Release Date: 18/09/20
Record Label: Century Media
For Fans Of: Pig Destroyer, Killing Joke, Swans
There aren’t too many bands who manage to build a near forty year career making extreme music and there are ever fewer who have remained at the top of their game for all that time. If you widdle it down further to bands who have also constantly evolved, incorporating influences from almost every corner of the musical spectrum while still having their own unmistakable sound and identity you will be left with a sole candidate: Brummie grindcore royalty Napalm Death.
There are two certainties when it comes to a new Napalm Death album: it will be fast, and it will be brutal. Aside from that, all bets tend to be off as the band have dabbled in all kinds of sounds and styles over the years from the relentless grindcore of their formative years, to the more industrial, experimental side of 2015’s Apex Predator – Easy Meat. Their sixteenth album Throes in the Jaws of Defeatism follows suit with twelve tracks of punishing, interesting and innovative extreme metal that could only come from the godfather’s of grindcore.
Of course the record is filled with pummelling riffs in ‘Fuck the Factoid’, ‘The Curse of Being in Thrall’ and ‘Fluxing of the Muscle’, reinforcing once more that the band have lost none of their edge and can still go toe to toe with any other artist on the planet when it comes to sheer aggression and speed. However because this is Napalm Death we are talking about the real shining moments on this latest album come when the band head off into less familiar territory. ‘Contagion’ and ‘Invigorating Clutch’ feature Barney Greenway showing why he is one of the most innovative vocalists in metal as he switches between Sunn O))) style baritone, almost throat-singing, and the more typical growl we have come to recognise. What makes this even more impressive is how clearly intonated these parts are, somehow becoming hooks in themselves. A huge amount of musical variety can also be seen as the band moves through angular hardcore style leads, up-tempo melo-death groove and doomy, bass-only riffs, however even amongst all this, Greenway and co. still have another trick to pull out their pocket.
As the shining and sleek 80s synth style appears to be back in vogue across all kinds of different music, Napalm Death have of course tapped into the much darker and grimmer side of that sound. ‘Joie De Ne Pas Vivre’ sounds like Killing Joke on speed with a little more of the esoteric darkness of Swans, and album closer ‘A Bellyful of Salt and Spleen’ is an electro-industrial march that manages to squeeze in some of that brighter, shimmering sound and is completely different from anything else the band have ever done. However the moment where this sound is really perfected comes through ‘Amoral’. A grooving, reverberating backbeat is smothered in synths to create a goth club banger that steals the show, proving that Napalm Death aren’t just able to try their hand at anything, they excel at everything.
There is a reason that when it comes to extreme music there is one band in particular who are held aloft like the kings that they are. In both their music and their politics, Napalm Death remain completely uncompromising and ever-reaching as they search for something more. If this album was released by any other extreme band it would likely be held up as a highlight of their career, but because it’s Napalm Death this kind of quality has just become expected and they continue to be the benchmark that everyone else is judged against.
Recommended Tracks: ‘Backlash Just Because’, ‘Amoral’