Belphegor Frontman Spat on by Orthodox Christian Activist in Russian Airport
Russia is a notoriously dangerous place for extreme metal bands to play with religion and corruption butting heads with a lot of the genre's lyrical themes. Cannibal Corpse and Behemoth were victims of circumstance in 2014 and now Austrian blackened death metal band Belphegor have been the latest to face resistance.
As Belphegor arrived at an airport in Saint Petersburg, Russia alongside members of Nile, they were met with opposition from an Orthodox activist. As seen in the video above, the band is immediately confronted as they walk through the gate. After a brief verbal exchange, the activist spits in the face of frontman Helmuth (Hel Lehner), who in turn spits back twice as he wipes his face clean of the attacker's saliva.
The attacker is Anatoly Artyukh, who is the chair of Narodny Sobor, a national Orthodox Christian organization. He was aiming to shut down the show featuring Nile, Belphegor and Melechesh — all bands who have religious and/or sexually explicit themes — under the premise that it would violate two Russian laws pertaining to blasphemy and religious hatred. Each is punishable with a long-term jail sentence, potentially up to nine years for the latter.
As the video continues, Artyukh does not leave the group alone, trailing them as they walk through the airport. Standing between Helmuth and the activist was Nile frontman Karl Sanders, who helped diffuse the situation. Artyukh walked past Sanders, seemingly making purposeful contact with his arms and flings them off with angst. Sanders responds aggressively, ready to fight the activist, but tensions remain relatively calm and the two do not come to blows.
Artyukh claims to have been attacked by Helmuth, but the video clearly shows the activist was the aggressor. Infinity Concerts, the agency who booked the show, released a statement saying, “It’s all lies and slander. There are surveillance cameras that are recorded. We most likely will file a complaint with the police on the fact of hooliganism," [via Metal Insider].
In 2014, a Cannibal Corpse show in Russia was shut down in the middle of their set as armed police entered the venue to search for drugs. Drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz gave a chilling recollection of the event in our edition of 'Wikipedia: Fact or Fiction?' detailing the scene and what was going through the band's minds. Prior to the Cannibal Corpse incident, after being detained by Russian police, Behemoth were ordered to leave the country for allegedly having improper visas.
Top 25 Extreme Metal Albums of All Time
10 Greatest Death Metal Bands