I adore this band. Ever since I checked out their debut album Internal Affairs (2012), the nines has been flying around on every single album-review of mine and I stick to that to this day. The band’s mix of Classic Rock, AOR, Funk, Pop, Disco and Hard Rock has been moving more and more towards pure AOR with each album and even though I sometimes miss the almost schizophrenic mix of styles from the debut, the guys’ ability to completely spew out brilliant songs seems endless. Add to the fact that they sport their own identity – you can spot a NFO tune by the second – and it’s clear that NFO is one of the absolutely best Rock bands this country has to offer – total world class all the way.
Of course, that means that whenever NFO is about to release a new record, expectations from your truly are Mount Everest high – anything except great will be a disappointment for me, only good just won’t cut it. And no, I’d never decide beforehand that an album by this band is great just because it’s them. After four brilliant records I can’t help wondering when the downfall is gonna come – every band has one – but I keep my fingers crossed that it won’t be with this record, their fifth in eight years – an incredible achievement in a day and and when bands take three or four years in between albums. Also, all members of the band are involved in other bands as well which makes it even more impressing.
Opener ”Servants Of The Air” is exactly as good has I had hoped, which makes me breath a sigh. This uptempo and quite punchy number is more Hard Rock inspired and even glances at Metal at times but still holds the big AOR arrangements and personal melodies that are NFO’s trademark. Chugging guitars and double kick-drums mixed with smooth and memorable melodies is a marriage made in heaven in the world of NFO. The chorus is crafty and hugely catchy albeit not in a potential single kind of way. Brilliant. Leading single ”Divinyls” is a rhythmic, quite 80’s sounding pop-rocker, upbeat and slick but never cheesy. The hooks are all over the place and the chorus is massive, so catchy it hurts and the hit-potential is enormous. It might be one NFO’s poppier moments but damn what a killer of a song. Fan-bloody-tastic!
”If Tonight Is Our Only Chance” holds a huge pop-groove, massive hooks everywhere and the slick AOR arrangements comes in a grand sound-scape with another refrain so immediately catchy and striking I’m absolutely floored. It’s slightly sugary and the ABBA vibes puts on of their feet in the Rock department of Eurovision Song Contest but it also makes me think of some uptempo pop-rock 80’s action-movie score and the mixture is a total winner. The hit-potential here is obvious and striking – this should be another single. Awesome! ”This Boy’s Last Summer” is rocked up 80’s top 40 radio-pop on an upbeat note with lots of AOR references. Even if the song holds its rockier moments, this is more Pop than Rock but who cares when the hitty hooks draws you in immediately and the refrain is a mastodon, smooth and catchy as hell. A phenomenal song that knocked me for six right off the bat.
With a groove so swinging it almost makes me dizzy, ”Curves” kicks into gear with a rock-funk-disco rhythm 70’s style that blends masterfully with the smoother AOR-influenced melodies, melodies that belongs in the early 80’s, early Toto in particular. With an über-catchy and immense chorus on top making this another big single-contender, you have to be comatose to not get worked up by this tune. On an infectious groove, second single ”Transmissions” holds a darker vibe and a slightly spacey arrangement but it also brings 70’s disco-vibes on a rendez-vous with 80’s pop-vibes and a chorus knocking on Eurovision Song Contest’s door. But since the whole she-bang has all the NFO elements when it comes to melody arrangements, it works splendidly. And let’s not forget about the violins either! It’s a hit to be and it sticks like super-glue. Magnificent stuff.
The title-track holds an upbeat, straight-forward pace and sends a big groove our way but is also filled with loads of keyboards, which takes this Classic Rock and Hard Rock influenced stomper into territories of both Pop and AOR. Blended in is also 70’s disco, ABBA-like melodies and a chorus that holds a dramatic yet amazingly memorable musical theatre vibe. This one is so catchy it’s ridiculous. I’m floored! ”Golden Swansdown” is slower and more laid-back with verses that makes me think of mid to late 80’s Magnum and the AOR era of Swedish rockers Easy Action. It’s a low-key number on the threshold to power-balladry. The chorus is laid-back but also bombastic and even slightly symphonic – and keyboard sound is total Magnum. With big melodies, enough hooks to start up a fishing-gear store and a massive refrain, the song is yet another winner. Brilliant.
Latest single ”Taurus” is uptempo, straight ahead and clearly more Hard Rock influenced and a bit heavier than the rest but it also contains some slick vocal melodies and a huge keyboard sound-scape. It’s pretty bang-on-target and in-your-face with an invigorating chorus, catchy as hell without being too radio-friendly. To me, this is more of an album track than an actual single, but it’s still a damn good song. ”Carmencita Seven” comes with a heavier outlook, a tougher beat and fatter riffing that’s stompy and straight-forward while the pre-chorus goes a bit more mid 80’s slick with large keyboard riffs which takes us to the the mighty, hook-laden refrain that hits bulls-eye right on the spot. This 7-minute piece also holds a somewhat progressive outlook with changing song-structure to spice things up a bit. And just when we thought we had the song, there’s a shredding guitar outro for good measure. I love this.
”Sister Mercurial” is Classic Rock seduced by AOR while dancing to the rhythmic beats and intense groove. Soundwise, this one takes us back to the debut albeit with a slicker twist and some 80’s smelling keyboards. The Classic Rock vibes gives the tune crispier sound and the distinct and effective chorus is another melody-fest that’s highly seductive. Great. Closing track ”Dead Of Winter” starts out with a spacey and dreamy synth before the song goes off with some heavier, edgier Classic Rock riffs, touched up with some 80’s sounding keyboards with a fat, rhythmic beat that grooves up the tune. Then a chunky rhythm and more big Pop meets AOR melodies chimes in and takes us to a direct and catchy yet not smooth and slick refrain. With progressive passages and changing structures, the song takes on a whole different vibe than the rest of the album. Towards the end, the band lets loose and takes on a prog-frenzy before the tune goes back to its normal and the band says goodbye for now. Impressing and so out-of-this-world good.
First of all, this is their most slick and smooth AOR-ish album to date and even though there are a good deal of mixture here – Classic Rock, Disco, Funk, Hard Rock, Pop – those elements seem to disappear more and more by each record. On one hand, I think that’s a pity but on the other hand I don’t give a shit as long as the songs are so amazingly good as they are here. Five albums under their belts and still not a song even close to bad in sight – this one’s obviously not the album where the downfall shows up. I thought they had reached their peak with the brilliant previous album Sometimes The World Ain’t Enough (2018) but this one is even slightly better, almost as great as the masterpiece debut. I know that NFO gets bigger and bigger by every year but in my book, world domination should have been embracing this lot years ago. If you haven’t discovered this amazing band by now, it’s bloody time to do so. This will easily be top 5 when the album of the year is being selected.
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