Side projects are an interesting thing, especially when they are a chance for the musicians involved to explore different musical territories to the ones they are known for. Bjorn Strid is mainly known as the vocalist in Soliwork and Sharlee D’Angelo is emphatically the bassist for Arch Enemy and Spiritual Beggars. Add into the mix four other musicians, two of them from Power Metallers Mean Streak and one of the last things you would think are getting is 80’s style AOR/Hard Rock! Well, as anyone who has heard The Nightflight Orchestra before knows, that’s exactly what you are getting.

I reviewed previous outing “Amber Galactic” for these hallowed pages a mere year ago, at which point I waxed lyrical about the two sides to the band – their Graham Bonnet era Rainbow-style Melodic Metal and their American Radio Rock side. Naturally I favoured the former and hoped for more like classic Metal akin to the opening two tracks from that album. I was clearly in a minority as the band have tipped even further into the AOR and that fabulous Bonnet-esque driving Metal seems to have been consigned to, well, a bit of the opening track basically (though vocally there are echos of it at times throughout the album). But I’m not here to bang on about what I would like the band to be, let’s get into what the album actually is.

So, as mentioned earlier, opener ‘This Time’ is the only particularly Metal-ish track on the album, revisiting that vibe the opener from the previous album captured so well, though this time around the emphasis is a little more on the keyboards, a trait that continues throughout “STWAE”. This doesn’t profess to being a Metal album though, and the band waste no time in displaying their admirable AOR credentials on following track ‘Turn to Miami’, which mixes in a little 80’s synth-pop to further emphasize the era it is emulating. There’s more than a hint of funk to ‘Paralyzed’ before the title track straddles a fine line between very melodic metal and radio rock.

‘Moments of Thunder’ is next up and is probably best described as a Foreigner style power ballad, ‘Speedwagon’ is clearly missing an REO prefix to further drive home it’s musical influence and ‘Lovers in the Rain’ is prime-time Journey. These tracks are all executed just as well as the bands they remind me of, before anyone thinks this is a third rate copy. NFO are excellent at this style, it’s brilliantly performed, fabulously sung and there are few bands who have been churning this style out for years that can beat them at it right now. ‘Can’t Be That Bad’ is a touch too similar to Bon Jovi perhaps and 80’s pop/rock is dabbled with once more on ‘Pretty Thing Closing In’. ‘Barcelona’ is a possible sequel to the band’s ‘Star Of Rio’ from the previous album, but with a much more commercial approach. ‘Winged and Serpentine’ has a feel of Kansas’ ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ and the whole album is rounded out with another polished piece of 80’s pop infused AOR on ‘The Last of the Independent Romantics’.

And there you have it, perfectly executed in the style it was intended, leaving most Ave Noctum readers thinking WTF and who the hell are these bands that this guy on about? That’s just one of the problems for me personally, I know this is a great album in it’s style, but in all honesty if it wasn’t by the people involved on Nuclear Blast, I doubt it would get featured in any well respected Metal zine. A step too far into the light-side for me and I am a little disappointed given the promise of previous releases, but if 80’s pop infused hard rock and AOR if your thing then you’d probably be hard pushed to find a better example this year.

(6/10 Andy Barker)