The political atmosphere has been very tense in America and Europe alike for quite some time already. That torrid sentiment has been transferred into the music world, including metal, which has been targeted by certain groups and organizations for some of the controversial views some bands have, or the illusion they’ve created about metal bands in general.
The stances band take, aligned with their ideologies, which can lead to some misjudgment calls. Which is exactly what happened with New York black metal band Woe and Germany’s Ultha, which were both removed from a German festival, Hamburg ist Droneburg, for having booked a show with so-called “NSBM” duo Inquisition.
Both bands posted messages via Facebook explaining the situation , with Woe going in depth about their political views:
UPDATE 16 April: Hamburg ist Droneburg have issued a statement explaining the cancelation was forced last-minute by the venue. We appreciate their clear explanation and recognize the difficult position they were placed in. Our statement has been updated to reflect this.
The closing was also updated for clarity. We are not members of any group, antifa or otherwise, and our participation in the mentioned benefit was due to our agreement with the purpose of that specific event. We are not members of ANY organization.
Woe and Ultha were just kicked off of a show because we are performing with Inquisition. We learned this via SMS, before our booker was informed, after driving four hours across Germany, and with no opportunity to appeal the decision.
The absurdity of this situation is profound. For years, we have been exceptionally vocal about our political and social stances but still careful to not let them define us as a band. We never backed down from an opportunity to discuss it in interviews, we never shrank from it online, we covered a classic anti-fascist punk song to extremely apolitical black metal crowds, and we doubled down with songs like “No Blood Has Honor” on our new album. Along the way, we introduced countless black metal fans who had never considered politics that it is possible to take an anti-fascist stance without sacrificing the harsh, abrasive stance of a black metal band.
Our politics have made us the subject of ridicule by some people in the extreme metal scene, but we do not care. Even our detractors typically understand that black metal is full of conflict and diversity. Those who hate us for our liberal views are free to do so, and, ironically, those are the people who are least willing to tell us what we should or shouldn’t do, what shows we should and shouldn’t play. We’d find this funny if it wasn’t so poignant right now.
The worldwide extreme metal scene is a diverse, complicated thing full of people with different backgrounds and experiences. Many bands and fans have never once thought about politics, many of them do not care about politics and object to the idea that they should have to care about them to appreciate music. To these people, riffs are riffs, songs are songs, imagery exists to build mood, and message is secondary to feeling. Even within Woe, we have varying levels of political involvement. Regardless of whether you agree with the apolitical metal fan’s perspective, recognizing it is crucial to understanding why bands with questionable backgrounds can operate on an international level and why a band like Woe might choose to put ourselves in close proximity to people with whom we may not agree.
Woe and our tourmates Ultha exist to create and perform art, not proselytize, but we are also adamant that performing at explicitly apolitical events with diverse lineups is crucial for the representation of our social and political beliefs. Black metal encourages questioning systems, offending those in power, and evolving beyond outdated beliefs.
If we were to only play to crowds who were squeaky clean, nothing would change, nobody would grow. Similarly, if you think that a band has committed such intense crimes that they should be barred from participating in the international scene, that is between you and the band, not your allies who choose a different approach to engagement. If we choose to participate in an event, it is because we are confident that it does not compromise who we are.
To have a show canceled now, after years of unflinching willingness to stick our necks out to crowds who might be unreceptive, goes beyond being a slap in the face. The venue Hafenklang decided how two openly anti-fascist bands, one of whom is primarily comprised of people of Jewish background, should engage with extremism in a music scene that is only now starting to become politically aware. We and those alongside us deserve the trust and respect to effect change as we see fit. Every adult must be responsible for themselves and choose a level of involvement that is right for them. It is not appropriate for others to decide how we should or should not engage.
This is why the right thinks that the left is full of fools and reactionary children who have never stepped out into the real world. Rather than targeting the actual fascists or supporting allies within the scene, they eat their own. Hafenklang have today acted as agents of the right by silencing us and, once again, promoting the right’s message that anti-fascism is the enemy of black metal.
Despite this, we are resolute in our position. We played an antifa-sponsored benefit in Brooklyn for J20 protestors barely a week before leaving for this tour, and we will not allow this incident to change our views. Those responsible for today’s cancellation, as with all similar events, are people from outside of the scene who have decided that they know how to handle our problems better than those of us actively participating in the metal scene. To those who would deprive of us our voice and strip us of our agency, we urge you to improve this situation by making bridges with people within the metal scene. Wars like this are won through discussion and understanding, not force.
-Chris Grigg and WOE
April 14, 2017
As stated at the beginning of the post, the festival clarified their position on the cancellation, stating this was initiated by the venue where the festival was booked at. The statement reads as follows:
STATEMENT ZUM DRONEBURG VII.
Leute, wir verstehen dass ihr euch aufregt und von uns ein Statement erwartet, aber bitte versteht auch, dass wir uns nach monatelangen Festival-Vorbereitungen und dann diesen Entwicklungen in der letzten Woche und v.a. am Freitag einfach einen Tag Auszeit nehmen MUSSTEN um auch unsere Gedanken zu sortieren und etwas Abstand zu gewinnen.
Guys, we understand that many people have been upset and still are, and that you expect a statement from us. But please also accept that after months of organizing this little festival and after all those things happening last week and especially on Friday, that we needed to take a day off, to sort our thoughts and gaini a bit of distance.
First an most important, as many still haven´t got the main point:
We, the DRONEBURG FESTIVAL, have NOTHING to do with the cancellation of the bands ULTHA and WOE last Friday at the DRONEBURG VII. This decision was coming from the club Hafenklang, and we as the festival organizers are only guests in the Hafenklang and so we sadly have to accept this decision.
We feel deeply sorry that this decision has been made and finally at such a late point, as we only got to know about that on the day of the festival, last Friday at 3pm. Therefore we apologize that there have been some people from outside of Hamburg who took a long ride to come to DRONEBURG VII and had to learn about the fact that perhaps exactly those bands they wanted to see the most will not be playing…that sucks big time!
Also we feel really sorry, that ULTHA and WOE lost the chance to play in Hamburg on such short term and all that because of reasons, that we can´t share. But we have to accept it.
We want to thank everyone helping to make DRONEBURG VII nevertheless such a great evening, especially everyone in the audience and all the bands.
Both bands will continue with their European tour as scheduled but this misconception developed by the venue is only a sign that it won’t stop happening to others. Meanwhile, you can get your hands on Woe’s latest album, Hope Attrition, and Ultha’s Converging Sin to show some support .