Headbanger’s Brawl: Watain & Soilwork vs. Singapore

Posted by on March 8, 2019


We were disappointed to see Watain’s Singapore show cancelled and shocked to see there’s a petition out there to ban Soilwork. While it may not shock or surprise one to see a Watain show being called off due to their ritualistic live setting, it’s difficult to believe what anyone has against Soilwork. We decided to have a headbanger’s brawl on this to further discuss the overall situation.


Bram Teitelman: My quick .02 on this is that Singapore has been known to be a nanny state with an overly protective media, so I’m pretty unsurprised by the Watain show being canceled. As a band known for controversy for both their live show and lyrical content, both Watain and the show’s booker should have assumed that this could happen. The show’s cancellation will just make them more popular there, just like the explicit lyrics sticker on an album cover made me want to listen to it more back in the day. I’m a little more perplexed by why a Soilwork show might be cancelled there, as they’re not a particularly controversial band. Perhaps it’s just metal in general, but that shouldn’t stop bands from trying to play there.


Jeff Podoshen: If I recall correctly, Singapore reached out to Metallica before one of their early shows there and told them to keep their shirts on, not spit on stage and not swear. Unfortunately they didn’t require Lars to actually put in any effort on the drums.


Zenae Zukowski: Singapore is known for their censorship that goes beyond booking shows. However, I have to admit, I was stunned to see Soilwork on the list. I was less shocked to see Watain as there’s been unfortunately, a lot of backlash against black metal music. However, given Singapore’s strict Censorship policy, I’m surprised to see that they managed to book a show in the first place. Regardless of what people believe in the United States (I.E “x” political viewpoint), looking over Singapore’s censorship makes me feel lucky that we have this freedom to complain about nearly everything and anything that exists. Singapore also has an extensive history with banning films such as A Clockwork Orange, The Exorcist, Last Tango in Paris, The Evil Dead, Zoolander, etc., that more or less shows, anything goes.   

Therefore, looking at Singapore’s NAR rating, it makes sense as to why Waitain’s show was cancelled:

“NAR (not allowed for all ratings) – In exceptional cases, a film may not be allowed for all ratings (NAR) when the content of the film undermines national interest or erodes the moral fabric of society. This includes themes that promote issues that denigrate any race or religion, or undermine national interest, language that denigrates religion or is religiously profane, real sexual activities (e.g. actual penetration, actual ejaculation), content deemed to be pornographic or obscene in nature, explicit promotion and normalisation of homosexual lifestyle, explicit homosexual activity, materials glorifying or encouraging drug and substance abuse and detailed or gratuitous depictions of extreme violence or cruelty. Films classified as ‘NAR’ in Singapore are banned and cannot be legally sold, rented, possessed, imported or made public in any format in Singapore, punishable by fines and/or imprisonment.”

It’s unfortunate to see this amount of art being censored in other countries. And looking over the NAR rating doesn’t explain why they are trying to cancel Soilwork’s show.

In short: such a pity.


Jeff Podoshen: Last Tango In Paris should, perhaps, be banned everywhere.

Having done some work in Singapore I know there is clearly an underground scene, however, it is something nobody really talks about and much of the nation-state pretends it doesn’t exist.  

My guess is that Watain aren’t all that surprised by it.  What’s unfortunate is that the Singapore metal fans get the short end of this and they can’t exactly see a show like this in neighboring Malaysia either days.  

I agree with Zenae, I’m fortunate that I can pick and choose the shows I want to see without government interference.


Zenae Zukowski: Jeff, I have to disagree with your Last Tango In Paris comment and we can save that for a future discussion (film school background). However, yes I highly agree with you that it is unfortunate for Singapore metal fans.


Chris Annunziata: I understand the reason behind Watain being banned but I don’t agree with it. However, I don’t understand why Soilwork was banned. They differ from Watain in many ways and don’t fall under the IMDA restrictions. With Soilwork being banned, it seems the IMDA is spreading the ban to metal bands in general. This is probably an inconvenience to the bands but mostly this is a huge bummer for the fans. They are the ones getting slighted and missing out on their favorite bands. Hopefully, Singapore fans get to see their bands play soon.


Zenae Zukowski: Soilwork just dropped a live music video for “Stålfågel,” just look at the “satanic” imagery. I’m starting to believe the MHA is working on convincing the IMDA to ban metal music all together, which is sad and I hope not the case.


Joe Koza: I did a research project on Singapore in college and I believe they outlawed chewing gum in an effort to preserve city streets, so connect the dots as you wish. Stories like this are no surprise at this point. It’s unfortunate for the fans in the area, and there’s an increased need for separation between freedom of speech and expression and church/state/whatever.


Watain’s statement:

“In the light of yesterday’s events in Singapore we would like to send a proud hail to our fans and followers from Singapore, Indonesia, Sarawak, Burma, Laos, Philippines and Malaysia who had travelled to see yesterday’s performance but were robbed of their experience in the last minute by Singapore’s tragic excuse for a government.

It was an honor to meet you all yesterday and to sense the fire in your eyes and in your spirits. We look forward to the day we can perform for you without the interference from lesser men.

To the honor-less rats behind the ban, rest assured that you in your cowardly act have only stirred the cauldrons of your own misfortune. If these men and women didn’t already feel mistrust and contempt towards ”authorities”, they sure do now. The flames of discontent have once again been kindled, may they scorch your heavens…”

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