Orbit Culture Frontman Recalls Night Gojira "Changed Everything I Knew About Metal" | Revolver

Orbit Culture Frontman Recalls Night Gojira "Changed Everything I Knew About Metal"

Niklas Karlsson tells how gaming "LAN party" turned into life-altering musical moment
orbit culture live 2021 PRESS mortiz, Moritz Hartmann
photograph by Moritz Hartmann

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Sweden's Orbit Culture are on the verge of something big. Since forming in 2013, the rising atmospheric extreme-metal quartet dialed-in their approach over two albums before dropping last year's powerhouse Nija — a crushing statement that channeled Metallica's massive hooks and Gojira's technical grooves and contained bandleader Niklas Karlsson's intense lyrics exploring his own personal struggles with harm OCD. It's an arresting mix that has audiences captivated: Nija's cinematic videos have received hundreds of thousands of views and Orbit Culture continue to inspire a passionate growing fan base (including Revolver readers, who recently voted the band one of the acts most likely to break out in 2021).

When it comes to his own inspirations, Karlsson doesn't mince words: Metallica and Gojira are the bedrock on which he's built his musical vision. While the Bay Area behemoths have always been staples in his musical diet, it took him a couple tries before he connected with Gojira. But when he did, the French groove-metal icons' music changed him forever. Below, Karlsson shares the unexpected origin story of his Gojira worship: how a LAN gaming party turned into a life-altering musical, and spiritual, experience.

TELL US THE STORY ABOUT HOW YOU FIRST DISCOVERED GOJIRA.
I think I came across Gojira when I was around seventeen back in school, my metal friends were talking quite a lot about the album The Way of All Flesh … But I was very much into Metallica at the time, so I didn't really give it a chance until we decided to have LAN party together, all of us friends. That night changed everything I knew about metal and music in general.

Everyone at the party had fallen asleep in the early morning hours and I was the only one up still gaming and browsing around for new music. I came across "Where Dragons Dwell" [from 2005's From Mars to Sirius] by the band and when that intro came on, it felt like I was feeling a high of some sort, it just sucked me right in. I continued through From Mars to Sirius all the way to The Way of All Flesh and the song "The Art of Dying" came on. After experiencing that song for the first time, I put my headphones off slowly and my strained eyes started to water, my perception of the power of music from that moment completely changed. This was not even music anymore; this was something else talking straight into my eighteen-year-old soul. After that experience, I fell asleep, woke up, packed up my stuff and went straight home to write riffs and songs, fueled by what I just had heard. I will never forget that day.

HOW HAS GOJIRA INFLUENCED WHAT YOU'RE DOING IN ORBIT CULTURE?
A mixture of Metallica and Gojira is the backbone — no pun intended — of our sound and music. Without either band, Orbit Culture simply would not exist. You can hear Gojira elements in all of our songs. In songs like "Sun of All," "Nensha" and "The Shadowing" from our repertoire, you can really hear that we are trying to include some of [drummer] Mario [Duplantier's] work with the ride cymbal and some full-on Joe Duplantier–inspired vocals. Small details like that. [Laughs] Study the greats they say.

GOJIRA WORK THEIR PERSONAL PASSIONS, INCLUDING ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS AND ACTIVISM, INTO THEIR MUSIC. IS THAT AN ASPECT OF THE BAND YOU CONNECT WITH? OR IS IT PURELY MUSICAL?
Absolutely, but not to the extent that we should. Some of us are vegetarians, some of us donate money to charities surrounding animal rights every month and that sort of thing. It's not much and you can always do more, of course. Gojira is getting their message out for sure. They introduced me to the Sea Sheppard project, for instance, and we are seeing a lot more people, powerful people, getting engaged in questions like this every day and we are all for it. The lyrical content is very much inline of what questions we should be talking about today. With the heavy power of their music backing that sort of lyrical topic, it gets across without a doubt.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE GOJIRA ALBUM?
That's a tough one. Every one of them are absolute masterpieces from beginning to end, packed with different flavors. Right now, it has to be From Mars to Sirius, I always tend to come back to that one. Being somewhat of a music production nerd myself, I'm really fascinated by the mix on that record. I feel like that's a mix that would only fit that set of songs and this band and nothing else, and it works perfectly. However, the most special to me of all time has to be The Way of All Flesh, in regard to the experience I got listening to it for the first time. Such a solid and powerful record.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE GOJIRA SONG?
It changes from day to day. That's what so beautiful with this band. They really put different moods in the riffs and songs without losing the Gojira-esque feel. If I feel down or sad, my go-to song is "Global Warming" or maybe "Liquid Fire."  In "Global Warming," that endless tapping on the guitar really sets the tone and puts you in the mood you are supposed to be in when listening to the accompanied lyrics. That song cries with me, but also indulges [a] feeling [of] some hope, I suppose. Incredibly strong track. If I feel strong, empowered and energetic, my go-to song is "Flying Whales" and I'm sure people listening to Gojira will agree with me. The riffs, the vocals, the whole package is just a straight-up banger.

HAVE YOU EVER SEEN THEM LIVE?
Yes, I have. I believe it was in the fall of 2012, when they visited a venue called Göta Källare in the heart of Stockholm. I was studying outside of Umeå in the northern parts of Sweden at the time, so after a seven-hour train ride south, I finally arrived in Stockholm where I met up with three of my friends. We got to the venue in time but one of my friends forgot to bring his ID, so he didn't get in that night. We tried to persuade the doorman, but to no avail. Our friend took the subway home and the rest of us got inside the venue. He, as much as we, had no idea what he was going to miss out on.

We got in, we bought a beer, took a corner in the venue and talked quietly to each other, being Swedes and all. There was an excitement in the air that night and all of us thought to ourselves: 'It's finally time to see Gojira, it's finally time.' Even though we were around eighteen and nineteen, we were not much of concertgoers, so we completely forgot that shows usually had support bands. [Laughs] The Swedish metal act Avatar came on and played, and it was great. The night continued and we bought more beverages, and we all got a little tipsy, so we started to talk to more Gojira fans around the venue, all of a sudden feeling part of the show-goers.

Finally, the light guy turned on Gojira's lights and the adrenaline started pumping. With the bladder full of beer and the blood pumping, Gojira finally came on with a bang. They opened with the track "Explosia" from the album L'Enfant Sauvage. From the first note they played it took me straight back to the LAN-party hearing The Art of Dying for the first time. It was powerful. And they actually performed "The Art of Dying" that night, which was incredible. Joe poured water on all of our faces in the front row, Mario gave us the handshake when he went out in the audience and we padded [bassist] Jean-Michel [Labadie] on the back. One of the best nights I've ever experienced.

DO YOU STILL REGULARLY LISTEN TO GOJIRA? OR DOES THE BAND'S MUSIC REPRESENT A CERTAIN PERIOD OF TIME IN YOUR HISTORY?
Gojira, much like Metallica, is one of the very few bands I actually go back listening to for years and years. With every record they do, they make something completely fresh while containing the stuff that made me fall in love with them in the first place: the spiritual aspect. How great it is that one of the heaviest metal bands in the world, is also one of the most skilled musical groups in giving the listener a complete spiritual feeling by connecting with all of your emotions — whether it's sadness, hope, love or anger. That says a lot to me about this great band.