Descent isn't just one of 2023's best albums: it should be the record that finally confirms Orbit Culture as metal's next big breakout band

Fans of Gojira and Parkway Drive take note: you do not want to be sleeping on Orbit Culture

Orbit Culture in 2023
(Image: © Press)

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After several albums of accomplished odes to their country’s imperious metallic pedigree, 2020’s Nija finally put more eyes and ears on deserving Swedes Orbit Culture. Follow-up EP Shaman further tantalised with its marrying of dynamics with irresistible hooks, but it just scratched the surface of what is fully realised on their fifth full-length.

Descent sounds enormous. Countless bands have attempted to recapture the overwhelming effect of Metallica and Pantera grooves over the last 30 years without sounding clichéd or derivative, yet Orbit Culture may just have struck gold. Led by Niklas Karlsson’s commanding roar, the band adeptly combine varying strands of melodic death metal with synths, electronics and the likes of Parkway Drive’s muscular modern might, and no element feels incongruent or forced. Strings and choirs add drama to the powerful opening combo of Black Mountain and Sorrower, with the latter’s ascent to epic realms evoking Insomnium’s windswept heroism, before From The Inside’s epic chime emerges from a dominant industrial stomp.

Authoritative rhythms propel Alienated and Vultures Of North, as dissonant electric thrum and dancefloor-filling beats are delivered as a dense wall of sound by a sterling mix. Such is the quality of the anthemic builds, it’s a shame that Niklas’s raspy clean vocals just lack that distinctive power to cement the likes of Undercity in the mass consciousness, but The Aisle Of Fire’s simple refrain that arises from another whirlwind of righteous riffs and propulsive drums should be carried by the massive crowds this music is designed for.

As bands like Lorna Shore, or even Gojira, have proven, breakthrough moments aren’t always immediate. They take time, talent and effort for the stars to align. With Descent, Orbit Culture may have finally lit that all-important spark.

Adam Brennan

Rugby, Sean Bean and power ballad superfan Adam has been writing for Hammer since 2007, and has a bad habit of constructing sentences longer than most Dream Theater songs. Can usually be found cowering at the back of gigs in Bristol and Cardiff. Bruce Dickinson once called him a 'sad bastard'.