Favorite Track: "Fluxing the Muscle Least Favorite Track: "White Kross"
Despite growing up listening to artists like Ozzy Osbourne, Megadeth, System of a Down, and Anthrax, my taste in metal never progressed much past the thrash/classic metal subgenres. This is something I have never had an overt issue with, but this year has seen lots of new metal releases gaining high critical acclaim, and Slipknot’s 2019 album We Are Not Your Kind has actually played a very large role in my musical diet since its release. The notion that there is plenty of wonderful metal music to be explored is not a concept that is lost on me, but I just couldn’t seem to ever find the time or the energy to really delve into any of it. Recently though, I decided I would like to start making forays into the genre, and in doing so I have discovered Napalm Death’s 16th studio album; Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.
Upon first listen, this album felt like something I wasn’t entirely ready for. There were plenty of passages reminiscent of my thrash metal upbringing, but plenty of things within the genre that also felt quite new to me. If you are acquainted with the metal community at large, you will know that there are an endless amount of subgenres and different kinds of metal, and there really is something for everyone, but this can feel especially daunting for a newcomer. Within TOJITJOD, there are plenty of small stylistic switches and deviations from Napalm Death’s notorious Grindcore sound. After a few listens, however, the record grew on me heavily, not necessarily due to its musical variation or any stellar performances from the band, but instead for the aggressive, jaw-breaking grit this album comes at you with.
From the opening track, “Fuck The Factoid”, the record feels like a punch in the face. There is no intro, no slow build, but instead a straightforward, driving, aggressive guitar riff and manically speedy drums. This is a common theme across the album, but what I admire most about this track is how aggressive and almost disjointed it feels in its instrumentation, but never feels poorly performed or overdone. This trickles into other tracks such as “Contagion”, with its larger than life chorus and almost gothic vocal lines, or the terrifyingly strained vocals at the beginning of the title track. While there is not a whole lot of variation in style here, no slow-burners or easier-to-digest cuts, the guitars and driving drums are relentlessly cruel and aggressive. It feels like being beaten to death, but in a good way.
Where the record falters for me is almost entirely in the over-bloatedness of the tracklist. Even though this review is specifically for the bonus track version, after a while the growling lead vocals and attacking instrumentation lead to the record feeling samey, whether I am listening to the original tracklist or not. Tracks such as “Joie De Ne Pas Vivre” and “A Bellyful of Salt and Spleen” lack any interesting ideas, and kind of provide a lull in an otherwise visceral and unforgiving album experience. There are also points on the record where I wish Napalm Death would give a little bit more variety in the sound of the songs, maybe a slower, easier-to-digest cut here and there to give the album some space to breathe.
After almost exclusively listening to pop and rap over the past months, I realize that I haven’t given a lot of metal the time of day it deserves. The emotional catharsis it can bring for people is one of the many reasons metal was recognized as the fastest growing musical genre in 2019, based off of TuneCore data. Recently I have repeatedly become frustrated with school, the pandemic, and many other things in between, and my remedy has been throwing on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism. In many ways, this album is perfectly summed up by its title, as I have found immense relief and joy in thrashing around my room blasting “Fluxing the Muscle” and “That Curse of Being in Thrall”, even if once I am finished, I am anchored back to reality. This record feels slightly cathartic in its aggression, and whether or not it is cutting edge or entirely original is personally irrelevant. Sometimes, you just need a visceral one-two punch to the jaw from some smashing guitars and hate-filled vocals, and on that front, Napalm Death delivers.