Following the latest announcement from the Hellfest about the confirmed bands for it’s 2011 edition, there have been surprised reactions, across the internet, about a band in particular, and its disappearance from the festival’s bill : Satanic Warmaster. The finnish one-man-band led by Satanic Tyrant Werwolf seems to have been the victim of a protest stronger than Christine Boutin (translator’s note: a politician who tried to have the festival cancelled) which managed to force the festival’s organizers to do something we weren’t expecting.
Here’s what Werwolf announced on his band’s Facebook page : "It has been brought to my attention, that the organizers of the festival cannot hold on to our agreement to have Satanic Warmaster perform at the 2011 Hellfest. This was because of pressure put to the organizers by other artists booked on the festival."
Of course, only his side of the story wasn’t enough. What do the Hellfest organizers have to say ? First, we asked Jeff, responsible for the festival’s promotion and communication : "we received complaint letters from festival-goers and bands playing at the festival, who were opposed to Satanic Warmaster’s performance." And the focus of these complaints were... ? "The band’s very ‘borderline’ lyrics" explained Jeff, lyrics which – beyond the simple satanic and anti-Christian aspects which are common in black metal – contain references to Nazism, which can be interpreted as signs of sympathy towards that ideology, and tended to make the band seem related to the NSBM (National Socialist Black Metal) movement.
Werwolf didn’t remain silent regarding his eviction. Again on his Facebook page, he shared his point of view : "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.
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 is 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 like 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 asked Ben Barbaud, the Hellfest’s organizer, to explain this decision to the festival’s fans. Here’s what he has to say:
"The Hellfest has decided independantly 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 even, that has taken years to develop, for reasons which are unrelated to music, and have nothing to do with the purpose of this festival.
For the festival,
This post is also available in: French