Heavy metal has been a victim of religious persecution since it’s very inception. There’s something about the dark imagery, occult themes, and general extremeness that doesn’t seem to jive with the more conservative-minded. That said, metal hasn’t been innocent in the battle – there was that whole church burning thing in Norway back in the 90s followed by Century Media Records turning the incident into snowglobes. That probably didn’t win many (sane) fans. Nergal of Behemoth literally tore apart a Bible onstage. And, you know, Ghaal.
Just last Saturday, June 4th, Sweden’s Tiamat was scheduled to play the Tbilisi JAM Festival in Georgia (the country), but the show was shut down by “ultraconservative Orthodox Christian activists” reports Georgia Today. Show organizer Vladimir Unanyants told reporters that a group of activists, led by Orthodox priests, arrived with the intentions of violently disrupting the show. They reportedly cut power to the venue, which prompted the organizers to scrap the entire show.
The festival was on the first of two days, and festival organizers hurriedly began looking for an alternate location for the second day. Unanyants claims that the Parish wanted the concert to be stopped because it was “desecrating a nearby cemetary,” as if the dead could actually hear what was going on.
“They were yelling and accusing us of organizing a mass sex orgy… Then, suddenly, the electricity went off. From what I’ve been told the owner of the venue cut it off.” – Vladimir Unanyants
Author’s note: If anybody has any more information on when/where these massive heavy metal sex orgies are happening, that would greatly appreciated.
Georgia Today added that this incident was just the “latest in a string of cases involving fundamentalist Orthodox Christian groups and neo-Nazis who target venues or events that they consider to be Western cultural threats to Georgia’s deeply rooted conservative social values.”
Ukrainian based metal band Jinjer, who was also scheduled to play the festival, posted the following statement on their Facebook page describing the incident:
“For the first time over several years JINJER’s performance was cancelled today due to the attact[sic] by religious fanatics. Tbilisi JAM Fest was disrupted because the monestry [sic] not far away (about 1 km away) didn’t like it, the priests brought an angry crowd of believers and assaulted the festival area!!! Even though the festival had all necessary permissions by local authorities, the fanatics just cut off the electricity. The most shocking was that the Police was just standing aside and watching… It is sad to realize that in Georgia, the country which seemed to be civilized, RELIGION has MORE POWER than the LAW.”
The bad news doesn’t end there either, because Sepultura ran into trouble the very same day, but this time in Egypt. Ahram Online reports that the Brazilian thrash band was scheduled to play their very first show in Egypt, but apparently the show organized had failed to get the proper permissions to hold the show. The concert was supposed to take place at the Nile Country Club, but shortly before the show’s start it the Nile refused to host the show because the promoter Nader Sadek had failed to secure the proper permits for the event, and it was moved to a villa in Sheikh Zayed on the outskirts of Cairo.
When the police arrived and Zayed was unable to produce the proper permits, they asked the bands and attendees to leave, to which they obliged peacefully. The Associated Press reports that three of the organizers had been detained, and that the police had described the concert as an unlicensed party for “Satan worshippers.” A representative of the Nile Country Club stated that the incomplete permits were the reason for the police action.
However, there could easily be some cultural bias going on. There have been numerous attempts in the past to shut down heavy metal concerts, because they apparently think we’re all Satanists performing dark rituals when we gather. Although, The Church of Satan is probably one of the most reasonable religions out there, but that’s not what we’re here to discuss.
The band was quick to apologize for the incident on Facebook, stating that the promoter was the issue for cancelled show and that they hope to return soon:
“Unfortunately, the show that Sepultura should have done on 04/06/2016 in Cairo, had to be canceled a few hours before its beginning due bureaucratic unresolved issues between the local promoter and Cairo authorities.
We’re deeply sorry for the fans that were anxiously waiting for the concert, but these are legal issues that are beyond the control of any artist.
We hope to return soon to this great country!”
We take metal for granted here in the US. We fought our battles for the freedom to rock decades ago, but unfortunately things aren’t as good in other parts of the world. Sure, attendance at shows isn’t always spectacular and record sales are abysmal, but at least we have the freedom to go to these shows and buy these albums. The religious right may not approve of what we’re doing, but it’s been a long time since we’ve had to (legitimately) fear the police or preachers trying to stand between us and our passions. It wasn’t said in response to this event, but one of Ghost’s Nameless Ghouls said it best:
“Obviously, it is a big problem. It’s a very contemporary problem. It’s a very, very big danger.
And, as much as we in the Western world feel like we are secularized – especially in Sweden, where we come from, it’s so secularized, to the point where being religious is almost like being a little bit dumb
But still – there seems to be a disconnect between the modern man and her well being, because of that loss. That is not to say… We are not telling anybody to believe anything special, but there seems to be a disregard towards the idea that there are a lot of things that we might believe that we don’t understand. ” – Nameless Ghous (Ghost)
Alright, maybe Dee Snider said it best.