Hornets of the Pogrom

I’ve been struggling with this review for a while now, first because it’s my first exposure to Virginia’s Arghoslent, and second, because of the obvious controversial themes and lyrics the band brings to the table. To skirt the band’s apparent racist and Anti Semitic views would feel like a cheap way out, and to focus entirely on those issues seems to remove any musical merit this band may or may not have. But as a person who routinely reviews Christian metal, and representing a website who has in the past reviewed the likes of Grand Belial’s Key (who shares a drummer with Arghoslent), you’d think I’d be ready for this right? The problem is because of my personal career, stating my exact opinions of race and such on such a public forum would not be wise (so don’t expect me to respond in any subsequent comments below), and second after actually listening to the band, I personally think the hullabaloo is a bit unwarranted.

First, I’ll attempt to at least lightly address the nature of the band’s lyrics and themes without turning this review into a soapbox. I could sit here and say “what is the difference between this and lyrics about zombies, cannibals, sexual perversion and misogyny that pervade metal?” But I do fully understand the more ‘real world and current’ nature of racism, especially here in America, so that would be a naïve way out for me. However, metal is and generally always has been about controversy and negativity. From Alice Cooper to Slayer’s “Angel of Death” to Marilyn Manson’s shock rock tactics, metal has always sought to usurp authority and rattle the cages of the ‘the man’. And what better way than through a portal that’s about the polar opposite of the African American/Urban culture as musically and socially possible? Mix death metal AND racism and you’ve got a sure recipe for attention and shock. That being said, in reading the lyrics to Hornets of the Pogrom, is that Arghoslent are actually quite artistic and epic in their portrayal of slavery, hate and their re-telling of historical events. It’s not like the band is simply spewing ‘Nigger this” this or “Kill darkie that”, it’s all very factual and almost historically in its prose. Sorry America, this happened and Arghoslent are playing music about it and not shying away from it. Deal with it

What baffles me however, has been the response of metal heads that I’ve seen state they simply refuse to listen to the band or buy their CDs for fear of contributing to a racist, hate mongering band. Aren’t metal heads supposed to be on the fringe of negativity? When did metal heads get all PC and start worrying about their lyrics? Innate fear of “the black man?” Should racism just be “Taboo” in every aspect of today’s culture? Is it just American metal heads that seem to feel this way? As an Englishman, I’ll admit, I have no personal connection with the Slavery issue, despite the fact my country was at the forefront of slavery and imperialism. Should Israeli or Palestinian metal fans refuse to listen to Nile? What if a band from England based their lyrics on the Zulu wars or our Imperial Indian rule? Or an American band singing about kicking England’s ass in the war of Independence-would that offend me? What if a band from Japan started a band purely about The Nanking Massacre? Would Americans listen then? I bet so. Ask a death metal fan from say, South America or maybe Eastern Europe if they care about Arghoslent’s lyrics and I wonder what the response would be? Is it a cultural phenomenon? I’m not sure but its something to think about and that’s about as much attention as I’ll give that side of things-onto the music…

On a base musical level Arghoslent are a pretty solid melodic death metal band. Granted, they are a very earthy and downtuned melodic death metal band with some much deeper register growls, but their riffs are certainly based in a more structured and restrained from of death metal-I was expecting a far nastier and maybe even black metal based form of metal. Instead I hear a lot of Scotland’s Korpse and early Beyond the Sixth Seal (circa Earth and Sphere) with a light Gothenburg gloss. At times, the riffs and solos are very, very impressive, such as opener “In Coffles They Were Led”, “Swill of the Knaves”, the stunning riff work at 2:46 of “Manacled Freightage”, “The Nubian Archer” and “Oracle of the Malefic Rhizome”; all have some mighty fine moments of competent, gruff melody, but the actual backbone of the band actually sounds a bit sloppy (i.e. “Dog and Broom”, instrumental title track “Hornets of the Pogrom”, “The Grenadier”) where the skill does not quite match the ambition, especially the drums, hindering the overall result to be considered musically elite. The end result is album where the attention based on the lyrics seems to actually outweight the quality of the album. It’s a good album, don’t get me wrong, I’ll give a few more plays over the coming weeks, but I just  don’t see myself pining for it or rushing out to get the bands back catalog.

I think I addressed the controversial lyrics issue far more than the actual music, but I think that’s somewhat of a metaphor for the CD itself. If you get to wrapped up in the lyrics you’ll either be getting or ignoring a solid, not great album. Is it really worth it either way? Is it really worth you forsaking your personal conviction to hear this album? Probably not. Is this album worth you arguing about its musical merits alone and ignoring the lyrical themes-again probably not.  Do you really think buying or ignoring this album is promoting and finacially helping or hindering a group of racists? I doubt it.

Whether you buy this CD is your own personal choice, I’m not going to say whether it’s right or wrong either way as certainly both sides have valid arguments. But I have to respect Arghoslent somewhat for simply not pandering to today’s racial climate, even if I don’t agree with their viewpoints, but they at least are adhering to one of metal’s oldest tenets; thou shall not give a fuck.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
May 18th, 2008


  1. Commented by: PizzaClaus

    I think this review was super well written Eirk Thomas never fails to impress. But I’m still totally on the fence about listening to it… damn.

  2. Commented by: Dan

    I submitted a lengthy essay on this very album, and subsequent line of cultural questioning, in my Arts Journalism class a few weeks ago and my Professor, a recent Pulitzer Prize winner, found it fascinating. I came to many of the same conclusions as you, in so much as I listened to, and even enjoyed Arghoslent, despite being a Jew myself. I especially agree that we, as metalheads, shouldn’t shy away from taboo subjects just because they offend us. Then we are no better than people who shun Metal as a whole for that same reason. Well done sir.

  3. Commented by: Staylow

    Extremely well written Erik. I’ve always said I could care less what kind of “message” was being delivered through a bands lyrics, as long as it musically kicks my ass. With that being said, I listened to the album once, and while decent, it didn’t do much for me, so I pretty much wrote it off – there’s entirely to much other metal out there to try to soak up.

    Once again, bravo and well played.

  4. Commented by: vugelnox

    I’ve supported this band for a long time and continue to do so because they consistently put out excellent metal that stands out in a crowded field. Also a very thoughtful review Erik and I’m glad you came down on the side of viewing the lyrics as having more of a historical slant to them.

    I feel this band writes of things simply as they were and because some individuals may choose to feign mock offense to events that happened well before their lifetime does not mean these events did not occur. I’m not being a smartass when I state I’m still honestly not sure what is offensive about this band. A remedial lesson in expressing opinion on a subject and discussing it in a neutral tone is in order for those who feel these lyrics are blatantly racist.

  5. Commented by: Stu

    Really good review, Erik. I won’t be getting this just because i’m not big on DM.

  6. Commented by: ShaolinLambKiller

    I have their 3 previous releases and I’ll be picking up this one. I enjoyed all those releases highly. and as far as content it comes across more historical than anything else.

  7. Commented by: WolfenHorden

    Arghoslent at least imprints a political and ideological views in the music, personally is tired hear a bunch of puberts talk about gore, zombies, raping virgins, a bunch of kiddies showing in their minds was made only with crapshit equals as Josh&Drake, dumbasses playing extreme music without no funking idea to express, despite if Arghoslent has the incorregible bigotry and show widely antijew and offensive opinion about colored people. Besides, the music is good, vocally strong and riffs thick and more complex as ladys like Bullet for My Valentine

  8. Commented by: Jeff Kent

    I hate to be cliche, but I can’t really understand what they’re saying anyway. It could be about how cute puppies and bunnies are and I wouldn’t know it. Musically I dig it.

  9. Commented by: scott

    i love how arghoslent pissess off all the hypocritical metalheads. it’s ok to write songs about raping and butchering women,sex with corpses and animals, but don’t say the word nigger cause it’s wrong.

  10. Commented by: L.

    A really really good review of a great album.

    I see where the reviewer is coming from with the whole “more ‘real world and current’ nature of racism” angle, however, misogyny is just as real as racism and hardly compares to zombies and cannibals. The average self-righteous metalhead that won’t touch stuff like Arghoslent or GBK will always get defensive, hysterically raise their voice, trying, and failing, to argue that misogynist lyrics are just fictional but that “argument” is just a cop out. If listening to bands with racist lyrics makes the listener complicit to racism then listening to bands with sexist or misogynist lyrics makes the listener complicit to sexism or misogyny. To think otherwise is intellectually lazy and hypocritical.

  11. Commented by: Ben

    I don’t agree with these guys’ ideals at all, but then I never agreed with Varg Vikernes’ either. That doesn’t stop Burzum from being one of the greatest black metal bands ever and the metal world seems for the most part to accept him and be perfectly comfortable with listening to his music. Seems odd that an extremely vocal national socialist activist and convicted murderer and arsonist is seen as not as bad as Arghoslent just because he keeps his ideals and music seperate in my opinion.

  12. Commented by: bla

    Download it enjoy but never suport it by any means.

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