While modern rock radio bands are busy mining the early blues-rock of LED ZEPPELIN and younger metal bands are stripping the New Wave of British Heavy Metal songbook for parts, Swedish supergroup THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA scratch an itch for those with nostalgia for a different specific moment in rock music’s history books. Since forming the act as a side project in 2012, SOILWORK vocalist Björn “Speed” Strid and bassist Sharlee D’Angelo (ARCH ENEMY, WITCHERY, MERCYFUL FATE) have conspired with other members of the Swedish heavy metal community to generate catchy rockers and power ballads that are a throwback to late ’70s and early ’80s FM radio, when heavy power-pop anthems from acts such as CHEAP TRICK and KISS dominated the rock charts, alongside bands such as JOURNEY and REO SPEEDWAGON that were coating their output with a glossy finish.
The latest effort from THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA, “Sometimes The World Ain’t Enough”, has become a favorite for fans looking for sugary pop-rock flavors in 2018. But Nuclear Blast‘s reissues of the band’s first two records–2012’s “Internal Affairs” and 2015’s “Skyline Whispers”, both of which were originally released on Italian label Coroner Records—show off a group that was already unified in its mission to take a break from the heavier sounds of the members’ main projects and pay tribute to the acts they grew up on. “Siberian Queen” begins the band’s run with a galloping drum-and-bass intro that sounds loosely inspired by LED ZEPPELIN‘s “Immigrant Song”. It then jumps forward ten years with swaggering croons from Strid, shred guitar from David Andersson and Sebastian Forslund that would have shone during the glory days of the live record, and faux-stringed percussion that would have made ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA blush.
The NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA essentially hit the ground running as the ultimate rock revue for the sound that filled arenas from 1977 through 1983. “California Morning”, from the group’s debut, and “All The Ladies”, from the band’s 2015 follow-up “Skyline Whispers”, are clap-along stompers that could pass for outtakes from the first few KISS records. A mastery of boogie-blues rock on “Montreal Midnight Supply” and “Roads Less Traveled” show off a band that could have fit comfortably alongside 38 SPECIAL on a broadcast of NBC‘s “The Midnight Special”. The title track of the band’s debut and “Stiletto” are disco-funk jam-outs that could be released as a bootleg seven-inch with a Casablanca Records logo stamped on it. Most with an ear for that sound would be fooled.
The sound is warm and vintage, with lyrical content to match. Much like KISS did with “Detroit Rock City”, THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA pays tribute to its favorite cities that are aflame with rock and roll on road-trip fodder such as “California Morning” and “Miami 5:02”. Strid strikes a strong vocal balance between shouting belters and radio-friendly croons; the latter especially shine through on power ballads and tales of lost love such as “Glowing City Madness”.
Due to their pedigrees, Strid and D’Angelo are the most likely to draw attention and initial listens to THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA. The band’s secret weapon that really elevates the group’s songs beyond flaccid mimicry is the keyboard and percussion work of Richard Larsson. The man is an incredibly versatile force behind his keys, whether he is launching into overloaded prog bombast, anchoring piano-driven balladry, or Hammond organ-propelled funk.
The band’s profile has slowly grown since its first Nuclear Blast release, 2017’s “Amber Galactic”. But folks that dig backwards into THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA‘s first two records will wonder why the spotlight wasn’t shining brighter from day one.