Editors' Notes Sixteen albums in, Napalm Death are as vital as ever. With Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism, the hyper-political UK grind progenitors address the plight of “the other”: how those perceived as outsiders are systematically dehumanised by various political, cultural and religious systems—not to mention their fellow man. “This has been happening since time immemorial,” vocalist Barney Greenway tells Apple Music. “But now governments are using this stuff to try and increase their power. So I thought it was really important to point this stuff out, and for Napalm Death to be the antithesis.” In other words, this is protest music—pure and simple. “We want to stand up and say, ‘If the human race means anything, this is just not acceptable,’” explains Greenway, who wrote most of the lyrics to bassist Shane Embury’s churning musical assault. “If it has become permissible for this social exclusion and dehumanisation to be happening, who's to say what could happen next?” Below, Greenway takes us into the belly of Napalm’s beast.

F**k the Factoid
“This is the archetypal ‘take the brakes off, go down the track and let’s see if the train doesn’t come off the line’ type of song. But it’s also got, I think, what points to the chemistry of the writers after 16 albums, because there’s also more quirky elements to the song. Lyrically, it’s about fake news and how factoids, small pieces of information, are knitted together sometimes to mean something completely different than what they evidently mean—and how that is used to dehumanise people.”

Backlash Just Because
“This is the first single that was put out there, and in some ways it’s a very trad Napalm sort of thing. I think it has elements of the Fear, Emptiness, Despair period mixed with the earlier stuff. The thing that kicked my ass when I first heard this song was the bass at the start. I was just, ‘Fucking shit, that sounds like a concrete mixer!’ So it was thumbs up from me straight away. The song talks about deliberately being down on someone just because you can, because you’ve been conditioned to believe that somebody else infringing upon your universe is somehow a great threat. But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.”

That Curse of Being in Thrall
“This is musically very fast and furious, with a stop-start kind of thing. And what I'm talking about with the title is being enthralled to a culture that dictates that things can't change. I think culture has some very positive aspects aesthetically, but I think when culture becomes something that stops you from moving forward as a human being, it can be eradicated as far as I'm concerned. One classic example, which is something that's maybe not directly connected to the album on this occasion, is fox hunting. Yeah, it's a cultural pastime here in the UK, but as far as I'm concerned, it's basically the bloodthirsty pursuit of animals.”

Contagion
“The title might seem timely, but it has no relation to the pandemic. Everything was finished well before that. But this is a Shane song, both musically and lyrically, and it’s got a very Killing Joke chorus, which both me and Shane did in tandem in terms of the vocals. But the actual lyric itself, unusually for Napalm, is story-driven. It’s about the ‘La Bestia’ cargo train that goes from central Latin America to the US border. Apparently the conditions on the train are just inhumane, to put it mildly. I think what Shane wanted to do is underline the desperation that people have just to get a bit of dignity. And to think that they could possibly face rejection when they get to their destination point does not paint a particularly good picture of humanity.”

Joie De Ne Pas Vivre
“I remember when Shane first wrote this, he bounded up to me very excited and said, ‘I’ve got a Young Gods-type song’—you know, the Swiss French band Young Gods. As it turned out, it was very Young Gods, and has no guitar on it—only bass. Which I thought was fucking neat, because I love that kind of stuff. So I thought if we're going to do a bit of an homage to Young Gods and they sing a lot in Swiss French, let’s make it a French title. It means ‘the joy of not living’ and the lyric says that if you’re hating other people for no apparent reason, then you’re not actually living your life. Joy De Vivre was also, of course, the name of a member of Crass—so I always wanted to use that in something.”

Invigorating Clutch
“This song is very unusual in some ways for Napalm Death in that it’s very controlled. And I almost winked when I said that, because the idea of a controlled Napalm Death is not a common concept. But it’s very rhythmic and sludgy as fuck. It’s like Amebix meets Celtic Frost meets the Canadian Slaughter. The lyrics are very simple but effective: An ‘invigorating clutch’ is putting your hands around someone’s neck and being actually quite happy to wipe them out because they’ve invaded your universe. A horrible thought, but not foreign to the world we’re living in.”

Zero Gravitas Chamber
“I always try to use play on words, so I was quite happy with this title. Musically, the song reminds of a Harmony Corruption type of thing, albeit updated and with a lot more of a fitting sound than that record had. The lyrical theme talks about the very physical side of persecuting people—the arms trade is an example. I remember reading about an incident in Yemen, it was a year or so ago, when it was discovered that the weapons that were used to wipe out a kids’ school bus were either from the US or the UK. Isn’t it time that we stopped selling these weapons to people—or even making them in the first place? And of course, our government says, ‘But it’s part of our economy and our relationship with our international partners…’ I’m sorry—no. There’s no justification for that. Find a better industry to share with people across the world.”

Fluxing of the Muscle
“This is another fast and furious song, but with a bit of a Swans-type ending and very baritone, low-pro vocals, which I really liked doing. When you flux something, you make it fluid. It’s often used as an industrial term in relation to softening metals and stuff like that. So it’s another play on words: If you’re fluxing your muscle, you’re basically expanding it so you can hurt more people.”

Amoral
“This is 100% influenced by Killing Joke, and if I was to tell you otherwise, I’d be fucking lying. Again, it’s Shane’s song—both lyrically and musically. As I understand it, what he’s basically saying in the lyrics is ‘What is the point of fighting with everybody all the time?’ In the end, we have a limited time on this earth, and then we go back to the earth, which is illustrated by this one line he uses at the end of the chorus, which I really love: ‘In the end we’re just food for the worms/Shit of the earth.’ Which we are, whether you like the terminology or not. So while you’re here, spend your time wisely and use it with good treatment of your fellow human beings.”

Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism
“As soon as I heard this one, I knew it was going to be the title track. It’s so manic, you know what I mean? Instead of having an easily digestible title track, I wanted to pick the craziest one. And I just went nuts on this track, man. The chorus extension part on this, where I’m fucking screaming, I almost passed out when I did it. I’m not kidding. But the lyrics are very simple—it’s just a couple of lines. It’s about being in a trap and basically choosing love over hate.”

Acting in Gouged Faith
“This one is more of a multi-tempo kind of track, and it’s quite ‘groovy’ in some respects. Lyrically, it’s about this really glaring hypocrisy where people proclaim themselves to be very devoutly religious under the premise of being ‘good’. But by the same token, anybody that’s alien to their small moral universe is not worthy, basically. So it’s the very opposite of what they claim to be observing. It’s the theocratic approach to dehumanisation and the marginalisation of people. It’s a more subtle approach, but equally as toxic, I think.”

A Bellyful of Salt and Spleen
“This one is a bit of Swans meets a bit of Joy Division meets ambient rock meets industrial ambiance and homemade drum kits. Because that’s what this has got—Shane went out and found a load of oilcans and rubbish bins from around a small fabrication factory near the studio. And there’s about 20 fucking tracks of vocals on this. Lyrically, it’s about the very real story of refugees resorting to the most dangerous ways of getting to a dignified new life. In the context of the UK, it’s more to do with refugees going in boats, these very unseaworthy vessels, and sadly drowning in a lot of instances. We illustrated this with an animated video which has bodies washing up on shores while normal beach life is going on—people taking selfies and not even noticing the death around them.”

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