Mohamed Al Mardi on the challenges of the Bahrain music scene
Time Out Bahrain staff
It might not be a genre of music you’d usually associate with the Middle East but black metal actually has quite a loyal and large following across the GCC, particularly in Saudi Arabia and Dubai. Here in Bahrain, however, the crowd is small and venues are generally unwilling to extend their stage to local acts. Talking to us about the perils of performing in the country is Mohamed Al Mardi, lead vocalist of local metal band Smouldering in Forgotten.
How would you describe the band’s sound? The music is an extreme form of metal – it has a variety of different elements and styles, pushed beyond their limits. The lyrics range from ﬁctional storytelling and fantasy to addressing real-world problems with a twist. We usually like to bring out the darker side of being human by talking about topics such as greed, revenge, insanity…
How has it changed since you guys ﬁrst started in 2005? It has deﬁnitely improved a lot since we ﬁrst started. In the beginning our goal was to be the Kingdom’s ﬁrst black metal band so we focused a lot on that style. But as the years went by, the band went through a few line-up changes and we decided to not box ourselves in and compose in one style any more. We added more elements to the overall sound, things like that. Plus we were able to develop our skills as composers and as musicians. That helped mature the songwriting process.
When did you get involved with the band? Actually, we were all friends years before the band started. We all had the same interests, listened to the same music – it was a natural transition for us to form a band. I actually co-created the band with Omar.
We’re guessing this isn’t your day job. What do you do career-wise? Yeah, sadly this hobby can’t bring any decent income. I work in logistics at a telecommunications company.
When did you discover your love of metal music? How? In my mother’s womb! Seriously, for me it started around 1999 in the UK. I had listened to a few albums that really blew my mind on ﬁrst listen. I was mesmerised by the music almost immediately and I have been listening to these bands over and over again and discovering newer bands every once in a while.
Tell us about your new single – how is it different to what you’ve done before? For this single we went with a more straightforward approach to the songwriting. We tried to keep it catchy, groovy, but still true to the extreme sound. Just something that gets the audience moving. For lyrics, we talk about a ﬁctional creature that causes chaos everywhere it goes.
What is your opinion on the metal scene in Bahrain and the wider GCC? In Bahrain there are some noteworthy bands and musicians but the problem is that many venues are hesitant to host metal shows, and when they do it’s usually at the band’s expense and much of the proﬁt ends up going to the venue. This discourages many bands from continuing to help the scene grow. The musicians are there and the audience is hungry for shows, it just doesn’t happen often because it’s not easy organising one.
For the GCC, I’d say the most active scenes outside Bahrain are Saudi and Dubai. Saudi has a lot of really strong hardcore bands, such as Creative Waste, who were able to perform in the US. Dubai’s scene deﬁnitely has the most number of events. We were fortunate enough to perform there a number of times, opening for big international acts.
What would you wish to change about the music scene in Bahrain? The easiest thing to ask for is a little more appreciation for the musicians’ efforts. Many venues still do not compensate local bands for their performances but are willing to hire tribute bands. We need more organisers that are willing to help bands grow. The channels of advertising are there and we have many venues, the problem is the hesitance to help it just because the sound is different to what people are used to.
What do people generally think about your music? Generally people have been very supportive of our music. Families support us playing and enjoying our music, despite not understanding the style. There is a strong fan base for the music and it’s been slowly but constantly growing over the years.
What’s next for you guys? Keep on writing good music, become famous, get groupies, etc. You know the drill.
The whole band
We meet the members behind the music... Mohamed Al Mardi (Mardus)
Age: 28 Role in the band: Lead vocals Day job: Logistics First love in metal: Marduk, Deicide, Pantera Brief thoughts on Bahrain’s metal scene: Young, slowly progressing (music-wise). Lacks events and support. A chained monster.
Mohammed Ishaq (Busac) Age: 28 Role in the band: Drummer Day job: IT operations First love in metal: System of a Down, back in 2002 Brief thoughts on Bahrain’s metal scene: The scene deﬁnitely has a lot of potential but the opportunities are still in their beginning stages.
Husam Al Abbasi ‘Demonhus’
Age: 30 Role in the band: Bass player Day job: IT operations First love in metal: Scorpions – 1994 Brief thoughts on Bahrain’s metal scene: Hungry audience although it is not a very big fan base with a lack of opportunities for live shows.
Omar Zainal (Void)
Age: 28 Role in the band: Guitarist Day job: Aircraft engineer First love in metal: Slipknot – 2000 Brief thoughts on Bahrain’s metal scene: More of a ‘bunch of guys’ than an actual scene. Mohammed Tael Daher
Age: 26 Role in the band: Guitar First love in metal: Metallica, Scorpions and Iron Maiden’s artwork Brief thoughts on Bahrain’s metal scene: Bahrain has a loyal metal scene. A great and hungry crowd.