British grindcore pioneers, NAPALM DEATH, return with their new album, “Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism,” The band haven’t released any material after their 2015 full-length album, “Apex Predator – Easy Meat.” This 5 year hiatus was the longest break they ever took from studio work, so it is interesting to hear what they have come up with.
Boy oh boy, what a beginning of a record with their first track, “Fuck the Factoid.” No time wasted, it kicks you right into a world of pain, alternating between a blastbeat with disorienting tremolo riffing and dystopian chord progressions. Definitely off to a good start. I already can say that the production of the record is very noisy (in a good way), yet all the different tracks and layers are easily heard. Next track “Backlash Just Because” picks up the same pace and does it well, falling into a back-breakingly heavy breakdown in the end – great songwriting. The band combines all of the before-present elements with thrash-death riffery on their next song, “That Curse of Being in Thrall.” The second part of the track slows down into a tribal heavy metal riff, contrasted with drummer Danny Herrera’s fast smashing of toms.
ND continue their use of thrash influence on “Contagion,” yet it doesn’t feel stale as it is well contrasted with a bridge consisting of beautiful chords with the use of upper structures. Blastbeats accelerate the second part of the track, pushing the momentum forward. Interestingly, there is no guitar present on the next song, “Joie De Ne Pas Vivre,” only bass with a beautiful tone with lots of low, mids, and highs; drums; the guttural screaming of vocalist Mark “Barney” Greenway; and industrial ambient noise. It works wonderfully, not for a second feeling like a dynamic fall in the records pacing. A nice and a successful experiment, well done!
“Invigorating Clutch” starts with two chord vamp with Greenway’s textural baritone haunting singing, which then falls into an alternative-reminiscent tune (kinda reminds me of BEHEMOTH’s title track, “The Satanist” from their 2014 release). It is heavy, layered, and atmospheric – the whole package. We then go back to ND’s signature sound on “Zero Gravitas Chamber.” Brutality, hardcore beats contrasting against a blastbeat, yet nothing new; a good track, although predictable and secondary in it’s core. I like the main riff of “Fluxing of the Muscle,” however; it sounds fresh among all the other elements withing the song, which are general to bands arsenal on the record. The second part of the song goes to a different harmonic soundscape with military drum snare work, until bridging back to the chorus.
The next take on the alternative metal sound, “Amoral,” is the first time we hear something close to clean vocals. The chord progression of the song is dark and unforgiving, always keeping the tension high. The title track is a classic ND sound: unforgiving, fast, and mad. Same goes for the next song, “Acting in Gouged Faith.” A similar formula and tempo does get a bit tiring, leaving the listener hoping for a new direction, and with their final song they do exactly that. “A Bellyful of Salt and Spleen” is a post-industrial composition with tribal drumming, clean baritone vocals, gritty bass (again, like on “Joie De Ne Pas Vivre” – no guitars present), synths, and samples. It all blends into a dark, brooding atmospheric sonic space, taking you somewhere different. The ending of the track and the record is almost dreamy, with fading reverberations and Greenway’s mellow singing.
This is a jolly good record! It satisfies both NAPALM DEATH‘s fans’ desires and manages to explore new sonic territories, maintaining the raw brutality and signature grit of the band’s musical approach. I love it and am happy that the 5 years it took for them to make it were not only not in vain, but gave them room to experiment. The only dynamic fall comes at the end of the record, but then the last track saves it completely. I mentioned sound production briefly before, but will reiterate the compliment: it’s brilliant. I listened to the record both with speakers and studio headphones and it sounds very dense, yet not mushy at all, which can be very hard to achieve with such noisy and distorted sounds. “Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism” is a wonderful addition to the band’s catalogue!
Written by Fedor B.
- Fuck The Factoid
- Backlash Just Because
- That Curse of Being in Thrall
- Joie De Ne Pas Vivre
- Invigorating Clutch
- Zero Gravitas Chamber
- Fluxing of the Muscle
- Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism
- Acting in Gouged Faith
- A Bellyful of Salt and Spleen
- Shane Embury – bass, backing vocals
- Mark “Barney” Greenway – lead vocals
- Danny Herrera – drums
- Mitch Harris – guitars, backing vocals
Century Media Records