Aeromantic, by The Night Flight Orchestra
Suggested by Dan Jenkins
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
In fact, I’ve already said it myself, in the review for Album 346, the 9/10 Queen of Denmark by John Grant. In that review, I approached the album after declaring my disdain for the cover and the artist’s name. I deconstructed the artwork and poked fun at the moniker, before moving forward to declare that the album was a huge surprise, and huge hit, despite these initial misgivings.
For Aeromantic, by Swedish rockers The Night Flight Orchestra, I’m initially at the polar opposite of that opinion. I adore the aesthetic.
The album cover is fantastic, with an Art Deco poster depiction of a stylised air steward in exultant gold and teal. It’s perfectly in tune with the band’s name, and it seems that this aero-chic design direction is a leitmotif of the band in general. A lot of their promotional material embraces this, featuring the band dressed as aviators or aboard passenger planes, and each of their five albums to date feature songs with flight as a theme. There’s Skyline Whispers, for example, or Amber Galactic’s Midnight Flyer. 2020’s Aeromantic has Servants of the Air, which begins with a buzzing spitfire engine and what could be a French radio transmission from air traffic control.
The real question, of course, is if the music can take flight as successfully as the conceptual artwork. Where does my enthusiasm lie? Is it soaring through the clouds? Is it still in the departure lounge, nursing a six-pound cappuccino, one eye on the hand luggage and one eye on the flight screens? Or, as it’s Album 404, is it simply Not Found?
The Night Flight Orchestra have a clear mission: they are here to keep Seventies and Eighties hard rocking excesses front and centre some forty years after the genre’s heyday. Their cosy, catchy songs dwell sweetly in the AOR district, harking back to bands like Whitesnake Def Leppard. It’s a nostalgic sound, as you’d expect, heavy on the melody and sprinkled with cheese. And it’s fun too, almost tongue in cheek in places, but with genuine affection and lacking the cynical edge of Steel Panther or The Darkness.
Some of the songs bank left toward Heavy Metal, such as the aforementioned opener Servants of the Air. Some are more progressive, like the sprawling-for-this-album Carmencita Seven. Some are heavily synthed anthemic rockers, like my standout titular Aeromantic, and some are almost straight pop, like Sister Mercurial or Golden Swansdown. All of them have a hard rock veneer of some sort, like a back-combed hairspray helmet that varnishes the ringlets of your spiral perm. And all of them have a distinct Euro feel, conjuring Europe, Scorpions, A-ha, and even Helloween.
Having listened to this album twice now, it’s certainly growing on me. What I initially labelled as twee and derivative now displays a gloriously naïve charm, presented with a firm smile and a defiant jaw, ramrod spine, stood proud, singing loud. It’s refreshing, and enjoyable.
This review is starting its descent, so please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position. I’m happy I joined The Night Flight Orchestra on this trip, and I award Aeromantic a worthy 7/10. I’ll definitely be flying high with them in the future.