Napalm Death – Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism
Reviewed: January 2021
Released: 2020, Century Media Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
For almost 40 years and I don’t know how many albums at this point, Napalm Death has explored and documented every corner of musical extremity. They’ve long since shed and surpassed the “grindcore” moniker that they’re actually credited with coining and transcended into a sound that is uniquely identified as “Napalm Death.” Since the early 2000’s, each Napalm Death record has been an effort to best its predecessors, pushing the boundaries of musical extremity further and further while furiously striving to never rest on its past successes and drive the band forward and beyond. Which is exactly why THROES OF JOY IN THE JAWS OF DEFEATISM may just be the perfect Napalm Death album yet, if not the best album to encapsulate the shitshow that is 2020.
THROES OF JOY balances the band’s most organic frenetic musical tendencies with cerebral undertones and discordant melody. The opening 1-2 punch of “Fuck the Factoid” and “Backlash Just Because” set the tone perfectly, with the former employing almost synth like guitar harmonies (which in reality is just layers upon layers of guitars) and vocal effects while the latter sounds like an immediate cousin to “Plague Rages”. But Napalm Death has always been at their best when they find the heavy in the least obvious of ways – think back to “Evolved as One” or even 2015’s “Dear Slum Landlord”. It’s this sweet spot that pushes the album from good to jaw droppingly amazing. “Joie De Ne Pas Vivre” (translated to “Joy of Not Living”) breaches industrial Killing Joke territory, while the militaristic “A Bellyful of Salt and Spleen” reaches into the deepest depths of Swans noise worship. “Acting In Gouged Faith” recalls the swinging hooks of the GREED KILLING days, but “Amoral” is an easy standout cut. Possibly the heaviest new wave song you’ll ever hear, I’ve stewed on this track dozens of times already and can’t get enough of it.
At this stage in their career, Napalm Death could rest comfortably on their collective laurels and enjoy their status as elder statesmen of all things heavy and extreme. But their lack of content and persistence in creating challenging music in the least of commercial formats only makes them better for it. I’ve had my ups and downs with Napalm over the years, but I’ll readily throw down the gauntlet that this is their best work in decades. THROES OF JOY IN THE JAWS OF DEFEATISM summons the spirit of the band’s past and marries it with a creative sentiment that has eyes firmly focused on the future. I don’t know where Napalm Death goes from here, but I’m genuinely excited to find out.