‘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.