Napalm Death – ‘Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism’

By James Lillywhite

Napalm Death are as close to a national institution as an extreme metal band are going to get. A 39 year career, spanning 16 albums, has granted them legend status in the UK underground; they’ve played to thousands at Glastonbury, are featured in the Guinness Book of World Records, and have even been impersonated by Jim Carrey

And the 2010s were a great decade for the band. They only put out two records – 2012’s ‘Utilitarian’ and 2015’s ‘Apex Predator – Easy Meat’ – but both were critically acclaimed and loved by fans.

So, all of that brings us to 2020’s ‘Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism’ – and it seems that Napalm Death are continuing this hot streak into the new decade, with a blistering and furious new record.

‘Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism’ brings together the strongest elements of the band’s career. As well as their trademark grind, there is hardcore, punk, death metal and thrash metal thrown into the mix. None of this is necessarily new for the band, but it comes together to form an almighty sound. They change pace and style in the middle of songs, going from brutal hardcore to breakneck grind in the blink of an eye. 

But it’s in the more experimental parts that this album really excels. Tracks like the industrial mindfuck ‘Joie De Ne Pas Vivre’, the surprisingly catchy alternative-rock single ‘Amoral’, and the excellent Swans-esqe closer ‘A Bellyful of Salt and Spleen’ stop this album from becoming endless beatings around the head. That final track in particular could offer a glimpse at Napalm Death’s future sound; released as a single, it might be the slowest song on record, but that doesn’t take away from the brutality. Bringing together menacing industrial drums, almost chant-like vocals from Barney Greenway, and a growing sense of menace, the album closer is as unsettling as it gets. 

Bringing all these styles together makes for a dynamic record. Rarely do two songs next to each other in the track listing sound the same. It has been sequenced expertly, meaning the 42 mins fly by – and you’re never quite sure what form of brutality is coming next.

Throughout their long career, Napalm Death have constantly found new forms of extremity – and with their latest album, that hasn’t changed. Whatever the style of music, whatever the speed, this album is brutal and extreme throughout. Blastbeats mix with electronic experiments, beatdown hardcore mixes with grindcore, punk rock with death metal. Nothing is off the table.

In his impersonation of the band, Jim Carrey said Greenway would one day want to “slow down and sing some duets”. Well, that’s still not happened. Instead, Napalm Death have produced yet another furious, extreme album in this late career golden run, and are sounding as angry and exhilarating as ever. 

JAMES LILLYWHITE

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