Napalm Death - Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism
Century Media
12 songs (42:46)
Release year: 2020
Napalm Death, Century Media
Reviewed by Goat
Major event

A remarkable 16 albums in, it's remarkable that British grind legends Napalm Death continue to evolve as they age, refusing to go out gracefully and never taking the easiest path. The follow-up to 2015's Apex Predator - Easy Meat is a serious step sideways, at moments the most experimental album the band have done in years, elsewhere as pure and vicious as grind gets. This dual identity would be a hard path to follow for nearly any other band, yet Napalm Death have always been an evolving project, from their earliest, punkiest days, through the death metal 90s, experimental grooving 00s, and the current exceptional deathgrind run since at least 2005's superb The Code is Red... Long Live the Code. The five year-gap between Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism and Apex Predator is the longest in the band's history, and it seems like Napalm Death have really taken time to refine their coruscating sound. It's a well-crafted and experimental extreme metal album, opening with a typically heavy burst of uninterrupted grind across the first few tracks.

Yet even this is hardly straightforward; Fuck the Factoid especially is a powerful, distorted burst of black bile, a touch of noise rock to some of the textural riffing from Mitch Harris and plenty of space for Shane Embury's bass, all giving it more atmospheric breadth and heft than you'd have though possible for a two and a half minute grind song! Backlash Just Because follows on well, turning more strongly towards noise rock with an unconventional structure and seeming to take influence from later Brutal Truth material, twisting grindcore away from sheer speed and power in favour of a more experimental sound. As ever, the instrumental side of the band is terrific from Mitch Harris' varied and interesting guitar playing to Danny Herrera's technical battery, and all are in service to the band's signature crushing groove, Contagion especially showing it off with faster and slower bursts of action.

Barney Greenway, though, deserves paragraphs in his own praise. For a guy in his 50s he hasn't slowed down at all, sounding more rabid and unhinged than ever amidst the warzone, coming into his own on the short Joie De Ne Pas Vivre where his retches are downright demonic atop a speedy post-punk bass-led backing that's something like early Swans being asked to score a war film. Otherwise, his uncanny moans and screams on Invigorating Clutch provide sharp edges to an already weaponised sound, and his rapid-fire delivery leads Zero Gravitas Chamber's assault on your ears tremendously. Even the relatively catchy Amoral, where the Killing Joke-esque rhythmic pound is at its most infectious, retains its teeth thanks to his snarling vocals, and his unaccompanied opening to the title track is absolutely spinechilling. He's one of extreme metal's most perennially underrated vocalists, and is a vital part of what makes Napalm Death so unique and powerful.

And this is all before we get to the likes of That Curse of Being in Thrall, with its chorus of "Shitting!" and weirdly post-metal-infused build to groovy carnage, or Fluxing of the Muscles' powerful opening leading to a spewed spoken word section all atop neck-injuring riffage. That spoken word aspect, that Napalm Death have explored previously, comes back in the closing piece A Bellyful of Salt and Spleen, all industrial clang and tormented moans, and it's more effective than ever, ending the album in a despairing exhalation. Perhaps Throes of Joy... isn't quite as out-there as Napalm Death could be if they dropped all constraints, but for a grindcore album that's willing to take on post-punk and industrial influences and incorporate them into the band's usual tirade, it's highly effective. All in all their most invigorating and interesting album in a few years, if less immediate and catchy than the likes of Time Waits for No Slave, this is nonetheless further proof of relevancy from these living legends.

(Those who really enjoy the post-punk experiments should check out the limited edition, with its Sonic Youth and Rudimentary Peni covers!)

Killing Songs :
Fuck the Factoid, Backlash Just Because, Contagion, Invigorating Clutch, Fluxing of the Muscle, Amoral
Goat quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Napalm Death that we have reviewed:
Napalm Death - Apex Predator - Easy Meat reviewed by Goat and quoted 83 / 100
Napalm Death - Utilitarian reviewed by Charles and quoted 95 / 100
Napalm Death - Inside the Torn Apart reviewed by Adam and quoted 71 / 100
Napalm Death - Diatribes reviewed by Goat and quoted 58 / 100
Napalm Death - Words from the Exit Wound reviewed by Adam and quoted 74 / 100
To see all 18 reviews click here
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