Music Reviews

ALBUM REVIEW: Napalm Death – Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism

When we all look back on the year 2020, its probably not going to be a year many of us want to remember much about. It’s a year that has lead a lot of people to despair, defeatism and rage. If you were on the lookout for a record that unapologetically channels that feeling, grindcore God-emperors Napalm Death may have just given us exactly what your looking for with their new album, Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism.

Sixteen albums represents a long period of time working as recording artists. Many of our favourite bands would be lucky to do six albums, let alone survive and have the creative juices to concoct sixteen. For context, Metallica have only put out ten studio albums despite having a near decade long headstart. Very few bands can prove themselves creatively fertile and worth people’s time after so long, as fans tend to stick with the classics and new songs become glorified bar breaks during live shows (ask your parents, we used to have these).

Of course, the good times have to end at some point, right? The tank has to run dry, the riffs get plainer, becoming somewhat like unbuttered toast. You recognise it as the thing it claims to be, sure, but it lacks all the stuff that elevates it to greatness. If there were any doubts in the minds of Napalm Death’s longtime fans, or any confusion as to why they matter if your a new listener, Fuck The Factoid starts up and slaps you in the teeth so hard your dentist will be kept in work for years. Barney Greenway still sounds unbelievably angry without descending into a parody. Backlash Just Because even has the nerve to throw in a dirty, groovy moshtastic riff at the end, the kind you would usually find in a Hatebreed song. The attack just does not stop on the next two songs either, That Curse Of Being In Thrall and Contagion, with its grinding, floor stomping riff, continue the glorious punishment.

The band also take the time to deliver wonderful diversions based off other influences. Amoral is a Killing Joke-esque song that is still devastating despite being, like all Killing Joke classics, rather danceable. Whilst close to the sound of the band, it still maintains enough of Napalm Death’s DNA to not sound like a direct rip-off of Jaz Coleman’s band of apocalyptic post-punks. Closing track A Bellyful Of Salt And Spleen is another fascinating trip into slower, oppressive territories, sounding not a million miles away from Swans.

Regarding the individual performances, Greenway, Danny Herrara and Shane Embury do not let anyone or anything else down on this record. Longtime guitarist Mitch Harris flew in to England to record guitar parts, and every note he plays sounds like the encapsulation of the word “feral”. Herrara’s drum are driving and incredibly propulsive, Greenway barks his words better than almost anyone, whilst also remaining compelling and giving performances of a class that few can also claim membership of. The utter venom when he spits out the opening lines of the title-track is joyous to listen to. Russ Russell once again is behind the desk, continuing the fruit-bearing partnership that suits both sides so well and stretches back all the way to 1999’s Enemy Of The Music Business. The bass tone on Joie De Ne Pas Vivre is worth the price of admission alone. You can practically feel the filth of it, and you will be tempted to start cleaning your headphones. Embury also wrote the majority of the album, and he proves his excellence with more regularity than a functioning public transport system.

Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism proves yet again that Napalm Death are truly leaders, not followers. Its another vitriolic, impassioned and vital statement, that hammers home the truly remarkable and powerful legacy of a band that simply refuses to wither and die of that classic combination of complacency and artistic redundancy. Defying not just these things, but also the, to put it diplomatically, challenging and difficult circumstances affecting so many, is a beautiful and scintilating thing. It is 42-minutes of extreme musical delights, and would throw down with and ultimately conquer almost anything else in the punk, hardcore and metal scenes in this strange year, or any of the other albums in the Napalm Death back catalogue. It’s an album that provides you with so much more than the mere throes of joy. A nasty, cathartic and vicious triumph.


Standout Tracks: Backlash Just Because, Contagion, Amoral

For Fans Of: Killing Joke, Venom Prison, Nails

Written by: Louis Tsangarides