type of singer, what I got instead was almost as good.
“Star of Rio” starts off with this guitar hook that is impossible to NOT shake your shoulders to, and then it launches into a Deep Purple-esque groove, with strong melodic vocals over it, and Queen-like harmonies. It’s almost all the great things in the world.
So after a borderline prog tune, and a straight forward rock tune, what could be next…DISCO? Not quite, but “Domino” is a pop influenced rock song that I’d expect to hear on a cartoon like “Regular Show” (if you haven’t seen “Regular Show” on Cartoon Network, it’s the most metal show out there without trying to be metal. You need to stop reading right now and go watch it on Hulu or something, the episodes are 11 minutes long, I’ll wait…) or in some sort of training montage scene from a late 70’s or ‘80’s movie.
So now I’m reeling in nostalgia, feeling like I’m 6-fucking-years-old again, which is great, I had an awesome childhood by the sounds of it, so what was next in this nostalgic rampage…classic rock in its most raw form. “Sad State of Affairs” has a tambourine in it, that’s all you need to know. A nice bluesy rock riff to kick it off, with a rollicking rock and roll chorus, and great rock lyrics. Oh, and the chorus and the bridge are just fantastic.
“Jennie,” ah yes, the ballad…it was inevitable. Now that may sound like a negative, but it’s not. I love a good ballad. A long haired man professing his love to a short haired woman (it’s the 80’s now remember). This song sounds like something from a Night Ranger or a Supertramp album. Really a great song.
NOW, cue the disco rock. “Domino” is dripping with KISS like disco rock, but with more funk and lyrically, let’s just say that the chorus is “Domino, the way you dance beneath the moonlight” and “this may be the last chance so break out the champagne and dance for me,” it’s a wonderful tale for sure.
“Josephine” hits me like a Rick Springfield tune meshed with a Michael McDonald tune, but not annoying. Piano driven, poppy, and just fun…if you’re not smiling by the end of this tune, you’re dead inside.
“Space Whisperer” is the hard-rocker of the set with a strong driving beat, and somewhat heavy guitars. Spacey keys, and a fantastic instrumental break down in the middle of this tune really shows how good this band really is.
Outside of the 8 minute jaunt into ELO-ish prog rock on “Saturn in Velvet”, the rest of this 11-song release follows suit in the best possible way. Just when I thought this was going to get old (no pun intended) it never did. All of these songs are well crafted, incredibly well played, and surprisingly fresh for such a retro sounding style of music.
So I would highly, HIGHLY recommend this release for anyone who is into any form of rock music. Sure the lyrics are cheesy, and the style of music harkens back to a time in music where some thought it was cringe-worthy, but to me, it was one of the best periods and I thrilled to see it being represented in such a way.
Which brings me to who this band is. I alluded to this band being comprised of some hardcore metallers up top. Well, this whole project came about a few years back when singer Bjorn “Speed” Strid and guitarist David Anderssen were on tour in America with their band Soilwork, and they started talking about aspects of classic rock, from scandals to partying, and they decided a soundtrack was needed for such stories. On came bassist Sharlee D’Angelo of Arch Enemy, and you had some hardcore metal making mother fuckers, cranking out classic pop rock.
It just goes to show that you don’t really know a bands influences until they go and make a borderline pop-rock album like this. I know a lot of this seems like its tongue in cheek, from the band and from myself, but the reality is whether they mean it or not, these guys created a great classic rock album. Hearing “Speed” Strid sing like that is really a revelation. I always liked his voice, but I have a whole new respect for the guy’s abilities after hearing Amber Galactic.
THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA – AMBER GALACTIC TRACK LIST
1 – Midnight Flyer
2 – Star of Rio
3 – Gemini
4 – Sad State of Affairs
5 – Jennie
6 – Domino
7 – Josephine
8 – Space Whisperer
9 – Something Mysterious
10 – Saturn in Velvet
11 – Just Another Night
Bloodrock Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0 axes
Written by Chris Elio for Bloodrock Media on June 2, 2017