Mohssine, the lead vocalist of the metal bands Alcantagram and I MAKE NOISE, sheds light on the Moroccan metal scene from on stage.
Mohssine M. is a 27-year-old Moroccan whose fascination with metal music at a young age led him to become the singer and songwriter in various Moroccan metal bands, including Alcantagram (death metal) and I MAKE NOISE (deathcore/djent/metalcore). Mohssine is contributing immensely to the Moroccan metal scene with a strong passion and the desire to inspire the same spirit of enthusiasm with the youth in his country.
Metal as a music genre is known worldwide for its heavy cadence, powerful sounds, and peculiar yet diverse choice of lyrics. These attributes make it an acquired taste rather than a common musical preference. In Morocco, the metal community is even smaller and more tightly-knit. However, we can always find examples of young people who wholeheartedly offer their time and efforts to nurture and promote the metal culture among their peers.
Mohssine enters the Moroccan metal music scene
Mohssine’s fondness of metal prompted him to go beyond the stage of enjoying listening to it, into producing music of his own and taking to the literal stage. His career started in 2013 founding the band Autopsy, a project that unfortunately did not see the light of day.
This shaky start did not undermine his resolve, and by the year 2015, he joined Alcantagram, the death metal band from Meknes, a city 60 kilometers west of Fez, of which he is still a member. “It was a life-changing experience. We played in many shows in Meknes, Fez, Casablanca, Ouarzazate…” says Mohssine, who would later on sing his way onto the stage of the most famous metal music event in Morocco, l’Boulevard.
In 2018, Alcantagram got the opportunity to perform in the metal category of Tremplin, a contest of l’Boulevard between bands from all regions of the country. “L’Boulevard was one of the best experiences and the best show in my career,” Mohssine tells Morocco World News. “It gave me the opportunity to gain exposure to a larger audience, good sound systems, an amazing atmosphere, and the chance to share the same stage with well-known international bands. It was a good experience.”
An invigorating passion, but a demanding one as well
All forms of art require sacrifice to a certain degree, and metal music is no different. Mohssine’s exposure to metal began at an early age, when he was in search of profound meaning in the lyrics of songs he listened to. Like many metalheads, bands such as Linkin Park and System of a Down piqued his curiosity. The bands’ music appears odd at first, and before one knows it, they become fully immersed in the various rhythms and lyrical delights they offer.
Mohssine’s interest in the English language and its poetry played a significant role in the first phase of his songwriting. “I’ve always wanted to sing stuff I wrote,” he shares, explaining how he proceeded from writing poetry to writing lyrics.
“To be honest when I was young I wanted to be a drummer more than being a vocalist, but due to the place where I lived, it was so hard… I’d say almost impossible to have a drum set,” admits Mohssine. Yet where there is will there is a way, and his desire to sing overcame the difficulty of acquiring an instrument.
But equipment is not the only obstacle standing in the way of young Moroccan musicians who aspire to create original metal music. The lack of venues, low budget, and the scarcity of well-promoted metal events in Morocco are some of the leading issues that keep the Moroccan metal scene from blooming into its full potential.
The social challenge for Morocco’s metal
But the largest hindrance to the progress of the metal scene in Morocco remains, according to Mohssine, the negative angle from which the Moroccan society regards metal music. “The biggest difficulties of being a metal band in Morocco are mainly related to culture and support. What I mean by culture can be found in the answer to the question ‘does the Moroccan society accept this music genre?’
“Mostly in Morocco, metal is still seen as an aggressive genre that pushes people into doing things that go against the Moroccan culture and way of life. So the main difficulty when it comes to culture is that in Morocco, people still consider metal to be an ideology, and not a music genre like all other music genres.”
Despite all issues, Mohssine and his bandmates, in both Alcantagram and I MAKE NOISE, remain loyal to their passion and enjoy the songwriting process to the fullest.
“Most songs start with jamming or humming, and then each musician has his own way of writing his ideas. For me, for example, when an idea comes to mind, I write it on a software like GuitarPro or my digital audio workstation, and then I send the idea to one of my bandmates so that he can translate my idea into a song on his instrument. This is one of the methods but not the major one.”
When the idea translates into real music, the band members keep on shaping it until they feel satisfied with the end result. Only then do they present their final work to the public. “The most important thing in songwriting for the band is the inspiration and reaching the thematic that they want. We always ask ourselves the question ‘what do we want the listener to feel?’”
A better future for Moroccan metal music
While the metal scene in Morocco is yet to reach a level worthy of the capabilities of its artists, their efforts to raise it from its fragile infancy are paying off. The metal community is gaining momentum in introducing their music to an ever-growing audience. The youth of today’s Morocco are more open, daring, and curious to discover all that is new and intriguing. The charm of metal music, although difficult to get at first, is a potent force that captivates anyone audacious enough to listen beyond the distortion and growling.
“The metal scene in Morocco is really growing bigger and many new bands are experimenting with various metal genres. There’s more productivity now and Moroccan bands are releasing their own songs with good production quality (considering the material we have). Now each band in Morocco has its own identity and style and produces its proper songs and albums,” Mohssine says.
“I can say that there’s what I can call Moroccan metal,” he continues, “and its future is very promising. I foresee that soon Morocco will develop a decent metal music industry (labels, studios, video production…), since Moroccan metal artists, I would say… each one is doing their best for a better future for metal in Morocco.” And that is how, Mohssine confidently believes, the future of the Moroccan metal scene is secure.
Speaking of the future, Mohssine shares he has some new music in store for Moroccan metal community. I MAKE NOISE are recording a new EP, and intend to release a song in the month of September. Meanwhile, Alcantagram are working on their upcoming album. Solo, Mohssine is recording new vocal covers and metal versions of songs as well as featurings, and promises many more projects to come.