Album Review: Napalm Death, Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism (Century Media, Sept. 18th)

They set the foundation for what would become the punk/hardcore crossover, grindcore, and deathgrind subgenres. They were home to members who departed to form genre defining bands, including Carcass, Cathedral, and Godflesh. They asked you why You Suffer.

Odds are, if you’ve listened to heavy metal at any point in the last four decades, you know the name Napalm Death. Celebrating forty years of extreme music next year, it may be asked how does a band of such stature grow and change?

The answer comes in the their sixteenth release, their first full length in five years, Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.

The album wastes no time grabbing you by the throat with opener “Fuck the Factoids.” It is clear that, even after all this time, Danny Herrera’s drumming will not slow down, Mitch Harris and Shane Embury’s crushing wall of guitar and bass are still bone crushing, and vocalist Mark “Barney” Greenwood is as pissed off as ever.

The punches keep coming with “Backlash Just Because,” “ That Curse of Being in Thrall,” and “Invigorating Clutch”. “Contagion” brings hardcore into a different dimension with a chorus that features the title said in a low, almost Gregorian manner, which is responded to with the same word said in full Oi! style.

From here we enter a realm that I would like to describe as Avant-grind. “Joie de ne pas Vivre”, which translates from French to “joy of not living,” is almost completely without guitars. Instead, Embury’s thundering bass takes the driver’s seat alongside snarling vocals and uncanny, reverb soaked instrumentation.

This new ground is joined by the Gojira-esque “Amoral,” and closing track “A Bellyful of Salt and Spleen,” which can only be described as “your heavy metal fever dream hosted by Mike Patton.” In both cases, the album pushes the limits of not just what it means to be extreme, but also, what it means to be Napalm Death.

Bottom line: What I think is great is that by embracing change instead of putting out the same album again, Napalm Death have endured every change the metal community has thrown at them since 1981. Go listen to Scum and then skip a few years to Smear Campaign. How many bands can you think of that were inspired by those albums, despite the nearly twenty year gap between them?

These are the style changes that only a band like Napalm Death could pull off and show that it’s not only good to try new things, but sometimes it’s simply necessary. Without it, bands like Converge, Cattle Decapitation, Behemoth, and Code Orange may have never dared to become what they are today.

Whether you enjoyed the changes those bands made or not, with everything going on in the world right now, Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism, right down to its title, might be the reassuring pat on the back that says to stay strong and that change is good sometimes.

Or maybe it’s the fist to the face that delivers the same message…your call!

Visit your favorite local record store and demand a copy of Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism, available now!

Review copy courtesy of Speakeasy PR. All opinions are our own.

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