Napalm Death – Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism

Genre: Grindcore | Label: Century Media
Location: Birmingham, England| Listen: YouTube

napalm death throes

Five years have passed since the release of the last Napalm Death album. They’ve never had this long of a gap between albums, but considering this is their 16th album, it’s not like fans don’t have an excess of material to keep them occupied in the meantime. Between “Apex Predator – Easy Meat” and now, a lot has happened in the Napalm Death world, and this can be felt on their newest record. “Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism” pushes in the same direction as their 2015 effort, but with more influence from post-punk and noise rock.

The increased usage of these post-punk and noise rock influences can be directly attributed to the absence of Mitch Harris’ songwriting for this album. He only co-wrote one song, with everything else written by Shane Embury. Pretty much every Napalm Death album has been a sum of two or three main songwriters, with the Embury/Harris duo having a fairly even spread. Harris’ death metal tremolo riffs and thrashy down-picked riffs are no where to be found. However, this doesn’t translate into an album feeling like it’s missing something. It feels like Embury purposely filled those gaps in by not trying to imitate Harris, but by expanding more on the dark, dirge-driven sounds that have always been present on their albums. Songs like “Joie De Ne Pas Vivre,” “Invigorating Clutch,” and especially “A Belly Full of Salt and Spleen” (the one Harris co-wrote) focus more on brooding atmospheres that you’d expect out of a no-wave record. Then you have songs like “Amoral” which seems to borrow a little more on the noise rock side, and it’s really catchy.

The no-wave influences were to be expected, quite honestly, especially after the band put out a 7″ earlier this year with a Sonic Youth cover on it (which is also a bonus track on some editions of this). Of course, this album still has plenty of speed and intensity that you’d expect from Napalm Death. That’s evident from the get go with the first handful of tracks. Embury’s punkier songs are there, as are his grindier songs with some death metal influence. Overall, it makes for a very balanced album that is remarkably diverse but complementary to itself. With Embury writing the bulk of this record, and for it being as dynamic as it is, it only makes sense that it took them more time to write this. They very well could’ve just banged out a bunch of songs, but I think that really shows the amount of care that went into it.

The production is great. Russ Russell once again was responsible for engineering it, so there are no surprises in terms of sound compared to their last handful of records. He does a great job making the fast songs sound heavy and clear, as well as ensuring all the dark tones are preserved in all the left-field influences. The vocals at the beginning of the title track sound so perfect, and I couldn’t imagine anyone else putting these records together for Napalm Death. Fans who only prefer their early grind years will probably scoff at how this record sounds, but that’s their loss.

I’ve seen a lot of people compare this record to “Diatribes,” which I think is a very poor comparison. The mid-90’s Napalm Death focused more on groove, while this is obviously influenced by a lot of the strange music coming out in the 80’s that the Napalm guys have always had an affinity for (especially since a lot of it was UK based), and there’s still a fair amount of grind. With all this in mind, they’ve managed to put out yet another excellent record, showing that they can still sound fresh after almost 40 years of existence. Hopefully Mitch Harris is able to return to the band, as he’s been an integral part of their songwriting for so many albums. Embury really pushed himself to make up for it, and even played half of the guitar tracks, making this a unique album in the vast Napalm Death discography.