Album Review: Napalm Death – Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism
It’s easy to be pessimistic. Even easier to be defeatist. And that’s when things are going alright. When they are as we currently experience them – confused, divided, frustrated, scared, dark – it’s the background hum of life, the note to which you become tuned. Pick your shitshow and let it deflate you.
Or not. Joy can seem in short supply in 2020, but it is there to be found if you let it reach you. And while Napalm Death’s 16th album was put to bed and sent to print before COVID took hold, its spirit, its defiance, its refusal to take Shit Things Happening lying down – inhumane treatment of refugees, persecution of LGBTQ+ citizens as government policy, marginalising human beings for personal gain through division, racist shithousery – is the sort of energy that refuses believe that all is lost. Because through the obvious anger at these things, via the medium of scalding music that excites like being thrown down a flight of stairs, you’re also left with an explosive sense of joy – real, heart-blasting, life-affirming, boundless, vital joy.
It’s not just the righteous fury of the music that makes it so great, either – these are songs built on a truly wide world of extreme sounds, welded together into a unique sonic bomb. Fuck The Factoid and Backlash Just Because are an opening one-two of tightly-wound grindcore, but from there, things build into a staggering monolith. There are moments where the dark pulsing grooves of Killing Joke rub shoulders with the haunting, atonal terror of nightmarish U.S. experimentalists Swans, doomy dirges, and something occasionally approaching the mechanised machine-gun assault of Ministry. Napalm have always been more than the ‘play really fast for a really short time’ some have them pegged as, but here everything is one hulking, integrated beast that is simply devastating to hear, and thrilling to behold.
Throughout, the band sound like they’re on fire. Which brings us back to joy. It’s not a frivolous, cheap thing done for lolz, but the realisation that all the shit hasn’t destroyed you. And though the frosty grooves of Invigorating Clutch may be dark, and That Curse Of Being In Thrall’s speed is apoplectic, the cathartic release and adrenaline is capable of reaching through the bleakest times and deepest malaise and shaking you back into life. Napalm Death express a lot of things here – anger, bitterness, fear, uncertainty – but defeat? Not a bit of it.
For Fans Of: Venom Prison, Killing Joke, Amebix
Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism is out on September 18 via Century Media.
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