Artist: The Night Flight Orchestra
Album: Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough
Label: Nuclear Blast
In a surprise move and despite its members’ other musical endeavors, classic hard rock and AOR revivalists The Night Flight Orchestra have returned just 1 year after the fantastic Amber Galactic with Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough, which builds upon its precedessor’s retrofuturistic 80s sound and space imagery. Since Amber Galactic was my album of the year, to say that I was hyped to get another album so soon would be an understatement, but at the same time I wondered if they could top that effort, as it remained my favorite album of theirs even after I’d familiarized myself with the first two records.
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While Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough picks up very naturally where Amber Galactic left off, The Night Flight Orchestra have upped the 80s factor and even brought in more disco influences. Richard Larsson‘s keyboard sounds demonstrate this development well – just check out those electronic synths in the intro of “Turn to Miami” and the orchestral keyboards on “This Time.” On the other hand, “Pretty Thing Closing in” makes it clear that ABBA’s music is in these Swedes’ blood, as the tune sounds like the lovechild of “Gimme Gimme Gimme” and Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2.” This cinematic and mysterious disco song lets Björn “Speed” Strid utilize his lower register, and the funky guitars add a nice texture, making it an immediate standout track. “Paralyzed” may be a clichéd song title, but it’s got an infectious disco groove, and the chorus is catchy as glue, so that can be forgiven. The 70s sound hasn’t been eschewed completely though, as “Winged and Serpentine” with its piano and Scorpions-style harmonized guitars has shades of that era.
My favorite song has to be “Can’t Be that Bad”, whose chorus is a little bit similar to “You Give Love a Bad Name” by Bon Jovi, but not too much – taking familiar ingredients and making them feel fresh is NFO’s biggest strength. The title-track makes me grin with its Finnish spoken word bits and the brilliant synth solo, while the ambitious “The Last of the Independent Romantics” is a nice representation of the band’s prog sensibilities and probably the band’s best long song besides “Transatlantic Blues” from the Internal Affairs (2012) debut. Strid’s vocal performance on “Barcelona” is so convincing that it makes you believe the city must be dear to him, and he also makes “Moments of Thunder” and “Lovers in the Rain” the big anthems that they deserve to be. The only track that leaves you wanting more is “Speedwagon”, which rushes to the chorus a little too quickly and could’ve been elaborated on.
Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough is a rock-solid album, but coming so soon off the heels of Amber Galactic, its impact is not as strong, and it also doesn’t feel as cohesive as an entity. Besides, I wish the band would’ve utilized their female backing vocalists more, because that’s a distinct feature that separates them from other bands in the field of retro rock. Since I gave Amber Galactic a 9½, it’s hard to give more than an 8½ to Sometimes…, as good as it is. Then again, Amber Galactic struck me out of nowhere and I had no prior expectations going into it, so comparing these two albums is a little unfair in that regard – maybe in a year or two it’ll be easier to look at the two albums in a more objective light. In any case, this record is not a disappointment by any means, and hopefully it’ll introduce even more people to the NFO universe.
Rating: 8½/10, 4 stars
Bear: I hadn’t listened to Amber Galactic before trying this out, so this counts as my first NFO album. That may explain why I liked this album better. Songs like “Paralyzed”, “Barcelona”, and “Pretty Thing Closing In” are all a delight to listen to, and while there is a lot of cheese on the album, it’s funtime cheese and pretty entertaining to listen to straight through. To compare to its predecessor, Amber Galatic certainly has a lot more funky songs on it, and is likewise a bit slower on the whole. My extra points to STWAO are because Strid’s vocals are just so much better all around. Both albums have their merits, but this one is my favorite of the two.
Rating: 9½/10, 4.5 stars
1. This Time
2. Turn to Miami
4. Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough
5. Moments of Thunder
7. Lovers in the Rain
8. Can’t Be That Bad
9. Pretty Thing Closing in
11. Winged and Serpentine
12. The Last of the Independent Romantics