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Napalm Death - Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism

Grindcore grandees turn out another ripper

A global pandemic is apposite for Napalm Death's music. That and the climate change emergency, a lurch to the political right, and predictions of economic malaise are the kind of societal crises that have partly fuelled Napalm's politically-charged grindcore, crustcore anarcho-punk and death metal for decades. Seen as pioneers of grindcore and underground metal, their back catalogue is as prolific as it is extensive with albums often appearing every two years. This is their sixteenth long player and the jumbled album title hints at the sheer frenzied nature of this release.

Fuck the Factoid is just feral with seething barking vocals and a whirlwind of blastbeats, this is quintessential modern-era Napalm. The velocity and anger is maintained by the filthy, wobbly base and haywire riffing of Backlash Just Because which includes a breakdown so naturally heavy and furious it mocks most modern metalcore sanitised attempts of the same trick. The rampaging That Curse of Being in Thrall and Contagion with their metalled-up harcore riffs are viscerally breakneck and chaotic and could have easily been lifted from any of the band's recent albums - but this seems to matter little given the sheer relish and vim with which they are delivered.

The first change of tack and pace is the clanging industrial punk of Joie De Ne Pas Vivre with its echoed smelter factory effects and hissed vocals and the revolting crust anarcho-punk downtuned crawl of Invigorating Clutch which not only offer some variation from the hail of blastbeats but also demonstrate how Napalm Death are willing to tamper with, and display blatantly, their influences from almost every extreme metal sub-genre.

It isn't long before Zero Gravitas Chamber and Fluxing of the Muscle resume high-octane frantic thrashing punk riffs flash fried by Barney's hysterical bark and manic screams. By comparison in what seems like a tribute to Killing Joke, Amoral, is almost catchy with a gang chant chorus and grimey base-driven rhythm.

The rest of the album is jagged pell mell riffs, frenetic, rabid vocals and twists of velocity and bookended by a couple of cool coves of Sonic Youth and Rudimentary Peni. Napalm Death have a purist, humble quality that is ageless and indifferent to trends. They tap into so many underground metal and punk sub-genres and influences, often in the space of one cohesive song. This is surely one of Napalm Death's strongest modern albums and that is some achievement given the run they have had with the likes of Apex Predator - Easy Meat (2015) and Utilitarian (2012). There is a perceptible energy that makes many other metal acts sound disingenuous or forced. As long-term member and main creative force, Shane Embury, once commented Napalm Death was not a career but a passion that became a way of life. There is a reassuring consistency whereby Napalm's noise that shocked your parents and puzzled your friends as to why you could extrapolate enjoyment from this incomprehensible din has the same effect 30 years later.

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