"Amber Galactic"

By Lord Randall

 Ever been glad to be wrong? After decades slingin’ ink (now kilobytes?) for various publications – Hell, after simply being a fan of hard rock/metal for as long – I’m allowed a certain level of jaded cynicism when it comes to what’s touted at the “Next Big Thing”. Anyone would be. 

THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA? Sounds like a band of geezers at a country landing strip and shed masquerading as an airport. "Amber Galactic". Sure, why not? But the cover looks like I’m in for some LACUNA COIL faux-metal, or at the very least, those two THEATRE OF TRAGEDY albums where they thought they were electropop. 

And then, I pressed Play. While an avowed fan of SOILWORK up to "The Chainheart Machine", and of The Many Faces Of Sharlee D’Angelo, I must say I was ill-prepared for the spot-on AOR that wrapped itself comfortably around my ears within the first 2 minutes of ‘Midnight Flyer’ with its four-on-the-floor rhythm and life-affirming opening lyric “I’m not leaving, I’m just going somewhere else / Far beyond the sighs and whispers / And the weakness of myself.” Fair warning, if the use of keyboards is a deal-breaker, you’ll want to steer clear of Amber Galactic, but when they’re as tastefully done as in the STEELY DAN-shaded ‘Gemini’, it’s hard not to enjoy. Kudos to Richard Larsson here, for his work, and to Strid, who establishes himself as a high-quality singer on the level of Doogie White and GREEN CARNATION’s Kjetil Nordhus independent of his “main” band. There’s a bit of a hiccup – for me, at least – in the beginning of ‘Jennie’, the ghost of SUPERTRAMP’s uber-saccharine ‘Breakfast In America’ frightening me to the point that I was shocked when the lyrics didn’t begin with “Take a look at my girlfriend.” It’s a minor speedbump, though, and easily moved past when ‘Domino’, with its ALAN PARSONS PROJECT/FOREIGNER vibe which, for all intents and purposes shouldn’t work, but does, and beautifully. Worry not, rockers, all is not lighter-weight pop fare, ‘Space Whisper’ recalling Joe Lynn Turner-era RAINBOW, hard-charging, energetic and memorable.

 In the end, THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA has created not only an album for all of those with a soft spot for harder rocking days. It’s gonna take a lot to knock "Amber Galactic" out of my Top Ten this year.