SINGAPORE: They had travelled from as far as Indonesia in the hope of watching Swedish metal band Watain play live, but some concert-goers were left bitterly disappointed after the band's show in Singapore was cancelled, just hours before it was scheduled to take place.
The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) had initially allowed the concert with a rating of Restricted 18 (R18), but called it off at the last minute, following advice from the Home Affairs Ministry (MHA).
When Channel NewsAsia visited at 6pm, around 70 fans were milling about outside the concert venue, the EBX Live Space along Pereira Road.
“My money, rupiah, I spent so much money to get here,” said a fan from Bandung, who only wanted to be known as Ucox.
Along with several others from Indonesia, he had only been told of the cancellation after arriving at the concert venue.
“We are just disappointed, that’s it ... Their music changed my life. I wake up in the morning and I have new spirit for working,” he said. “It’s like somebody stabbed me in the back.”
Other Watain fans Channel NewsAsia spoke to said the perception of fans of metal music was riddled with stereotypes.
Mr Jaarvis Ali, who had planned to head to the concert after work, said: "I don't know where people get this idea that the people who listen to heavy metal are aggressive or that we worship Satan.
"Ask anyone in the scene. We are merely cat lovers coming together to enjoy good music, or at least what we believe is good. The worst part of it all is that the guys have been promoting this show for months with approval ... this is just plain ridiculous."
One of the concert organisers, who only wanted to be known as Khaal, said he was expecting a crowd of about 150. It cost about S$15,000 to S$20,000 to bring the band to Singapore.
“Everything was fine, we followed the rules and protocol,” he said. “We had everything solid and because certain things happened, it was cancelled."
He said IMDA had called to inform him earlier in the day that the concert might be cancelled but only confirmed the cancellation later in the afternoon.
"MHA has 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," said IMDA in a statement.
Later on Thursday, Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam confirmed his ministry had advised IMDA on the cancellation.
He said that upon "further security assessment", MHA "decided that in light of the responses that the band has evoked and taking into account of course the history which we know, it will be against public order interest and will affect our religious and social harmony if we allow the concert to go ahead".
“My concern is about all those who travelled all the way here for the concert, it’s a total waste,” said Khaal.
There are plans to offer refunds to those who paid for tickets, but this has not been firmed up yet, he said, adding that the parties involved were still in talks and IMDA was being "helpful" in the process.
As of Thursday afternoon, an online petition calling for Watain and another group, Soilwork, to be banned from performing in Singapore had garnered more than 16,000 signatures.
According to a Facebook event page, Soilwork's concert is scheduled to take place at the same venue on Oct 29.
The Change.org petition was started by Ms Rachel Chan, who described the bands as "not (representing) the culture which we want in our youths". It was addressed to Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu.
"Their subliminal messages in their songs include death and suicide," she added.
Supporters of the petition commented online that the band "promotes violence" and "poisons our youth".
But fans disagreed, calling Ms Chan an "extremist" and a "zealot".
One fan, who did not want to be named, said: "What she’s done is ruin a lot of people’s experience because she simply didn’t agree with it."
He told Channel NewsAsia he had paid S$166 for the concert and a meet-and-greet session with the band.
“If you are going to go on the charts right now ... take any 10 songs and most of them will be about sex and drugs, and that’s somehow okay?" he added.