An April show by Norwegian black metal band Taake has been canceled after Metro Music Hall received emails asking about the band’s controversial past — like a 2008 show in Germany where the lead singer performed with a Nazi swastika painted on his bare chest.
Will Sartain, Metro co-owner and talent buyer, said the club didn’t know about the band’s history when the April 3 show was booked. After receiving those emails and looking into it, he found enough reason to cancel the concert, he said.
“We value free speech. I cannot stress this enough,” he said. “Artists should not be censored. On the other hand, associating our venue with a band using anti-muslim speech and Nazi symbols is something I cannot tolerate.”
Taake’s lead singer, who goes by the name Hoest, responded to the swastika controversy at the time by apologizing “to all of our collaborators who might get [into] problems because of the Essen swastika scandal, except for the Untermensch [subhuman] owner of that club; you can go suck a Muslim.”
Public displays of the swastika are illegal in Germany, and that incident led to the band’s European tour being canceled.
The band has toured the U.S. since the swastika performance — including in Utah in 2016, also at Metro, which at the time Sartain and his venue partner, Lance Saunders, did not own.
The controversy seems to have damaged Taake’s upcoming tour, which was to begin in New York City.
That March 24 show was canceled by the club after anti-fascist and anti-racist activist groups called attention to the band’s history. A March 30 show in Chicago was also canceled by the club, and activist groups in other cities are trying to shut down more shows.
An opening act on Taake’s tour, Seattle’s King Dude, pulled himself off the tour schedule, and Talib Kweli cancelled an upcoming show in Kansas City at the Riot Room after hearing that the venue had booked Taake.
The DJ/rapper released a statement that said he found it “appalling that the Riot Room refuses to apologize for booking this band. I wouldn’t feel safe bringing my team, family, and fans into a venue that is sympathetic to white nationalism, so I’ve canceled the show.”
The Riot Room later canceled Taake’s appearance, Metal Injection reported Thursday.
After the New York cancellation, Hoest posted on the band’s Facebook page that his wearing of a swastika in 2008 wasn’t meant to show support for Nazi ideology. “It was all about doing something extreme for the sake of it, which certainly backfired. But it has now been 11 years and the band has even performed in Israel! ... Taake is not a racist band. Never has been, never will be.”
The band has also been criticized for lyrics in their 2012 song “Orkan,” which included the line “To hell with Muhammad and the Muhammadans; unforgivable customs.”
In interviews, Hoest appears to hate all religions equally, telling a Norway newspaper in 2012 that “Our view, in the name of freedom of expression, is that it is shameful to adhere to Christianity or Islam ... Taake has never been a political band, and we do not encourage either violence or racism.”