10 September 2020

Napalm Death – Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism

Much is already known about the godfathers of grindcore. Hailing from the West Midlands, a unique musical spot which has birthed Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Diamond Head, Godflesh, Lemmy, Slash and Robert Plant (to name a few), they have a Guinness World Record for the world’s shortest song; ‘You Suffer’ takes longer to type out than it does to listen to. Almost approaching 40(!) years since their inception (although Shane Embury, with the longest tenure, joined in ’87), their live shows in recent years have not forgone a shred of intensity – or integrity, as they remain as fiercely political as ever. ‘Throes of Joy…’ comes five and a half years after ‘Apex Predator – Easy Meat’, the longest gap between two Napalm Death studio albums, although the ‘Logic Ravaged by Brute Force’ EP landed earlier this year. It sees Napalm Death continue to be as heavy as ever, but with moments of unflinching creativity and experimentalism that sees them refuse to rest on their laurels and fall complacent.

There’s plenty of material for fans of Napalm Death’s ‘typical’, angry sound that they are most associated with in metal circles. Opening song ‘Fuck the Factoid’ is a brutal, blastbeat-heavy rager to set the scene, reminding the listener from the bat that there is only one Napalm Death and time has yet to dilute their sonic message. One can imagine how this song, ‘That Curse of Being in Thrall’ and ‘Zero Gravitas Chamber’ will go off in the live setting, all for similar reasons. ‘Zero Gravitas Chamber’ has a particularly awesome death metal breakdown towards the ends which will surely get the masses banging their heads, and the dizzying title track is, simply, a three-minute ball of rage with a tight drum performance by Danny Herrera.

Napalm Death are, in reality, more than just a tornado of fury, and have been so for years. ‘Backlash Just Because’ is full of jaunty rhythms, its first riff having a 5/4 beat that gives it a frenetic type of energy that doesn’t let up for the rest of the song. ‘Contagion’, one of the album’s strongest tracks, mixes Napalm Death’s hyperspeed influences with more alternative-based sonic textures and dissonances in its chorus. It’s still very moshpit-friendly, despite this, with an irresistible intro where well-placed taps on the drum cymbals really build up the suspense. Tracks such as these will appeal to those who love Napalm Death’s brutality, but enjoy music with a few extra layers to it.

There are moments of true experimentalism on the album. ‘Joie De Ne Pas Vivre’ is the first real avant-garde moment on the album. A track led by bass and drums, with only a few ambient sounds coming from the guitars, Shane’s grinding bass tone is as familiar as ever, but the French-language hook (along with everything else) gives it a very unique quality. ‘Invigorating Clutch’ follows on from this song with 80 seconds of noise before plodding away at a more conventional mid-tempo stomp. ‘Amoral’ is the album’s biggest left turn, with a distinctive post-punk, Killing Joke-inspired vibe that wouldn’t feel out of place in a grimy alternative nightclub back in the 1980s. Few would associate Napalm Death with shoegaze, but they undoubtedly pay their dues to the 80s alternative scene that wouldn’t be considered an obvious influence.

To conclude, this is a very strong album from Napalm Death that proves that their mission statement has yet to change as time rolls on. Fearlessly creative and innovative, they express the full palette of their musical influences, but without forgetting their roots and the reason for their notoriety. Several bands have made the same album for the entirety of their careers, but Napalm Death are not one of those bands. The only constant in their career lies in the quality of their output.

‘Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism’ will be released on 18 September 2020 by Century Media

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