Who here hasn’t heard of Napalm Death? I mean, even if you go by the simple odds of having seen a tour poster or heard of their musical output based on their incessant touring and huge output, you must have. Bring in the fact that they were the poster boys for extreme metal (or the “more extreme end of heavy metal” before extreme metal was even a thing) and they are, quite literally, living legends.
Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism will be Napalm Death’s 16th release since the seminal Scum in 1987, and the majority of those albums have twelve or more tracks on them. It’s a huge slab of music to have submitted to the masses, more impressive when they were at the forefront of a genre back in the day. Of course, being original in 2020 is a hell of a lot harder than it was in 1987 and to some extent Barney and company aren’t really pushing in that direction any more. Hell, if I’m honest, Throes… is pretty tame compared to some of the other bands kicking around these days, but this isn’t a bad thing. Instead they’ve focused on a tight, more musical release than some people may expect of them.
“One thing I’ve learned over the years is what you don’t do to Napalm Death is round the edges off. You don’t stop playing fast as fuck. You just don’t do it. But what we do better now is amalgamate all the different things, so there’s metal and punk and hardcore, but also the alternative stuff. We take from all kinds of bands that nobody would even guess! Then there’s the obvious stuff like Coil, Swans and Einstürzende Neubaten, that’s all chucked in and amalgamated too.” – Barney Greenway
Don’t get me wrong. This is still a wall of discordant brutality from beginning to end… It’s just discordant brutality with rhythm. There are only so many one-second novelty singles you can release before people stop taking you seriously, and bands these days still do (and should) look up to Napalm Death. Their work ethic and never-say-die attitude is truly inspiring. Their ability to mutate and adapt to the market while still appearing as shepherds not sheep is also to be noted. From the early days of simply being Angry Young Men Making Noise to the far more complex political and sociological matters being tackled in their lyrics, they’ve never been afraid to show their (blood red and bile green) colours.
So what do we have here? Twelve tracks (plus some bonuses on the vinyl and limited editions), all of which will leave you battered and bruised. It’s also quite different from 2015’s Apex Predator (bloody hell, was that five years ago?) in terms of production. It’s a little bassier, a little heavier and several tracks have an industrial edge to them. This is most notable in the final (and rather slow) “A Bellyful of Salt and Spleen”.
What impresses is that this is one of the heaviest albums I’ve heard all year and yet every distorted note, every bizarre backing sound, every tortured scream is clear and distinct. It’s interesting hearing some of the sounds on there and wondering if Napalm Death are now taking their influences from other bands, rather than being at the forefront. Not that there’s anything bad in this. Listening to “Backlash Just Because”, the horns which pop up remind me of something similar on a recent Soulfly album, and the aforementioned industrial tones bring Fear Factory to mind (but only because they’re as influential in that genre as Napalm Death are in grindcore).
While finding some of their earlier material a little… limited in scope, I enjoyed Throes… way more than I expected. You can go absolutely nuts to it while still appreciating the technicalities, musicianship and songwriting. It’s the kind of thing that non-fans of heavy music will abhor, which makes it all the sweeter to ramp up and annoy them with. So, yeah, I guess I’m still an Angry Young Man Making Noise at heart. Only old. And using someone else’s noise.