pussy riot
Pussy Riot speaking after being re-arrested during the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 Getty

Two years on from the imprisonment of Pussy Riot, a case that attracted global scrutiny and exposed the world to the glaring injustices of Russia's legal system, another altogether different type of band is threatening to reopen the wounds.

American death metal outfit Cannibal Corpse are preparing to embark on a tour of Russia, playing a week's worth of dates from 2 to 12 October. You may never have heard of this five-piece from Buffalo, New York – with songs such as Butchered At Birth, Evisceration Plague and Priests Of Sodom, their sound is, to put it slightly euphemistically, niche. But you might soon be hearing a whole lot more.

Their tour of Russia directly challenges Russia's new blasphemy laws, which were actually beefed up in the wake of Pussy Riot's A Punk Prayer in Moscow's Christ the Saviour cathedral in March 2012. The new law allows jail sentences of up to three years for "offending religious feelings" and has been condemned by rights groups, who have called it a legal "Pandora's box" and even a return to the Dark Ages.

Despite the controversy that surrounded Pussy Riot's detention in August 2012, the Russian government has recently shown it is still perfectly happy to remove bands that challenge social convention. As well as re-arresting Pussy Riot during the Sochi Winter Olympics in February this year, the Moscow authorities have imposed sanctions on a number of foreign acts.

Behemoth, a death metal band cut from the same gore-stained cloth as Cannibal Corpse, were detained and then forced to leave the country earlier this year after being arrested due to having "bad visas" – a claim that has been vehemently refuted by the artists themselves. After returning to their native Poland, Behemoth claimed that, while in detention, they were locked in a small, squalid room and smeared with faeces.

Other performers have also faced censure, albeit in a less extreme form. Pop star Selena Gomez, normally about as controversial as a walnut sponge cake, was denied a visa earlier in June, allegedly because she was due to speak about gay rights during her concert. Meanwhile, a Marilyn Manson gig was cancelled in June over fears he would upset Orthodox believers – just as Cannibal Corpse threaten to do.

In fact, the Cannibal Corpse tour has already attracted hostility from a group of Russian activists called the God's Will movement, who are trying to get it cancelled. The movement's leader, Dmitry Tsorinov, said: "We sent the [Russian] prosecutor the description of the concerts. Their songs describe in detail and rape and murder of children.

"We will try to resolve this issue with the help of law enforcement. If it does not work there may be a mass protest in various forms."

Cannibal Corpse album cover
A typically demure album cover from Cannibal Corpse nuclearblast.de

What will Putin do?

So what will Russia, and its much-maligned President Vladimir Putin, do to bury the Cannibal Corpse problem? Essentially, it seems, they have four choices.

At the extreme end of the scale, they can allow Cannibal Corpse to perform before imprisoning them for violating either hooliganism or blasphemy laws. If they want to do something less likely to attract the attention of international rights campaigners, they can simply refuse to allow Cannibal Corpse entry into the country. Or they could allow them in, then sit back and allow the protesters to drive them out again. Finally, they have the option of doing nothing at all – although, given the government's recent attitude to outspoken musical performers, this seems unlikely.

Karina Duvall, a Russian legal expert who runs her own company based in New York, believes Putin's government may actually take the lenient option. She says if Cannibal Corpse have been invited to perform in Russia, they should be fine – provided they are careful, of course.

This means, she says, "not breaking in to the church and singing songs, as Pussy Riot did [an eventuality that seems unlikely]. Cannibal Corpse should make sure they are performing in the appropriate places, time and conditions to be safe. They must make sure all paperwork like visas, passports, immigration cards and registrations are in order."

Propaganda tools

Will Pomeranz, deputy director of the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies at Washington's Woodrow Wilson Center, also believes the band will be spared jail – although they may be expelled.

"I would not anticipate that he [Putin] will want to arrest a foreign band," Pomeranz says. "Putin and his advisers would be more likely to do it for a Russian band than a foreign band. When Madonna went to Russia and read out the names of the Pussy Riot girls, Russian politicians reacted very negatively but they didn't throw her in prison.

"Although there's always the possibility that Russian law could be invoked, I would say it is unlikely. I think he's more likely to expel them - but there's always the possibility that Putin wants to make the point regarding his own political position and indirect ways to voice opposition to it."

Pomeranz believes foreign bands such as Cannibal Corpse actually play into the Kremlin's hands, as they provide ammunition for the Russian government's ongoing propaganda war against the West.

"The church could organise protests [against Cannibal Corpse] and highlight the negative effects and the negative message of the band. There's every possibility of them being used for propaganda purposes," he says.

"Putin has adopted a very conservative messages over the last six months, emphasising conservative values. It [the tour] could be used to highlight the decadent West, which Putin and his media has been doing.

"There are probably plenty of bureaucrats planning how they can use this group."

Whatever option Putin and his ministers decide to take, the Cannibal Corpse tour is sure to be an explosive event – even if they don't get to sing a single lyric. Whether you've got a ticket for one of the band's gigs, or are watching from thousands of miles away, this is one tour none of us should miss.