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Pressure group urges boycott of ‘satanic’ Hellfest

A conservative Catholic protest group in France is once again protesting one of Europe’s biggest hard-rock and metal festivals, Hellfest, over its alleged promotion of ‘satanism’ and anti-Christian themes.

Les Amis du collectif pour un festival Hellfest respectueux de tous (ACFHRT, Friends of the Collective for a Hellfest Festival Respectful of All) – a Mouzillon-based group which aims to secure the withdrawal of public support for the festival as long as it “promotes anti-Christianity, satanism and occultism” – tells traditionalist-Catholic newspaper Présent that Hellfest supports “several groups promoting anti-Christianity and satanism” who take pride in their “blasphemy” and perform “real satanic rites”.

Polish extreme metal band Behemoth, who are pictured prominently in the article, posted the piece on Instagram, telling their 290,000 followers: “Some French Catholic conservatives are trying to boycott one of the best European festivals, Hellfest Open Air festival… what do you think about it?”

 

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Some french catholic conservatives are trying to boycott one of the best European festivals Hellfest Open Air Festival… what do you think about it? @hellfestopenair

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ACFHRT announced last July it is suing the festival, along with two editorial staff at Les Inrockuptibles, for defamation after Hellfest festival director Didier Molitor criticised the Roman Catholic church’s history of “genocides and murder”. Hellfest press officer Olivier Garnier also accused the group of being “outlaws” (“hors-la-loi”).

ACFHRT’s latest intervention comes just days after Greek metal act Rotting Christ were locked up in Georgia on terror charges and branded as satanists.

Hellfest lost an estimated €20,000 in public funding in 2016 after booking Phil Anselmo, who had attracted controversy for giving a Nazi-style salute at a show in California. ACFHRT seeks an end to all subsidies for the event in its current form, saying the “right to freedom of expression does not give the right to incite hatred and violence, let alone public money”.

Hellfest declined to comment.

Hellfest 2018, which takes place on 22–24 June in in Clisson, Pays de la Loire, is headlined by Avenged Sevenfold, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Other performers include Deftones, Alice in Chains, Limp Bizkit, Marilyn Manson and Parkway Drive.

 


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‘Satanic’ metal band arrested on terror charges in Georgia

Two members of veteran Greek extreme metal band Rotting Christ were detained on terrorism charges ahead of show in Georgia last Thursday, after authorities accused them of practising satanism, their record label has said.

According to a statement from Season of Mist, frontman Sakis Tolis was detained alongside his brother, drummer Themis, after being arrested on arrival in Tbilisi on Thursday 12 June on charges allegedly relating to their band name.

Sakis explains: “After the regular document check at the border, my brother and I were stopped by the police on our way out from the airport. After some minutes, we were ordered to follow police to another area of the airport under the pretence of further questioning before entering the country. Instead, we had our passports and mobile phones taken away and were led into a prison cell.

“When we demanded to be told the reason for this arrest, we were simply told this information would be ‘confidential’. Our lawyers informed us later that we are on a list of unwanted persons [regarded a threat to] national security that branded us as satanists and therefore suspects of terrorism.”

The incident has echoes of the controversy around heavy metal music in Egypt, where metal acts have found themselves arrested and shows shut down after being branded devil worshippers by conservative Muslims.

Around 84% of Georgians are Orthodox Christians, although the constitution of the former Soviet republic safeguards freedom of belief and religion.

“There is “no jail that can stop our endless lust for metal”

Sakis says the pair were locked in a “small and rather dirty cell, and without being permitted any contact to the outside world or legal representation or our embassy for 12 hours”, before the promoters of the RedRum event, Sweden’s Terror Crew Promotions and Georgia’s Locomotive Promotion, intervened and the band were released without charge.

“Due to the hard work of the local promoter, who involved legal experts, journalists, and activists in Georgia, we were finally released,” he explains. “We are extremely grateful to everybody involved in this process. In the end, we were even able to perform our show and it turned out to be a fantastic night.”

In a follow-up statement, Sakis says there is “no jail that can stop our endless lust for metal, and we promise that we will always be frontline in the battle against any kind of god-fearing regimes, as well as any kind of terrorism, independent of where they come from. Freedom of speech to everyone, brothers.”

Rotting Christ are regarded as pioneers of black metal in Greece and the Balkans, and have released 12 studio albums since their formation in 1987. Their name has previously attracted controversy in the US, when Gary Bauer, a minor Republican presidential candidate in the 2000 elections, accused the band of being “anti-Catholic”, and Malta, where Roman Catholic groups have protested against their shows.

They were also forced to cancel an appearance in Greece in 2005 after Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine – an outspoken born-again Christian – refused to play on the same bill.

 


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Nader Sadek sues over ‘devil worship’ defamation

Nader Sadek, the visual artist, metal musician and concert promoter known for his conflict with the Egyptian Musicians’ Syndicate, is suing the union’s head, Hany Shaker, for defamation and libel.

Sadek – who has brought international acts including Sepultura, Aborted, Alkaloid, Inquisition and Dark Fortress to play for Egyptian metalheads – spent time in a Cairo jail last year after Shaker accused him of being part of an “international devil-worshipping network” and promoting music that conflicts with Egyptian “society’s religious beliefs and social traditions”. (Read the full story here.)

He tells IQ he has high hopes of winning his case against Shaker, which will be heard by a Cairo judge on 21 May, “because they [the Syndicate] defamed me live on TV, even after we initiated the lawsuit,” he explains, referencing an appearance by a spokesman for the Musicians’ Syndicate on Al Kahera Wal Nas in April in which he again accused Sadek of devil worship, as well as telling Sadek’s lawyer, Mokhtar Badr, he was only “looking for fame”.

In a bizarre aside, the programme also included an appearance from a ‘high priest of devil worship’ – an actor in impressively realistic prosthetic make-up – designed to ridicule the Syndicate’s accusations of devil worship. “What the channel did with my episode is they brought in this half-man, half-creature thing with horns and interviewed him,” Sadek explains. “Everybody was freaking out – they told people with weak hearts to turn the TV off – and this thing comes in and introduces himself as priest of Satan.

“Later, the ‘priest’ took his mask off and a famous prosthetic artist come out and revealed it was fake: the point being that there is no devil worship and no priests of Satan.”

Sadek is seeking E£1 million in damages to cover the losses from Sepultura, Dark Fortress and Inquisition concerts disrupted by the Syndicate. “The only way he [Shaker] is going to get out of it is by bringing false or fabricated evidence,” continues Sadek. “We didn’t do anything unlawful, so the law is on our side. Additionally, Shaker and the Syndicate are not in any legal or  religious position to make claims about myself or my religious practices.”

Sadek says he believes Shaker, who claimed to have infiltrated the Inquisition show and exposed a devil-worshipping ring, was driven purely by self-interest: “When he initially posted on his Facebook page about infiltrating the Inquisition show – which in reality he did not do – he mentions at the end, ‘I saved the youths of Egypt from devil worship’,” he explains. “It was an attempt to make himself look like a hero.”

“It’s not just about metal – it’s about art”

In the event Shaker – one of the Arab world’s most famous singers – does win, Sadek says he and Badr are planning to take the case to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands. “We’re just going to keep going after them.

“Technically I was tortured, as one of the prison guards put out a cigarette on my foot… If I do lose, I’m not stopping. I seek justice, and most in my position would have left the country. But I don’t run – I’m here to stay.”

Sadek emphasises that the repercussions of the case go far beyond beyond metal music, setting a precedent for the protection of artistic freedom throughout Egypt. “It’s not just about metal,” he says. “It’s about art. If some people can’t deal with it, they have two choices: either change themselves from within, or just don’t look at it.

“There are things in our society that we can’t change that we have to accept – they need to do the same.”

 


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Exclusive: Nader Sadek breaks his silence

Egyptian-American artist and musician Nader Sadek first came to IQ’s attention in February, when a metal show he promoted in Cairo, by American band Inquisition and Dubai-based Perversion, was accused by the Egyptian musicians’ union, the Musicians Syndicate, as being part of an “international devil-worshipping network”. Syndicate head Hany Shaker, himself a popular musician, attempted to have the concert shut down, claiming falsely Sadek had put on the show without the union’s permission, but authorities arrived after both bands had already departed.

Shaker and his allies were more successful in June, forcing the cancellation of a show by Sepultura and landing Sadek in a Cairo jail for his part in organising an event Shaker says was attended by “devil worshippers dressed in a very weird style” with “make-up in the shape of the Star of David”.

IQ contacted Sadek shortly after the ill-fated Sepultura show but he was, understandably, reluctant to talk so soon after his release from prison. However, following a slot with his band at Indian festival G-Shock Bangalore Open Air in July, Sadek – primarily a visual artist, whose works include sculpture and drawing in addition to music – is candid about his conflict with the Musicians’ Syndicate, his time in jail, the metal scene in Egypt and more…

 


Nobody expects Inquisition
When I started doing my shows back in April 2015, a group of guys – “musicians” – got very jealous because my shows were big, bringing established and foreign musicians to the country. Nothing like this had ever happened before, at least not in extreme metal and not in that capacity either. This is something they have been trying and failing to do for years, because they simply don’t have the resources I do.

I worked hard to make contacts globally, and right from my first major show I was able to draw hundreds of people, who all had a great time and spread the word. Later, I brought Aborted and Alkaloid, from Belgium and Germany respectively, which again drew a huge crowd.

My third show was Inquisition – a band whose early releases have ‘controversial’ lyrics and imagery, although they’re not preaching devil worship – and these “musicians”, with their deeply seeded inferiority complexes, used this to create a public uproar. They had already tried to contact the authorities, who didn’t want to get involved, so they instead phoned the head of the Musicians Syndicate [Hany Shaker].

He could have sent me a message, or otherwise informed me, that, for whatever reason, I couldn’t put on this Inquisition show – but instead, as it was all pre-planned as a personal attack, they thought they’d let me do the show so they could infiltrate it and arrest me.

Since I knew all this, I did the show elsewhere on a different day and didn’t announce it officially. Apparently the first venue I had planned to have Inquisition play in had been intimidated by a journalist who told them he was going to write an article saying the venue’s owner worships the Devil. In the end, the show was amazing and attended by many.

“It was pre-planned as a personal attack: they thought they’d let me do the show so they could infiltrate it and arrest me”

‘Stars of David and Qatari DJs’
This is where it all gets funny. The head of the Syndicate posted on his Facebook page saying he had ‘infiltrated and arrested the devil worshippers’, who were wearing T-shirts with the Star of David, that there was Qatari and a Bahraini DJ involved and that satanic rituals were taking place.

His info was all wrong. The date was incorrect, the ‘Stars of David’ were pentagrams –  a symbol created by the ancient Egyptians – no one on stage was from Bahrain or Qatar, there were no DJs – it was a metal show, not a rave – and, lastly, the satanic rituals were just good old headbanging. He just wanted the opportunity to look like a hero; his official statement was: “I cancelled a satanic show and saved the children of Egypt from the Devil.”

Syndicated backpedalling
But it backfired: Shaker was forced to officially retract his statement after coming under attack from the media – it was a big surprise to see the media defending me! – and Egypt’s biggest billionaire, Naguib Sawiris, who tweeted: Someone tell Hany Shaker that metal and satanism are not the same thing. Please stop pissing off the youth; they don’t need more stress in their life!”

I also showed the permits for the show – which Shaker claimed I didn’t have – on national television, where they were read out by the host. She asked a representative for the Syndicate, “It’s signed and stamped by the government… what more do you want?”

“The date was incorrect, the ‘Stars of David’ were pentagrams and the satanic rituals were just good old headbanging”

Mafia tactics
Next, I brought German band Dark Fortress to Egypt to do a show – a band that has absolutely no mention of the devil or anti-religious rhetoric in their art. Every time I booked a venue,  the head of the Syndicate and his little trolls would call the place and threaten them, mafia-style, and I ended up having to have Dark Fortress play in a studio with a capacity of about 40.

‘Metal fans are scared’
After Dark Fortress, I sat down with [the rival musicians] because they were calling for a meeting, so they could tell me what bands I can bring and what bands I can’t. I actually asked them to play in the Sepultura show and they declined, which was obviously because they knew it was going to be shut down.

When the Sepultura show was shut down, these guys finally got the attention they so badly needed, and hopefully they feel like they’re important. The saddest thing is that they have already scared off many of the people who enjoyed the shows. But metal fans are also scared: I went to jail, so I can’t blame them.

“The saddest thing is that they have already scared off many people who enjoyed the shows. But they’re also scared: I went to jail, so I can’t blame them”

I fought the law…
They didn’t charge me with anything; they just arrested the sound engineer, the lighting engineer and I, and questioned us. The engineers didn’t know anything about metal – they were just supplying gear – so I had to ask the police to let them go, which they refused to do.

They took us to a small courtroom, with a judge, the accused and the lawyers. The judge asked me what happened, so I told him: The authorities – homeland security – came and asked for permits, but the show’s organiser, the company I hired, hadn’t appeared yet. [Sadek’s permit – which cost him around US$6,000 – can be seen here.] They didn’t have to – it was still about 16.00 and they were not required to be there until about 19.00, which is when we had planned on opening the doors. The police turned up later and accused me of worshipping the Devil because I was wearing a black shirt.

I was in prison for four days. When they threw me in the cell they shouted, ‘Devil worshipper!’, to other inmates in order to get them to beat me up; luckily I ended up befriending them by explaining what metal was, and how it’s just music.

My time in jail wasn’t really that bad. The worst part was not showering, and I also didn’t eat to avoid using the toilet, which was a hole in the floor. One policeman burnt a cigarette on my foot, which hurt at the time.

I can’t really blame the authorities. They have a certain level of power and don’t know what to do with it, but ultimately they are just pawns in something much bigger.

“I can’t really blame the authorities. They are ignorant, but ultimately they are just pawns in something much bigger”

The future
I’m very excited to finally be playing in the UK, at Bristol DeathFest next April. I’m hoping to bring my brothers from the Emirates, Perversion, and Smouldering in Forgotten, a band from Bahrain, crushing and original; bands that deserve support. I also might be working with Sarah Jezebel Deva, formerly of Cradle of Filth, at DeathFest, because I love having local people be part of the line-up.

Will I keep putting on metal shows in Egypt? We’ll see how this all unfolds – but it’s safe to say I’m one stubborn motherfucker.

 


In brief: Sadek on…

Dual nationality
It definitely helped [with my release], but it was also fuel for the conservative media, because they get to say dumb shit like: “Oh, look at this American guy who thinks he can come to our country and do his satanic American shit.” Annoying, but nothing more.

The Arab metal scene
Egypt has the biggest number of metal fans, but that’s affected by the size of the population: Even if 0.5% of Cairo enjoys metal, that’s still more than, say, 10% of the United Arab Emirates, which is the only other country in the Arab world that hosts metal shows.

There are metal bands from Algeria, Morocco, Bahrain, Tunisia and Lebanon, as well as – secretly – Saudi Arabia.

Satanism
It’s not in any kind of religious or preaching kind of way. Even if a song, say, glorifies Satan, there’s no way to know exactly what that particular lyric is meant to invoke – maybe it’s about bad people who glorify the devil. It doesn’t mean that the performer of the song is glorifying it.

Take Chris de Burgh’s ‘Spanish Train’: There are some highly blasphemous lyrics in there, but it really all depends on your point of view. And guess what: Chris de Burgh played Egypt last May, right after Inquisition and Dark Fortress!

 


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Egyptian promoter arrested over Sepultura show

An Egyptian musician and concert promoter was arrested on Saturday night after police shut down a “satanic party” in Cairo featuring Brazilian death metal band Sepultura.

Witnesses reported that Nader Sadek and two other people, including the owner of the villa where the concert was taking place, were taken into custody and interrogated after police, acting on instructions from the National Defence Council, raided the concert, at which Sadek and other local acts were also due to perform. Giza police chief General Khaled Shalaby said his force received a tip-off that around 60 people were preparing to attend a “satanic” event in Sheikh Zayed, in the Cairo suburbs.

Controversial Egyptian Musicians Syndicate head Hany Shaker, who was initially reported to have stood down after the backlash to a similar controversy involving Sadek in March, stated on Egyptian state TV that “the devil worshippers [Sepultura fans] were dressed in a very weird style and drew their makeup in the shape of a pentagram” and “wore leather jackets with stars on the back, and that is strange.”

“The devil worshippers wore leather jackets with stars on the back, and that is strange”

However, it seems the various Egyptian authorities hadn’t got their stories straight: Ahmed Hegazy, head of the Giza Security Directorate, said the main reason for the cancellation was a lack of proper permits.

Sadek confirmed to IQ on Tuesday 7 June that he had been released from custody.

The show would have been Sepultura’s first in Egypt. Early on Saturday, the band wrote on Facebook: “Cairo, let’s make history tonight!”