We’ve been defeated, for sure
There aren’t very many bands that have as extensive a history as Napalm Death—especially ones who are still making music. And while the Napalm Death of pre-1986 may not be the one people are seeing now, people are seeing who’s been holding it down after, and their collective voice has only gotten considerably stronger throughout their career. Some of that has to do with the political climate, of course, as the UK band has never shied away from frank lyrical commentary on what’s going on. Outside of having no shortage of subject matter, their experimentation throughout the years is expansive—from staunch grindcore to slight metal to crusty punk and damn near everything in between.
On Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism, Napalm Death are still doing much of the same. There are bits of slight experimentation, like on “Joie De Ne Pas Vivre,” where they let industrial tones drive the predominant force of the song along with a particularly grating rasp from vocalist Barney Greenway. He still approaches his vocals with a sense of urgency after all these years—though it’s somewhat recognizable how maturation has somewhat quelled his choral fire, they still burn with a staggering passion that delivers these songs seamlessly. Despite his usual approach being primed for harsher sounds, it works perfectly on tracks like “Amoral” and “Invigorating Clutch,” that entreat Killing Joke-esque post-punk energy. This deviance is welcomed, but moments when Greenway recalls a more classic Napalm heaviness are nice—”Zero Gravitas Chamber” is a blend of straight-up hardcore punk and death metal.
Musically, Throes is a heavy hitter for sure, especially for a 16th release. What makes the album even better, however, is how simply poignant and pertinent it is to this current moment. As already mentioned, taking on politics despite not being a political band per se is definitely within Napalm’s wheelhouse. But longtime and newer fans alike will find it particularly calling. Greenway has mentioned how the lyrics aren’t specific to or necessarily about what’s happening in the states, since they’re a UK-based band. Though each song is written with the underlying concept of how love and disrespect are at odds when it comes to humankind, there are also themes of poverty, tragedy, unnecessary violence and bias, internationally. “Acting in Gouged Faith” could be a protest anthem, screaming sentiments regarding not backing down, while “Fluxing of the Muscle” comments on the ways minorities in the world are treated like animals (“Come tearing at all you skewed minorities like rutting alpha mammals”).
Greenway is solemn in his presentation of this, which, even if recalling particular moments of the individual tracks is somewhat muddied, should still leave an impact on anyway with open eyes, currently.