Album Review: Napalm Death - Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism

Back in the 1990s, Jim Carrey did an interview on a chat show in which he expressed his clearly genuine admiration for Napalm Death. In that interview, however, Carrey predicted of vocalist Barney Greenway that "one day, this guy's gonna want to slow down and do some duets". Side note, Carrey's growls are pretty damn impressive. But was he correct about Greenway?


Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism is not slow. It has no duets. This is 42 minutes of beautiful chaos, of Napalm Death absolutely doing what they do best. If truth be told, I've never listened to this band seriously before, only to songs such as 'You Suffer' on an ironic, for-laughs level. When I put this on, I expected myself to be laughing at the ridiculousness of it all, and that did happen on occasion. Mostly, however, I found myself being thoroughly impressed by what I heard.

Opener 'F*** the Factoid' didn't leave much of a mark, but fortunately it wasn't indicative of the rest of the record. 'Backlash Just Because', 'The Curse of Being in Thrall' and the very 2020-titled 'Contagion' is a brutal and incredible triple header of songs, not only tearing your face off but also showing unexpected amounts of melody. The bass/guitar work is exceptional, powering through riff after riff after riff and always retaining the excitement. The drum parts, particularly the blast beats, frankly just confuse me and they sound damn difficult to do, so kudos to that department too. Say what you want about the music; even if you think it's just a rowdy cacophony of incoherent noise, it's impossible to deny that the level of musicianship is very high indeed.

The thing about Grindcore/Death Metal is that it's difficult to recommend anything light for newcomers to ease themselves in with. The lightest the album ever gets is on the songs 'Invigorating Clutch' (which includes a pretty good emulation of Mongolian throat singing) and 'Amoral', and neither of them are particularly light in any way, shape, or form. Still, they don't have the thunderous pounding found in the title track and the absolutely electric 'Fluxing of the Muscle', which is just an outstanding song.

Napalm Death have really delivered here. They sound as enthused and as alive as ever, with no dip in standards from what I can tell. Full of standout songs such as 'Backlash Just Because', 'Contagion' and 'Fluxing of the Muscle', Napalm Death have proven their worth for what I'm sure is the thousandth time. Vocalist Greenway is now 51 years old as well, and it can't be easy to maintain your vocal cords when doing vocals like this - yet another reason to be impressed by this record.

For that's what this album is - deeply and truly impressive. Given how sceptically I approached this album, to come out the other side having enjoyed it as much as I did came as a massive surprise, but it's not by accident; Napalm Death have perfectly mastered the art of controlled chaos. This album may be brash, it may be violent, it may sound like electricity being pumped directly into fire - but it also has a heart. It's alive. It's absolutely brilliant.



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