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Familiar, But Incredibly Refreshing - 95%

Xpyro125, January 4th, 2021
Written based on this version: 2020, Digital, Seek & Strike

It's been a while since I've listened to a melodeath album that really scratched that itch for me. I've been wanting to get back into the subgenre for a while, so I decided to go to a few different places and see what people have been listening to lately. After at least eight or so songs that just didn't grab my interest, I listened to "Behold", and it immediately captured me.

I'd like to preface this by saying that I know nothing about Orbit Culture. I haven't listened to them before, nor any of their other works aside from Nija, so I can't really make any sort of comparisons to the rest of their discography.

Niklas' vocals are quite interesting. His clean vocals sound like James Hetfield, for the most part, and his harsh vocals sound like Christian Älvestam. It's a combination I wouldn't have ever thought of, but it works incredibly well! Even then, he occasionally breaks away from both comparisons, and it sounds just as good. He makes for quite the dynamic vocalist, especially since he doesn't just do the harsh verse/clean chorus structure that so many melodeath bands trap themselves in. I bring this up because, unfortunately, the genre is so oversaturated that it can quickly become stale.

Every now and then, there are acoustic guitars, pianos, and even some electronics (The latter of which stays towards the back of the mix, so it never sounds annoying or overbearing), and they all sounds quite nice. Any sort of additional instrumentation, aside from the standard guitars, drums, and bass, are used sparingly to enhance the music, and they never overstay their welcome. The guitars, drums, and bass all sound pretty good, though the only real noteworthy thing to say is that they sometimes go into more of a groove metal sound. While one might think of someone like Devildriver to compare them to in that regard, it really doesn't work- and in a way, listening to both of them really does show an 'American' sound versus a 'Swedish' sound. I think I prefer Orbit Culture's take on groove metal to Devildriver, with only three or four songs being exceptions for me.

"Behold" is interesting in the fact that it starts off with an alt rock/alt metal ballad sound, but halfway through it goes into a groove-styled breakdown. It's something I can't quite describe in words, you'd have to listen to it for yourself to understand. "Day of the Cloud" has a mainstream melodeath/metalcore style harsh verse/clean chorus structure, though it's one of the only songs to do so on the album, and thus actually sounds unique on that front. Even then, the band shows off some incredible musicianship with a clean instrumental break halfway through and a nice groove at the end. Meanwhile, "Set Us Free" is a beautiful orchestral instrumental which acts as a near-perfect one minute closer, with its only flaw being that I wish it lasted longer.

The frustrating thing is that there is no good way to put anything about this album into words. Yeah, Niklas' vocals sound like Hetfield and Älvestam, and yeah, it's mostly melodeath and groove metal, but that isn't even close to all of what this album has to offer. Each song is a different experience, and what might be my highlights might be less of your thing, and vice versa. Sure, it's nothing revolutionary, but I don't really think that there's much that is or can be anymore. Even still, they stand out amongst the crowd for their talent, musicianship, and overall fantastic product in the midst of an oversatured, stale genre which can often be stagnant in what artists do with it. If there's anyone who I'd recommend this album to, it's Scar Symmetry/Solution .45 fans, or people who enjoy Älvestam's harsh vocals but just can't do his clean vocals. Hell, I'd even recommend this to Metallica fans, especially if they're looking for a way to get into melodeath. I doubt that there are many fans like that, but if there's even one, this is the album for you.

I love this album, it's injected new life into melodeath for me, at least for my listening of the genre for right now. I really don't think that this review does it justice in the least. I don't know that anyone can really put this album into words, much less do that well. It's something you'd absolutely have to listen to for yourself.

Tracks to Recommend: "Behold", "Day of the Cloud", "Open Eye" (It captures a thrash metal sound incredibly, and if anything, sounds like what Metallica could've and should've been in the 90s, at least in my opinion)

Tracks to Avoid: N/A

Orbit Culture - Nija - 90%

John_e _C, December 29th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, CD, Seek & Strike

With just over one year passed since the release of their EP Redfog, Orbit Culture had returned to the studio in June of 2019 to begin work on their third full length album Nija. Short time frames between releases, while a positive reflection of a bands work ethic, can sometimes raise questions regarding the quality of the final product. For instance, has the band allowed themselves enough time to produce a fully fleshed out creative output, or are they just trying to release rushed music to make a fast profit? In the case of Orbit Culture’s Nija, a short writing time frame has evidently worked to their benefit as the band has produced one of their most dynamic and well thought out releases yet.

From the introductory drum fill of the opening track “At the Front”, the band instantly captures the listeners attention and straps them in for a white-knuckled thrill ride of melodic death metal riffs and anthemic choruses. The following track “North Star of Nija”, displays one of the albums most memorable riffs; a mid-paced, foot-stomping head banger that transitions excellently into the epic chorus section. Tracks such as the Metallica “Sad but True” inspired “Mirrorslave”, and the simple, but effective riff in “The Shadowing” are also stand outs in the riff department although there is no shortage of strong instrumentals packed into Nija. My only criticism with the riffs, albeit a small one, is that some of them can sound a bit muddy at times due to the low tuned guitars. However, this is not a significant issue due to the album’s strong production where the instruments can be heard with clarity much of the time.

One of the areas where Nija really excels is with its pacing. The track list is arranged where the songs are evenly spread out and the band breaks up the chaos of heavier tracks with the occasional ballad. These softer songs are very well executed and are sung by Karlsson with passion and feeling before adding in distorted guitars and transitioning into heavy segments. The reverse also happens to many of the heavier songs on the album where they are broken up by a well-placed clean/melodic section. Anyone familiar with Orbit Culture’s past work knows that they are no stranger to these melodic passages, and they are executed masterfully on Nija. A strong example is the melodic bridge section of “Day of the Cloud” but the real stand out of the album is on the finale of “The Shadowing”. On this track the band teases a breakdown but then transitions beautifully into a clean guitar break. Horns, choirs, and strings are added in layers to build tension and create a finale of truly epic proportions that is then followed upon by the albums closer/epilogue “Set Us Free”.

Although conditions for the heavy metal scene have looked very bleak in 2020 and will continue to look this way for the foreseeable future, Orbit Culture’s Nija is a prime example that the music side of 2020 is as strong as ever. This 10-track offering is melodic death metal executed at a masterful level and is proof that Orbit Culture continue to out do themselves with every release. I would highly recommend listening to this album as well as checking out the bonus track “Wargblod” as it is another fantastic track worthy of attention.


Favourite Songs: North Star of Nija, Day of the Cloud, Behold, Mirror Slave, Rebirth, The Shadowing

NIJA / Metal All The Time - 95%

Sargeantdeath99, August 29th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, CD, Seek & Strike

Orbit Culture are progressive melodic death band from Eksjö, Sweden. Orbit Culture is a four piece band with Niklas Karlsson handing vocals as well as guitar, it is also worth mentioning he is listed as the songwriter and lyricist. Fredrik Lennartsson is on bass, Richard Hansson handles the lead guitar and last on the band list is Christopher Wallerstedt on the drums. Niklas is the only founding member, the rest of the band has joined relatively recently, Fredrik and Richard joined in 2017, and Christopher joined the band in 2019.

2020 has been an absolute shit show so far, however it has been arguably one of the greatest years in terms of releases for heavy metal. With Nija Orbit Culture are looking to strengthen and add their names to that list. If I were to get someone to check this album out I would simply start with the comparison of a band that is Metallica meets Gojira, that may sound like high praise for a band that is just starting to achieve mainstream success, but allow me to explain.

Orbit Culture show with this album why the hype surrounding the band is warranted. It has everything a person can want from a metal band, let's start with the damn near perfect guitars, and yes they even successfully pull of the Gojira-esque pick scraping. They set the stage on fire and continue dumping gasoline into the fire, non stop action. Drumming in my opinion is arguably the most important piece for a band, it is the backbone, and Orbit Culture clearly have a backbone made out of titanium. Vocally the bands screams are fucking phenomenal, and you couple that alongside a young James Hetfield sounding cleans, it's a perfect mixture. I will say I personally enjoy his screaming way more, in my honest opinion the screams may be some of the best in metal to date.

Nija has serious tone, its lyrical theme tackles many issues that are currently plaguing planet earth. I will always enjoy an album that tackles serious issues, as I believe metal is about telling these things in true meaningful lyrics. 95/10 is a very fair rating in my opinion, especially as this album will be contending for album of the year.

In the wake of industrialized rage. - 80%

hells_unicorn, August 7th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, CD, Seek & Strike

The Gothenburg melodic death metal craze of yesteryear has seen a fair number of interesting offshoots, perhaps none more visible than the commercialized melodic groove metal that became all the rage in the late 2000s, coalescing around a sound heavily informed by the post-Clayman studio work of In Flames. One would be remiss not to note the popularity of several other noted Swedish acts such as Sonic Syndicate, their more stylized continuation The Unguided and Solution .45, each providing a largely formulaic product that’s tailor made for rock radio, yet not without a certain degree of charm. There has, naturally, been a darker and more forbidding side to this coin that leans a bit more closely towards the thudding heaviness of a number of American groove acts like Lamb Of God and the industrial styling of Mechina, and it is from this wellspring that Eksjo’s own Orbit Culture flows.

Having originally formed in the middle of the previous decade, this outfit basically carved out a curious niche of older 90s groove metal and industrial underpinnings of Ministry and Fear Factory and married it to the post-Gothenburg craze of their day, resulting in two solid yet largely unsung studio LPs. As the 2010s drew closer to a conclusion front man and guitarist Niklas Karlsson would see all his original band mates jump ship, being replaced with a trio of relative newcomers to the scene, but this would not see a significant impact upon the band’s overall sound, as Karlsson proves himself to be the most consequential and noteworthy part of this equation. This isn’t to say that the rest of the band doesn’t bring their “A” game to this outfit’s 3rd studio outing Nija, but more so that Niklas’ unique blend of ferocious death barks and gritty, Hetfield meets Chuck Billy yet tuneful gruff vocalizations is what makes it truly distinctive.

Though of a generally moderate length and featuring an assortment of songs that shy away from breaking the 6 minute mark, this album proves to be an engaging and surprisingly varied excursion into the cold, metallic world of industrialized groove metal. The mixture of mechanized yet frenetic drumming, pounding low-pitch guitar grooves and occasional thrashing riffs and multifaceted vocal work contains occasional flourishes of latter day Nevermore, minus the overt technical noodling, but more often than not the presentation here tends to cross paths with the likes of French acts like Gojira and Dagoba, having more of an atmospheric aesthetic that blends seamlessly with the more repetitious and harsh moments. The shifting of moods in the music itself tends away from the generally monolithic heaviness of Lamb Of God, though when things are at full blast comparisons to said band’s recent handiwork are difficult to avoid.

Within this diverse melee of auditory violence, there are a few recurring formulas that make for a cohesive listen, and occasionally give the impression of a more formulaic album underneath the surface. On one end of the spectrum are a number of longer and more nuanced offerings such as the quasi-balladry turned pile driver aggression of “Behold” and “Rebirth”, and a couple of similarly slower yet more militaristic groove machines like “Nensha” and “North Star Of Nija” that express the duality of consonance and ferocity without the quieter moments. However, the truly gripping moments that make this album work are the faster and more consistently rugged offerings such as the Lamb Of God-inspired punch of opener “At The Front” and its twin and album closer “The Shadowing”, balancing busy riff work with some solid chorus hooks indicative of this band’s melodeath underpinnings, while this album’s leadoff single “Open Eye” stands out even more by laying on a chaotic thrashing riff assault accompanied by an eerie keyboard presence that brings things dangerously close to the most brilliant moments of Fear Factory’s Demanufacture.

It’s a curious and sometimes confounding path that this album walks between subtlety and also being about as unsubtle as a 2-ton anvil to the skull, but Orbit Culture carries it quite well and delivers a consistent package here that rivals the more experienced adherents to the industrialized side of the groove metal coin. If there is any flaw in the presentation here it is that the band doesn’t quite exploit the lead guitar contingent of their formula to the extent that they really could, and rely a bit more on repetition and shifts in timbre, resulting in an overall listening experience that feels a tad understated. The few moments Richard Hansson throws in a couple of intricate lead lines, such as the wah wah solos that filter in and out of “Open Eye”, their sound gets that little extra something that makes it all the more satisfying. But as far as bands that trudge the polluted ponds surrounding the abandoned factories of the metal world go, one could definitely do a lot worse.

Originally written for Sonic Perspectives (