Napalm Death

Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism

Written by: RUB on 22/01/2021 12:29:50

What is more appropriate in times of political unrest, extremism and a raging pandemic than the grindcore legends Napalm Death putting out a new record? It seems as though these current events have both inspired and enraged the Napalm’ camp, and had five years not passed since the release of their previous album “Apex Predator - Easy Meat”, the arrival of this, their 17th full-length offering, would not actually have surprised me one bit. Needless to say, the record is angry — and then some. But even as rigid as the grindcore genre tends to be, a few surprises here and there on “Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism” had my jaw drop onto the floor on several occasions and actually rendered it as a standout effort amongst the band’s many, many great releases.

If the first track “Fuck the Factoid” does not scream anger and fury, I have no idea what does. The instantly recognisable Napalm’ sound pierces your ears at breakneck speed — and just to underline: these guys have already reached their 50s! And yet the drumming by the legendary Danny Herrera is still on point, being groovy and innovative, especially when paired with Shane Embury’s killer bass lines. Mark ‘Barney’ Greenway meanwhile still has the raging attitude and pipes to make a lasting impression on each and every song, and he is perfectly supported by the furious riffage emanating from Mitch Harris’ axe. This is important, as it is obvious Barney still has many matters he wants to address with his lyricism, which is actually quite remarkable considering that even though he still focuses primarily on subjects such as political unrest, injustice and obviously anti-fascism as he always has, the band’s songs do not sound like a broken record at all. Instead, with the constant changes in pace, the underlying innovative song writing, and the groovy rhythms (mixed with the omnipresent velocity of grindcore, of course), the group still manages to sound incredibly fresh, varied and, above all, interesting. With such seasoned musicians at the task and functioning as a single unit, Napalm Death just tends to have this ability to write one great song upon another great song.

The hit parade continues as rapidly as Herrera’s drum strikes; whether it is “Backlash Just Because”, with its absurd grindcore groove, “Contagion” with its unusual chorus, or “Zero Gravity Chamber”, with its fantastic interplay between Harris’ guitar playing and Herrera’s drumming especially onwards from the 01:24 mark, I really find it hard to limit myself to recommending just the tracks mentioned in the download section at the bottom of this review. The clever lyrics attacking injustice, fascism, inequality, warmongering and false leadership deserve to be mentioned one more time as well, as despite these being classic Barney fare, they somehow manage to avoid sounding dated in the slightest. Indeed, the music on this record always seems to come with a twist, a quirky riff or some off-beat drumming to keep the listener on their toes. Who said you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, right?

Certainly the track “Amoral” sees Napalm Death trying unheard-of things and as a result, it is one of those aforementioned moments that tempts my jaw toward the floor. With its ‘80s/‘90s inspired post-punk/hardcore sound and bits of Deftones-y dreaminess mixed into it, I can honestly say that I have never heard these Britons sounding like this. This particular song might end up as somewhat divisive, but there is no denying that it stands out and the fact that Napalm Death had the daring to attempt it speaks volumes about their approach to writing new music in general. Nothing is ever constant. Keeping this in mind, it is not like the band suddenly gone soft, however, as even “Amoral” subscribes to the symbolism of that gored and mauled dove — usually a symbol of peace — reflected on the album cover, and does not exactly scream accessible or listener-friendly.

After all is said and done, there is really very little negative to spew about this mastodon of a record. When a band as old as Napalm Death still manages to surprise us with twists and turns like those found on “Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism” and even mixing in new influences and genres, while still remaining true to their origins, I have a hard time not flashing a joyous smile. I think it would be naïve to believe that the current state of the world (or perhaps more so the political climate that reigns over Great Britain and the United States at present) has not had anything to do with the ferocity with which Napalm’ delivers this 12-track barrage of grindcore. But regardless of that, the four musicians have once again proven themselves to not only be part-inventors of an entire genre, but still, 40 years down the line, to have the ability to push boundaries and reinvent integral parts of their sound. That is not only an absolutely insane feat, but also a highly admirable one, to say the least – whether you like the genre or not. As such, to answer my previous rhetorical question: yes, you can indeed teach an old dog new tricks, and may this particular dog never stop learning.


Download: Backlash Just Because, Zero Gravitas Chamber, Amoral, Fuck the Factoid, The Curse of Being in Thrall, Contagion
For the fans of: Brutal Truth, Lock Up, Nasum, Repulsion, Terrorizer
Listen: Facebook

Release date 18.09.2020
Century Media Records

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