Napalm Death – Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism Review

It’s that time again. Time for Napalm Death to sandblast your socio-political ineptitude with a tumult of grinding death. However, this year’s review comes with a revelation… A man usually possessed of (mostly) upstanding taste, our very own Dr. A. N. Grier, has some less than pleasant things to say about these beloved Brummy battlers. Food for thought next time he tells you “DevilDriver used to be good…” It’s genuinely hard for me to comprehend someone taking a strong dislike to Napalm Death because, above all else, they represent a seal of quality. At this point in their career the band have managed to command their blast-happy frenzy and deathly breakdowns with the kind of fluidity most acts can only imagine. But experimentation has never been far from their arsenal, and new album Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism is no exception. In a career that spans excellent to reliable, the only real question is: which category does this sixteenth record belong to?

The answer is the latter. It’s been some time since Napalm Death meddled only in punk abandon. Very early on the band began to incorporate a prevalent death metal flavor and, by and large, haven’t looked back since. Early albums Harmony Corruption and Utopia Banished made the original emphasis but, somewhere amidst the breakdowns and blasts, Napalm Death have always been keen to tentatively elaborate on other influences too. Throes… ensures their dalliances with alternative genres are as evident as possible. But it does so amidst atypical Napalm Death fare. The result is an album with a very odd sense of flow.

Throes… immediately blasts into life with “Fuck the Factoid.” That blackened chill that Anaal Nathrakh utilize to such devastating effect is instantly recognizable. Barney Greenway’s vocals remain utterly cataclysmic. While his tone isn’t quite as guttural as it once was, he still sounds legitimately furious, which is important. Rage is a key requirement for the genre, but nobody wants to hear another middle-aged Robb Flynn pretending to be angry about the state of an industry that has made them rich. Instead, Greenway still sounds desperate to connect boot with neck. That kind of vitriol incorporates perfectly with the buoyant hardcore grooves of “That Curse of Being in Thrall.” It’s only with “Joie De Ne Pas Vivre” that the record’s real personality begins to permeate. The song is an sinister clanging industrial piece replete with unsettling rasping vocals. Soon enough “Invigorating Clutch” and particularly “Amoral” continue to lead this altered beast with a chain of promising post-punk a la Tau Cross. Napalm Death are clearly feeling creative, but it has an odd effect. As perfected as their norm is, it’s almost – fucking almost – beginning to sound rote next to their obvious desire to expand.

There can be no denying that, above all else, Napalm Death know how to riff. “Fluxing of the Muscle” serves up a mid-pace rhythm familiar to modern Testament, while the title track grinds more than just teeth. However, multiple listens later, and I still can’t quite summon these songs to mind, and that’s a problem. Much has been made of the band’s revolving door of members over the years but drummer Danny Herrera has cemented his place in metal history. His instant acceleration and convoluted fills never fail to impress and Throes… never deviates from the pattern. Shane Embury’s bass is a little lost in the mix, but thanks to Herrera and guitarist Mitch Harris, the rhythm section remains threateningly robust. Even in the wake of the warped noise-infused closing cut, which feels somewhat tacked on.

When Napalm Death release an album, it’s always cause for attention. But with such a storied discography, it’s redundant to expect potency like The Code is Red… Long Live the Code through to Utilitarian to persist. Apex Predator – Easy Meat was reliable if unremarkable, and Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism rumbles along the same lines. Any fan of the band will enjoy the album, and rightly so. Unfortunately, it’s undeniable that, a few noteworthy riffs aside, it’s actually the musical deviations that demand the most attention here. Napalm Death won’t be dethroned any time soon. They’re still royalty and this record does very little to supplant that notion. Put it on, burn down the walls and then add it to the collection. But as a wise man once said “time waits for no slave” and, experimentation aside, this kind of battery is beginning to feel increasingly comfortable…

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media Records
Releases Worldwide: September 18th, 2020

« »