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Horse the Band Head to Russia, Despite One Town’s ‘Metal Ban’

As our sister site Spinner reported last week, a Russian city banned heavy metal gigs in an effort to suppress supposed Satanic activity from spreading among the city’s youth. According to Russia-Infocentre, the West Russian city of Belgorod is acting under the orders of Governor Evgenie Savchenko. Metal shows are said to be now banned in cafes, clubs and restaurants in order to ensure the “spiritual safety” of the region, but officials representing the Regional Department of Education, Culture and Youth Policy of Belgorod backpedaled a bit, saying that Savchenko was asking the region narrow their focus on the local youths’ “unruly” practices, whatever that means. Kids will be kids and nothing feeds their rebelliousness and hormones like hard, fast and loud tunes.

Despite this minor shadow being cast on metal in the Eastern bloc, our favorite Nintendo-metal rabble rousers Horse the Band just hopped a plane to embark on two-week tour of Russia. The band has already played five shows in the country in their career, so they’re quite familiar with Russian culture’s reaction to and relationship with heavy music.

Erik Engstrom, the band’s synthesizer and self-styled “LSDJ,” told Noisecreep, “As far as I know it’s not banned. Or at least we’re far enough beneath any radar to not get banned. We’ll see.” We literally got Engstrom as the band was leaving American soil. “We’re flying to Russia this afternoon for our third tour there. This one is gonna be two weeks long, so it’s safe to say the Russian scene is pretty insane. Shows are huge, people go bonkers, set up campfires in the pits, lots of fireworks, couch surfing, war reenactments.” He’s exaggerating a bit there, but you get the point.

Engstrom said the Russian youth have a “general enthusiasm” for heavy music and that “the kids seem to be pretty normal. Metal shirts and standard Eastern Euro-wear, like cargo shorts with 28 false pockets and weird polo shirts with nine patches abound.” He said that the Russian crowds have the “same level of enthusiasm as a really, really good show” with a U.S. crowd, “except more kids are showing up, are way more excited to get to see a band in general, the dudes are way uglier and the girls are all hotter than anything you could imagine.” Ugly dudes and hot chicks? Sounds like most U.S. metal shows, minus this purported spiritual depravity that the Russian authorities fear.

As for the government’s ‘metal ban’? Engstrom views it as more political ignorance. “My take would be that the government doesn’t even know what they’ve banned, so it seems like the ban will be pretty unsuccessful,” he said. “I doubt too many people are worried about it. Anything the Christians have tried to ban here has failed.”

HTB have experienced the long arm of overly-concerned Christians and parents, and they’ve dealt with it right here in the U.S. “Actually, we played a show in Butler, Tenn. a couple years ago, where the Mother’s Association had censored our lyrics, and the mayor had deployed cops to this little rec center to make sure we didn’t scream any offensive content, and then they arrested our drummer,” Engstrom said. “Nothing like that has ever happened in Russia. Usually they just leave bottles of vodka, probiotic yogurt and smoked salmon around like Easter eggs in the rooms we’re staying in. Russians just like to party. No force in the world is gonna stop that.”

Guitarist David Isen weighed in with a totally different perspective, telling Noisecreep, “Let me add that I think it’s good that countries are starting to ban heavy metal. Metal used to be dangerous, and the first time metal came to Russia, there were riots and it was amazing and legendary. Now, metal is for p—ies, so it’s good that it’s getting pushed underground a little bit.”

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