Extreme, political, and noisy as fuck, Napalm Death has been expanding minds and destroying eardrums for more than 30 years. The grindcore purveyors return with their 16th full-length album, Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism – their first since 2015’s Apex Predator: Easy Meat. Going back to 1987’s debut, Scum, this is the longest gap between albums in the bands storied history. Offering 12 songs across 42 minutes, it’s clear the band has used the time between albums to mine the depths of their creativity to deliver – broadly speaking – an album that expresses our collective anger and impatience with these uncertain times. More specifically, the album deals with the socio-political circumstances of the haves and have-nots, global migrations of people, and ones identification of the differences among us – not the similarities.
Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism is another accomplished collection of songs that further solidifies Napalm Death as one of the most important extreme metal/hardcore bands of the last several decades. Everything you know and love about the band is contained in the album, yet it further reaches into the unknown to challenge expectations.
Of course, Napalm Death’s patented high-speed, blast-beat driven songs make up the majority of the album. Long time fans will relish in the classic sounding tracks, like album opener “Fuck the Factoids.” The breakneck speed of songs like “That Curse of Being in Thrall” and the hardcore punk leaning “Zero Gravitas Chamber,” give you all you’ve come to expect from the band. Perhaps anticipating that the oddball tracks shouldn’t cold-cock the listeners, the band eases into it, like on the intro to “Invigorating Clutch,” with an atmospheric build-up that precedes the more typical formula or “Contagion” with an almost classic-metal riff intro that transform into a thrashy riff that carries the rest of the song.
The more contemporary sounding Napalm Death tracks are littered throughout, such as “Acting in Gouged Faith” and “Fluxing of the Muscle.” These songs seem to be natural extensions from what the band created on Apex Predator and 2012’s Utilitarian. Where things get interesting and more experimental can be heard on “Joie De Na Pas Vivre,” an almost riff-less track that’s driven by bass guitar and drums. It’s strange. It’s noisey. It’s really fucking cool. “Amoral” is perhaps the most alternative metal track in the bands history – in a good way – and album closer “A Bellyfull of Salt and Spleen” is an obvious nod to late-1980’s Swans. These tracks demonstrate that Napalm Death is still driven by innovation, resisting tendencies to repeat their previous work. And that’s exactly what keeps the band fresh and vital.
Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism is one of the strongest releases of this strange year and an excellent addition to Napalm Death’s staggering discography. You don’t need to be a long-time fan of the band to appreciate it – in fact, this is as good a starting point as any for discovery. But, if you are a decades-long devotee, you won’t be disappointed with this release. Indeed, it may have been a longer than usual wait since their last album, but they make it truly rewarding.
– J. Kevin Lynch