Published Feb 01, 2011Finnish black metal act Satanic Warmaster are no strangers to controversy. But a few days ago, the band's notoriety skyrocketed when they got kicked off this year's Hellfest festival (to be held in Clisson, France this July).
Satanic Warmaster have, since the band's inception, been associated with national socialism, fascism and accused of Nazi sympathy due to some lyrical content, imagery and interview comments made by members of the group. Hellfest allegedly approached the band to play this year's edition and included them in the festival's official program, only to recently pull the act.
In a statement from the band, frontman Werwolf claims he half-expected some kind of showdown, but didn't think the band would be stripped of the chance to perform under the same umbrella as Iggy and the Stooges, Ozzy Osbourne and Bad Brains, among others.
Werwolf's statement reads:
It is a disappointment (despite being totally expected) to see such mentality still present in the 'individualist' and 'free-thinking' metal community that any musical act can still be boycotted because of false preconceptions and arbitrary political motivations of other, 'bigger' artists. It is also more than amusing to see that the censorship and boycott some of the French authorities tried to push on the festival earlier are now excercised by the festival organization itself.
Obviously because I have never upheld any modern taboos or lived my life as an apologetic dabbler, it makes me also a target for politically motivated artists to keep us from playing because of their self-righteous reasons. Any artist can be put on a mock trial by taking words out of their context without thinking of the actual message, and Satanic Warmaster once again hangs crucified by hysterics driven by the love for a world and values I feel no oneness with.
As alluded to by Werwolf, rumours persist that the festival organizers booted the group off the bill after being pressured by other bands playing the fest that were offended by the inclusion of Satanic Warmaster. However, none of this has been confirmed or commented on in an official statement by the fest or any of the other featured bands.
The statement continues:
Everyone who has even slightest interest in this musical style knows what black metal is about and in that light, only a moralist or someone with a very extreme double standard can say that Satanic Warmaster are in some manner different from other artists of the genre.
It makes me want to puke for making a statement like this, which is almost something that a politician would do, but to clear some things, it was mandatory to bite the bullet this time.
Just to make sure everyone has their labels right, Satanic Warmaster's ideology is Satanism and music style black metal. Whoever claims otherwise does so only because of personal feelings and/or resentment.
We can only assume that a contractual clause enables Hellfest to drop any of its artists when the festival sees fit, even though Werwolf doesn't mention this in his statement. However, he stresses that the band's ideology is Satanism but does not elaborate on other ideologies or political convictions, nor does he deny any Nazi sympathies or anti-Semitic accusations.
UPDATE: Ben Barbaud, the organizer of Hellfest, has now issued a statement regarding their decision to drop Satanic Warmaster. You can read it below.
The Hellfest has decided independently and in all conscience to cancel Satanic Warmaster's performance. This decision was in no way caused by the pressure received by various small groups against the event.
We had decided to confirm this artist when we noticed a strong demand.
The ideology and political values adopted by some artists have never been selection criteria for the festival; we leave the right to each and everyone to forge their own opinions about the artists performing at the festival, and we are not bringing our event on political grounds which have nothing to do with the music. However, we have received a large number of complaints partly from festival-goers but also from artists, considering this artist to be conflicting with the festival's state of mind, and ready to settle things with a fight.
We are not here to take position in this debate. The Hellfest is a celebration above all else, its purpose is not to divide, but to unite an audience under a single banner: passion for heavy music.
It appears to be impossible to find an adequate solution without risking irreversible damage or violent comportments during the festival which is to take place next June.
The Hellfest's purpose isn't to judge one's opinions, but to insure a peaceful and friendly gathering. Consequently, we have decided to cancel Satanic Warmaster's performance in order to insure order and safety during the festival. Clan wars related to difference of opinion do not have their place at the Hellfest.
The festival would like to apologize to fans of this artist, and wishes to reaffirm its independent and apolitical position. We will not jeopardize this event that has taken years to develop for reasons which are unrelated to music and have nothing to do with the purpose of this festival.