Napalm Death – Throes of Joy In the Jaws of Defeatism (Album Review)

Few bands can claim the kind of consistency and tenacity of British Grindcore legends Napalm Death. In existence since 1981, the band who birthed and solidified the genre as we know it today is poised to release its sixteenth studio album into the world. Coming to us via Century Media Records, Throes of Joy In the Jaws of Defeatism will be available for consumption on September 18, 2020, and if there is anything this apocalyptically unprecedented year could use, it is the caustic and unforgiving din of a new Napalm Death studio record.

As anyone who follows Napalm Death can attest, the band is a rare example of genre mastery, but one that always finds a way to squeeze that little something special out of their creations. Much of that musical elasticity derives itself from the mind of founding Bassist Shane Embury and longtime Guitarist Mitch Harris, who joined the ranks in 1989.

Mixing frenetic speed with headbang-inducing sections designed for the circle pit, “The Curse of Being Enthrall” and “Contagion” are the fare that fans have come to love, and help keep Napalm Death as fresh as bands a third of their age. Yet the spirit of experimentalism reigns, and the spacey, cavernous madness in “Joie De Ne Pas Vivre” evokes the same feeling as can be found in harsh industrial music.

Such departures are always artfully integrated by the band, and here is no different. It all sounds natural and welcome, because they know their own formula so well. Mark ‘Barney’ Greenway’s vocals erupt during opener “Fuck the Factoid,” working with the punishing percussion of Drummer Danny Herrera. Breaks in the savagery to showcase Embury’s ropey bass-lines tell the world that Napalm Death can pretty much do no wrong.

The interesting thing about a Napalm Death record in 2020 is that over the past two decades, the band’s work is not beholden to any one of their more definable eras. Where the early grind of 1987’s Scum, the Death Metal of 1991’s Harmony Corruption, and the experimental madness of 1997’s Inside the Torn Apart, could all be attributable to their respective eras, modern-day Napalm Death takes all of their experience and rolls it into their output.

This confidence and fearlessness guarantees that fans can rely on quality but not predictability. “Amoral” is a great example of that. Very Killing Joke-esque, the song is unusual and it works well. Juxtaposed against the high-velocity barrage of the title track and placed later on in the album, the savage Russ Russell production keeps the listener dialed in and interested.

Reminiscent of 1994’s magnificent Fear, Emptiness, Despair opus, “Acting in Gouged Faith” has a tortured set of riffs going on, combining with those blasting drums and the larynx-shredding vitriol of Greenway. This is similarly extricated on “Fluxing of the Muscle,” once more dipping into this era of their catalogue, but with similarly freshened results.

Finale “A Bellyful of Salt and Spleen” closes the album on a dissonant note, a rolling pageant of enraged noise with an almost occult-like vocal performance. The journey will ensure many returns for fans of all eras of the band. For once more peeling back the years and making a face-melting sonic blast of an album, Cryptic Rock gives Throes of Joy In the Jaws of Defeatism 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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