Amber Galactic is the third album from the Swedish hard rock supergroup and it sees the ambitious prog of Marillion, the euro rock pomp of Europe and the ‘80s vigour and earnestness of Survivor, Foreigner and Starship all feed the glamorous classic rock revivalism of The Night Flight Orchestra.
The band was formed by Soilwork’s Björn ‘Speed’ Strid and David Andersson and the music is a spot-on approximation of the pomp rock sound they are revivifying, but it is the vocals that really sell Amber Galactic. In the 21st century, this music shouldn't work but Strid is NFO’s trump card. We know from his work with Soilwork that he has a powerful clean singing voice but here he utilises it to its fullest extent.
There are dozens of bands trying to breathe life into the classic rock corpse but they all sound second rate when compared with Amber Galactic. Not since The Darkness’ 2003 magnum opus, Permission To Land, has this been successfully attempted. NFO would be as well-suited to headlining Download as they would to competing in the Eurovision. We spoke with Strid about what started out as a drunken notion between bandmates, and has developed into something more.
“It all came together on a North American tour that we did in 2008” he says. “David was the session guitar player for Soilwork on that tour. I didn't know him before that and we very quickly started bonding over classic rock, and songwriting and women's names in lyrics. We ended up in the back lounge every night. To the point where the other guys in the band got really sick of us. It was a five week tour so you can imagine. At the end of that tour we promised ourselves that we would start a band to capture it. It became a reality. It was one of those drunken ideas that actually became a reality.”
Listening to the record, you will completely have forgotten the band members' death metal roots. Strid’s singing voice with NFO is reminiscent of Fish, Queensryche and even Rob Halford. He is in his element with NFO but he wasn’t always so sure about it. “I didn't feel confident when I first approached this band but I was excited and curious. When I found out it was the greatest kick in the world. Now I get to have the best of both worlds. Since I've started Night Flight, the other end has become more extreme and more intense, and even darker. I feel like I’m complete in many ways. I don’t feel like I need to be Lou Gramm from Foreigner and Tom Araya from Slayer in the same band anymore.”
“People can't believe it; “Is that him singing?”, “Is that Sharlee D'Angelo (Arch Enemy) playing bass on ‘Domino’?”. It's pretty interesting. I guess we will shock some people. I always aim to surprise people musically. I'm a musical chameleon in a sense. This comes from a good place. There's so much love behind it. It's not a nostalgia act or a pastiche. It's more than that. There's so much musicianship and knowledge behind it, and great songwriters. We're doing it for the right reasons. It's not something that just looks good on paper; “Let's get a bunch of famous metal musicians and get them to do a ‘70s project”, it's more than that.”
“It was important that they shared the same love for that era, and had an understanding of it. We did some brainstorming and this is what we came up with. It's such a creative unit. It works perfectly. On a personal level, the chemistry is fantastic. We are so creative together and there is a silent understanding. We communicate very well musically.”
Strid and Andersson are the main songwriters “but also Sebastian (Forslund – congas, percussion, guitar). He became a permanent member sometime during the last album. He mixed the last album, and also this one. He wrote ‘Gemini’ and ‘Jennie’ on Amber Galactic, two fantastic tracks. He's a brilliant songwriter. A great addition to the band.”
“As seasoned musicians, we’re taking this project seriously, although we might come across as slightly retrofuturistic at times, there's no irony involved ... It sounds refreshing. It's like a lost art. The way you wrote those songs but also the way you produced albums. It's timeless. It works today. It's needed out there. Of course, there are so many retro rock bands coming out in the last 5-7 years. But it's different from what we're doing. A lot of what's around is influenced by early ‘70s stuff and Black Sabbath, we're doing something completely different. We're on a mission.”
It can be no coincidence that Soilwork have been reinvigorated since he started work with this band. “I think so too. It all makes sense. I’m bringing the more melancholic and darker side to Soilwork, and Night Flight is like my party band. I don't want to make it sound shallow. We've been touring all over the world and we just found some weeks here and there to record and write. The switch is pretty easy. When you come home from doing a metal tour, it's very therapeutic to sit down and approach some songwriting as light as that. We're slowing down now with Soilwork. The touring cycle for The Ride Majestic is pretty much over. Now we're going to focus on Night Flight for a while. Me and David really need it. It's going to be easier for me to approach the next album with Soilwork as well.”
There hasn’t been an NFO tour before but they have played a few festivals in recent years, so the big question is whether we will see a tour for Amber Galactic. “That's definitely in the pipeline. It's something we really want to do. The two first albums went under the radar a little bit. Considering the limited distribution, we have a fairly big fan base. I think promoters will get to us more now we're signed to Nuclear Blast. It gives us a whole new dimension of possibilities. We do want to tour.”