Watain metal band concert cancellation (2019)

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The poster for Watain's concert in Singapore. Photo from Bandwagon Asia.

On 7 March 2019, Swedish black metal band Watain was scheduled to play at the Ebenex Live Space, Pereira Road in Singapore. Initially, the concert had been approved and given a rating of Restricted 18 (R18) by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).[1] Just a few hours before the concert, organisers Ravage Records were informed that the concert had been cancelled by the authorities.[2] The cancellation of the concert angered many fans of the black metal genre, as well as the Watain concertgoers, many of whom flew to Singapore to catch the band live.

Details of incident[edit | edit source]

An image depicting one of Watain's concert stages. Photo from Watain's Facebook.

On 28 December 2018, Ravage Records announced that they would be organising Swedish black metal band Watain's first ever show in Singapore.[3] The IMDA initially allowed the show to proceed after having "consulted relevant parties including the Ministry of Home Affairs".[4] The concert was allowed as long as the guidelines stipulated by the authorities were upheld by both the attendees and the organisers. An additional set of guidelines were crafted as the band had a history of performing with candles and animal bones on stage. At a Brooklyn concert in 2014, the band had sprayed pig's blood into the audience.[5] The guidelines stipulated by the IMDA were as such:[6]

  • No songs that are religiously offensive to be included in the lineup
  • No references to religion or usage of religious symbols during the concert
  • No ritualistic arts to be performed on stage


The day before the concert, Ravage Records reiterated the guidelines imposed by the IMDA in a Facebook post. They asserted that concert-goers who do not follow the guidelines would be turned over to the authorities. The organisers also added their own set of rules and concert etiquette that the audience should follow:[7]

  • Entrance will be strictly granted only to those above 18 years of age
  • No food, drinks or alcohol is allowed in the concert venue
  • No tobacco products, e-cigarettes or drugs (even controlled drugs) are allowed in the concert venue
  • No denigrating of any faith, promotion of cult practices or violence
  • No shouting or chanting of slogans containing Nazi sentiments
  • No form of violence is allowed in the concert venue
  • Moshing is allowed, but concertgoers are advised to watch out for each other

Petition and cancellation[edit | edit source]

On 6 March 2019, an online petition titled “Ban satanic music groups Watain and Soilwork from performing in Singapore” was initiated by user Rachel Chan on the website Change.org.[8] The user asserted that the band addressed controversial themes in their songs such as “death and suicide”. She further stated that all heavy metal bands are a bad influence on Singaporean youth.[9] The petition has garnered 18,861 signatures as of 13 March 2019.


On 7 March 2019, IMDA informed the organisers that the concert would not be allowed to proceed as scheduled citing security concerns raised by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). According to a press statement by the IMDA, the MHA “expressed serious concerns about the concert, given the band’s history of denigrating religions and promoting violence, which has potential to cause enmity and disrupt Singapore’s social harmony”.[10] The MHA thus requested IMDA to “consider cancelling the concert for reasons of public order”. According to a spokesperson from the IMDA, the decision to cancel the concert was made after careful consideration.[11]

Responses[edit | edit source]

The band members of Watain, a Swedish black metal band. Photo from Watain's Facebook.

National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS)[edit | edit source]

On 8 March 2019, the president of the NCCS Bishop Terry Kee expressed his full support of the decision made by the MHA and IMDA to cancel Watain’s concert in Singapore. Speaking on behalf of the NCCS, he stated that “We view Watain’s sacrilegious attacks on the Christian faith through their songs as particularly disruptive and hurtful to the cause of religious harmony, and we are concerned that Watain’s open endorsement of satanic violence could have deleterious effects on impressionable and restless youths”.[12]

Watain band members and fans[edit | edit source]

In an interview with local newspaper TODAY, Watain’s frontman Erik Danielsson explained that the band had already anticipated certain restrictions in terms of what songs to play but they did not expect the show to get cancelled.[13] According to Erik Danielsson, the band had been touring for 20 years and this was the first time that their concert had gotten cancelled.[14]


In an email to Yahoo News Singapore, Erik Danielsson acknowledged that their Satanic brand of music was not accepted by some. They were also of the belief that it was “up to every grown man and woman to decide for themselves” regarding “how to approach” their music.[15]


On 8 March 2019, Watain posted their response to the entire incident on Facebook. The band voiced their disappointment and regret regarding the fact that they could not perform for their fans and expressed that they “look forward to the day we can perform... without interference from lesser men”.[16]

K. Shanmugam (Minister for Home Affairs)[edit | edit source]

On 7 March, Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam explained to reporters from Channel News Asia that the decision to cancel the concert was made after a "further security assessment" had been conducted.[17] He also added that the concert organisers would not receive any form of punishment and that the authorities would work towards settling the renumeration of the concert.[18] An IMDA spokesman announced on 21 March 2019 that IMDA had been keeping in touch with Ravage Records on matters of compensation.[19] Tickets for the concert were priced from S$70 to S$166 and Ravage Records was planning to fully reimburse all ticket buyers.[20]


K.Shanmugam addressed the situation once more at the Dadah Itu Haram event on 9 March 2019, which is an appreciation event for those who have been actively encouraging the anti-drug stance within the Malay-Muslim community in Singapore. At the event, he further justified the decision to cancel the concert. He stressed that it was necessary for the ministry to treat both the Muslim and Christian communities equally, citing a Danish cartoon and the book 'The Satanic Verses'(1988) which have been banned in Singapore due to their "anti-Muslim, anti-Islamic messages".[21] In the same vein, Watain had to be cancelled due to their anti-Christian messages. He also asserted that he “can’t see how we could have agreed” to allow the concert to proceed after he had seen the lyrics of the songs from Watain.[22]


In a Parliament session on 1 April 2019, K.Shanmugam presented the findings of a survey conducted by 'Reach', a government feedback unit. 'Reach' surveyed 680 randomly selected Singaporeans aged 15 and above from 11 March 2019 to 15 March 2019. 2 of 3 Singaporeans who participated in the survey supported the move by the Government to ban the Watain concert.[23] K.Shanmugam asserted that he had made the decision as Singapore's Minister for Home Affairs and that his decision had not been swayed by any external parties, Christian or otherwise.[24]

Netizens[edit | edit source]

A satirical petition initiated in response to the concert cancellation. Screengrab from Change.org.

Following the news of Watain’s concert cancellation, Yahoo News Singapore launched a poll in which 66% of respondents supported the decision to ban the concert. 29% voted in disagreement with the authorities’ decision, and 5% had their own opinion on the matter that digressed from agreement or disagreement.[25]


An online petition titled 'Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs to reinstate and reschedule Watain sho' was started by user Seth Lim on the website Change.org. The petition has garnered 5,081 signatures as of 13 March 2019. The petition argued that if Singapore wished for all religions to practice, “then Satanists should be allowed to worship in peace as well”.[26]


A few other satirical petitions poking fun at the recent events emerged on Change.org. One of them was titled ‘Ban Maroon 5 From Returning To Singapore’ and written in a similar format as the original petition[27] calling to ban Watain from performing in Singapore. Maroon 5 is an American band that performed in Singapore a week prior to the Watain concert. As of 13 March 2019, the petition has garnered 1,698 signatures.[28]


Another petition that emerged had been titled ‘Ban The Red Devils from coming to Singapore!’. The 'Red Devils' in question was the English Premier League football team, Manchester United. As of 13 March 2019, the petition has garnered 1,034 signatures.[29]

References / Citations[edit | edit source]

  1. Eddino Abdul Hadi. "IMDA looking into compensating organiser of black metal band Watain's gig". The Straits Times. March 21, 2019. Accessed on 8 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/entertainment/imda-looking-into-compensating-organiser-of-black-metal-band-watains-gig
  2. Hadi, Eddino Abdul. “IMDA cancels concert by Swedish metal band Watain”. The Straits Times. March 7, 2019. Accessed on 13 March 2019. Retrieved from:  https://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/entertainment/imda-cancels-concert-by-swedish-metal-band-watain
  3. Ravage Records. Facebook. December 28, 2018. Accessed on 13 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.facebook.com/ravagerecordsfestival/photos/a.593683197657341/744568932568766/?type=3&theater
  4. Khong, Nicholas. “‘If you fall in the mosh pit, someone will help you up’: Black-metal fans say they are no hoodlums”. Today Online. March 13, 2019. Accessed on 13 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/if-you-fall-mosh-pit-someone-will-help-you-black-metal-fans-are-no-hoodlums
  5. “SWEDISH METAL BAND HURLS PIGS BLOOD INTO AUDIENCE Concertgoers Also Hurl”. TMZ. April 17, 2014. Accessed on 13 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.tmz.com/2014/06/17/waitain-pigs-blood-metal-band-video-swedish-black-metal/
  6. “IMDA Statement on Watain Concert”. Infocomm Media Development Authority. March 7, 2019. Accessed on 13 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.imda.gov.sg/about/newsroom/media-releases/2019/imda-statement-on-watain-concert
  7. Ravage Records. Facebook. March 6, 2019. Accessed on 13 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.facebook.com/ravagerecordsfestival/posts/786917368333922
  8. Chan, Rachel. "Ban satanic music groups Watain and Soilwork from performing in Singapore". Change.org. Accessed on 13 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.change.org/p/ministry-of-culture-community-and-youth-ban-satanic-music-groups-watain-and-soilwork-from-performing-in-singapore
  9. Chan, Rachel. "Ban satanic music groups Watain and Soilwork from performing in Singapore". Change.org. Accessed on 13 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.change.org/p/ministry-of-culture-community-and-youth-ban-satanic-music-groups-watain-and-soilwork-from-performing-in-singapore
  10. “IMDA Statement on Watain Concert”. Infocomm Media Development Authority. March 7, 2019. Accessed on 13 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.imda.gov.sg/about/newsroom/media-releases/2019/imda-statement-on-watain-concert
  11. Khong, Nicholas. “‘If you fall in the mosh pit, someone will help you up’: Black-metal fans say they are no hoodlums”. Today Online. March 13, 2019. Accessed on 13 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/if-you-fall-mosh-pit-someone-will-help-you-black-metal-fans-are-no-hoodlums  
  12. “National Council of Churches welcomes MHA’s decision to cancel Watain concert in Singapore”. Channel News Asia. March 9, 2019. Accessed on 13 March 2019. Retrieved from:  https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/national-council-of-churches-singapore-mha-watain-concert-11327376?cid=h3_referral_inarticlelinks_24082018_cna
  13. Khong, Nicholas. “No-go for Watain concert: Organisers, fans upset by authorities' decision”. Today Online. March 10, 2019. Accessed on 13 March 2019. Retrieved from:  https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/no-go-watain-concert-organisers-fans-upset-and-disappointed
  14. Khong, Nicholas. “No-go for Watain concert: Organisers, fans upset by authorities' decision”. Today Online. March 10, 2019. Accessed on 13 March 2019. Retrieved from:  https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/no-go-watain-concert-organisers-fans-upset-and-disappointed
  15. Osman, Dhany. “Watain Singapore concert ban: Our fans can decide for themselves about our music, says band vocalist”. Yahoo! News Singapore. March 7, 2019. Accessed on 13 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://sg.news.yahoo.com/watain-singapore-concert-ban-fans-can-decide-music-says-band-vocalist-130425226.html
  16. Watain. Facebook. March 8, 2019. Accessed on 13 March 2019. Retrieved from Watain’s Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/watainofficial/posts/10155983889552483
  17. “Allowing metal band Watain to perform would affect religious and social harmony: Shanmugam”. Channel News Asia. March 7, 2019. Accessed on 13 March 2019. Retrieved from:  https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/shanmugam-watain-metal-band-affect-religious-social-harmony-11321420
  18. “Allowing metal band Watain to perform would affect religious and social harmony: Shanmugam”. Channel News Asia. March 7, 2019. Accessed on 13 March 2019. Retrieved from:  https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/shanmugam-watain-metal-band-affect-religious-social-harmony-11321420
  19. Eddino Abdul Hadi. "IMDA looking into compensating organiser of black metal band Watain's gig". The Straits Times. March 21, 2019. Accessed on 8 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/entertainment/imda-looking-into-compensating-organiser-of-black-metal-band-watains-gig
  20. Eddino Abdul Hadi. "IMDA looking into compensating organiser of black metal band Watain's gig". The Straits Times. March 21, 2019. Accessed on 8 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/entertainment/imda-looking-into-compensating-organiser-of-black-metal-band-watains-gig
  21. Tan, Sue-Ann. Choo, Yun Ting. “Watain's anti-Christian messages not something Singapore could tolerate, says Shanmugam”. The Straits Times. March 10, 2019. Accessed on 13 March 2019. Retrieved from:  https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/watains-anti-christian-messages-not-something-singapore-could-tolerate-says-shanmugam
  22. “‘I can’t see how we could have agreed to it’: Shanmugam on Watain performing in Singapore”. Channel News Asia. March 9, 2019. Accessed on 13 March 2019. Retrieved from:  https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/shanmugam-watain-singapore-concert-cancelled-11327984
  23. Hadi, Abdul Eddino. “Parliament: Two out of three Singaporeans back Government's move to cancel Watain concert”. The Straits Times. April 1, 2019. Accessed on 2 April 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/politics/singapolitics/parliament-two-out-of-three-singaporeans-back-governments-move-to-cancel
  24. Hadi, Abdul Eddino. “Parliament: Two out of three Singaporeans back Government's move to cancel Watain concert”. The Straits Times. April 1, 2019. Accessed on 2 April 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/politics/singapolitics/parliament-two-out-of-three-singaporeans-back-governments-move-to-cancel
  25. Yahoo! Newsroom. “Yahoo Poll: Should Singapore have barred the Watain heavy metal concert?”. Yahoo!News. March 11, 2019. Accessed on 13 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://sg.news.yahoo.com/46-per-cent-say-work-of-%E2%80%9Csticker-lady%E2%80%9D-is-creative-street-art--yahoo--poll-.html
  26. Lim, Seth. "Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs to reinstate and reschedule Watain show". Change.org. Accessed on 13 March 2019. Retrieved from:  https://www.change.org/p/ministry-of-home-affairs-separate-religion-state-affairs-in-singapore
  27. Chan, Rachel. "Ban satanic music groups Watain and Soilwork from performing in Singapore". Change.org. Accessed on 13 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.change.org/p/ministry-of-culture-community-and-youth-ban-satanic-music-groups-watain-and-soilwork-from-performing-in-singapore
  28. Tay Koh Song. "Ban Maroon 5 From Returning To Singapore". Change.org. Accessed on 13 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.change.org/p/ministry-of-culture-community-and-youth-ban-maroon-5-from-returning-to-singapore
  29. Anonymous Anon. "Ban The Red Devils from coming to Singapore". Change.org. Accessed on 13 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.change.org/p/ministry-of-culture-community-and-youth-ban-maroon-5-from-returning-to-singapore