Review Summary: The overwhelming power of diversity
Napalm Death is one of those bands that needs no introduction since they are undoubtedly one of the greatest ambassadors of extreme music for the past three decades. Grindcore pioneers, the band not only built the foundations of the genre with seminal releases like Scum
and From Enslavement to Obliteration
, but were also crucial in its worldwide dissemination due to the high impact these two albums had on the underground circuit in the late eighties. Directly or indirectly, all contemporary grindcore-oriented bands have a piece of Napalm Death impregnated in their DNA. It is a stylistic inevitability.
The band's original grind signature, which derived from their hardcore/punk roots, gradually evolved into a more metal-oriented formula. The Mentally Murdered
EP signals the transition point which will culminate in 1990's Harmony Corruption
, clearly more death metal-ish, influenced by the Florida scene that was emerging by this time. This transitional period also marks the moment when I truly began to enjoy the band's sound, enthusiastically embracing their more metal-oriented approach.
Social and political issues have always been present in the band's lyrics and, as expected, Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism
is no exception. The dove, symbol of hope, being violently crushed by a sterile hand is a metaphor for a dehumanized society and its discrimination against "others", be they migrants or whether they have a different type of sexuality, for example. However, despite such oppression, we can still see a symbol of equality in the center of the dove, meaning that even after such cruelty we can still glimpse something positive in the end, as expressed by the oxymoron in the album's title - "the celebration of humanity even in the mangling jaws of negativity". This celebration of diversity also migrates to songs like 'Joie de ne pas vivre' and 'Invigorating Clutch' that explore more experimental textures, or the post-punk 'Amoral' and Godflesh-esque 'A Bellyful of Salt and Spleen', that closes the album with an unusual tone. These songs bring some irreverence and unpredictability to the album, which rejects any kind of conformity. Nevertheless, despite these stylistic deviations, Napalm Death remains faithful to its grind roots, as proven by the overwhelming first four tracks that are among the best the band has recorded in recent years. It's impossible not to headbang to songs such as 'Backlash Just Because' or 'That Curse of Being in Thrall', the latter featuring a vibrant On The Brink Of Extinction-esque tempo. This approach is again present in 'Acting in Gouged Faith', which momentarily takes us into Harmony Corruption
era. The album flows through contrasts and musical diversity, with unexpected freshness and experimentalism. The symbiosis between the lads is remarkable, revealing a tremendous artistic complicity that has taken decades to shape. Barney's vocals, although no longer showing the deep gutturals of his early days, remain quite unique, with the rest of the team playing their part with exemplary professionalism. Songs such as 'Zero Gravitas Chamber' or 'Fluxing of the Muscle' also deserve to be highlighted, with the former being one of my favorite tracks on the album.
Over thirty years after Scum
, Napalm Death keeps displaying an overwhelming irreverence, without losing either its ambition or its creativity. As the metaphor on its cover or the subliminal message in its title, Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism
is an ode to diversity. It is a product of contrasts. And given the social and political conflicts emerging throughout the world, it seems wise to give it due attention.