Arghoslent are an American band that gained a lot of notoriety for their lyrics describing vividly the trans-Atlantic slave trade, not from any neutral, strictly historical perspective but with a vested bias in white cultural supremacy and by conjunction the degenerative genetic plight of the coloured races. Over the years the band has reformed their invective somewhat, opting for a more “acceptable” stance that considers true strength to be derived from within and not from pigmentation or lack thereof, even going so far as supporting Barack Obama during his first crack at the presidency back in ’08. While this in no way means that the band has reneged on its formerly adamant, vitriolic assertions, it does hint at either a late-dawning but genuine maturity, or an appeal for greater inclusiveness within an often heavily left-leaning metal community.
This is more a subjective, and contemplative, piece on how personally-held convictions can color perception. Arghoslent play a blend of classic NWOBHM and death metal. They are well studied in the minutiae of heavy metal and execute the basics in a near flawless manner, but their music often tends to veer into overly saccharine areas that belie the acidic nature of their subject matter. Ares Kingdom are a band that follow a template quite similar to Arghoslent but do so far more consummately and with an innate zeal and vigor that this band has never quite managed to exude. Arghoslent are admittedly far more staunchly entrenched in the sounds of traditional metal and as such seem to favour laconic Iron Maiden-styled melody over outright thrash-infused aggression.
But for the longest time, this lack of aggression was justification enough for me to dismiss Arghoslent as bland and unimaginative with no control over how they went about achieving their vision. Ideas however cannot forever stay in stasis – or at least one hopes they don’t – and are open to embracing an honest dialogue with themselves. It now occurs to me that my dismissal of this band may have had more to do with an aversion to their open racism than with any intrinsic dis-qualifiers pertaining to their music. Make no mistake; the racism in their lyrics is still unedifying and not something I can ever agree with. But metal played in this manner by any other band with more regular, prosaic, hippy-dippy lyrics would be enough to send me over the moon in praise of a honest revival of an archaic sound. With Arghoslent, I have observed a blatant dishonesty in myself, heaping an opprobrium on the band’s music that it most patently does not deserve.
While this is no apology on behalf of the band’s hardline views, it makes one wonder whether we should perhaps pause a little before dismissing music – and art in general – that runs counter to our most cherished notions in life. Of course this is a moot question for a vast majority of people for whom music is just sounds, and ideologies don’t matter a whit. For such, Christians and other religious folks alike, deliberations of this sort would be incongruent with the hypocrisy they practice so adroitly in their daily lives. But the pertinent question for the more discerning and sensitive among us is whether racist music can and should be supported. Can the music exist in a vacuum of itself, and be encouraged for what it is without its underlying message entering our consciousness? Buying a record by Arghoslent or a NSBM band implies giving your hard earned money to people who you disagree with on a fundamental, moral level; money which can then be funneled towards causes which don’t entirely fit within your world view. Where and how does one draw the lines that support free speech and right to opinion while upholding one’s own private convictions? Should there even be free speech for all concerned – after all, a good chunk of NSBM bands are musically null and void, and exist solely as unrefined hate organs – and if not how does one go about proscribing it?
It is a slippery slope with many questions but few answers. What is undeniable, however, is that art cannot afford to be jejune and has to, needs to, elicit some kind of emotion in its audience. And emotions run a gamut far wider and larger than what most are willing to acknowledge. The artist has absolute right, and even a responsibility by the very nature of his craft, to express himself, and his innermost closet of skeletons, in the service of reproducing an ideal, as unappealing as it may be to the world at large. Because in a desensitized society, anything with the ability to strike a nerve and make it twitch deserves to be applauded.