Interview with Mohammad Masoud Alsharif (Ostoraton)

With many bands from Asia it’s almost impossible to distinguish them from their Western counterparts, from the songwriting through the production to the finished releases or live performances, they definitely can match the best of the best on the international scene.

However, when one hears the opening notes of “Rehla”, the opening song from the album of the same name, it’s clear that we’re unmistakably transformed into the Arabic surroundings.

And that’s right, because we’re gonna talk about Ostoraton, the Saudi Arabian melodic death metal band, incorporating their native instruments and folk elements into their music.

Hello, Mohammad, thank you for your time doing this interview! I hope you are all OK and well over there!!! How is the weather in Saudi Arabia now? Let me be jealous here in the rainy United Kingdom! 🙂

Clean skies all the year, no rain… You are welcome to visit except in summertime as the temperature rises to 55 [degrees Celsius]

Before we talk about your band Ostoraton, let me ask you – how did you get into the metal music? Is your journey similar to other members’ experience?

Aww Metal Music…To make the story short. It was a video game for Michael Jackson on Sega Mega drive 2. As a child born and raised in Makkah and in a conservative family. I never had access to music. Only music you can hear on TV or in video games.

Ah, yeah, I’ve read about the restrictions in the past…

So, the first catchy song I heard it was “Beat It”…No, sorry…”Smooth Criminal”. The first level had “Smooth Criminal”. The second level was “Beat It”.

Both are my favourite songs from MJ!

God bless his soul. MJ is the greatest musician I ever heard and saw.

Have you seen him live?

It was a dream to see him live but no. Never, only on videos VHS, CDs and DVDs.

But now I need to find that game!!!

I think you might find it on a [Sega Megadrive] emulator.

OK…let’s continue.… Are there any particular bands you can cite, forming your music and creative background you are further developing in Ostoraton?

Hmmmm, for Ostoraton, I have a vision and a dream. One of them is to spread my own Saudi culture in both Arabic and Islamic ways.

Bands I was influenced by the most…? I’d say Dark Tranquillity and Insomnium. The dark atmosphere. The enigmatic lyrics. The fast catchy riffs. I couldn’t take the growls and screams…But the music brother… the music is on another level from all music genres I heard, or I saw. The music writing. The thing I was impressed about the most is that the band writes the music then perform it. Not like other music genres as Rap where you steal music samples from other bands then claim its yours.

Same with Pop music… All about love and useless subjects. But what about society, culture, history. What if I don’t have love…and I am still lost as a teenager.

For those of us who are not familiar with the everyday life in Saudi Arabia, it may come as a surprise that metal bands, and metal music as such, exist in your country. I know of many different approaches to the metal music in different Muslim countries – from total ban of music in Afghanistan to the existence of the “religious metal” genre in countries like Indonesia. How do people in Saudi Arabia view the extreme music? Could it be viewed as problematic?

As a Muslim and in an Arabic Muslim society – it’s Haram (banned) as music in our religion. And considered to be shameful in our society if you play music. As you should do another job that would makes your family proud of you. People here viewed and believed that this was Satanic music, and people [who] listen to this type of music are Satanists. At the end, our respectful – and long life to him – crown prince Mohammad Bin Salaman, gave us the freedom within the limit to everyone here in Saudi Arabia to pursue their hobbies and interests.

I am not a satanist. I am a pure and proud Muslim who practice Islam and pray 5 times a day and I fast 30 days of Ramadan. I am a father of 2 beautiful kids and I commute to my work daily. Also, I’m always in touch with my parents, family and friends.

Interesting, and I have to say, it’s not that different from the views of the conservative circles of society in my native country. Of course, we know that although there are metalheads who are satanists or of different religions (or no religion at all)…the music itself has nothing to do with satanism. But I also came to understand why people would view it like that…Let’s talk about your band now…can you introduce our readers to Ostoraton? What’s the current line-up?

Ostoraton idea [was] born back in 2002. When I’ve finally met a brother metalhead and I told him – I [will] learn guitar, you [will] learn drums, Haha. Today we are 4 official members: Husain Ali Al Kandari (lead and rhythm guitar), Khaled Mohammed Al Kandari (lead guitar) – Khaled and Husain are direct cousins, Mohammed As’ad Kumkumji (drums and percussions, and sometimes mixing and mastering), myself, Mohammad Masoud Alsharif (writer, composer, producer founder, recorder, rhythm guitar, bass guitar, vocals, clean vocals, and orchestration).

Ostoraton live
Ostoraton live

And you have also a friend guitarist helping you during live shows, right?

Indeed. [It’s] Ahmed Al Budaiwi (live session rhythm guitar), but since he got married last year, he kind of disappeared. I was just talking with him last week; he is busy with family and work.

Haha..well, family life, we all know about it!

Yes, indeed!

Ostoraton means “legend” in Arabic…who came up with the band name and what was the inspiration for this name?

Long story short – I wanted to have one word name. I wanted to have something enigmatic. I wanted to use my Arabic language. At the end, I used the word Ostora but with a little twist of adding an Arabic grammar we call it (Tanween) where you add (ton) at the end of an Arabic word.

One word name. Alhamdulilah, so far you can just write in any search engine the word Ostoraton and immediately you will see us.

Also, I choose legend because the band it will not be only about music. I dream to leave a heritage behind when I die.

That’s actually very useful, especially in this age of information, when people have a lot of things popping up in their searches… According to the available information, the band was founded back in 2002, which is quite a long time ago…what was the decisive impulse prompting you to embark on the journey for the music glory and future stardom?

Yes brother. Loooong time ago I had what I call it butterfly dreams. I will be honest with you. The decisive matter was to support fellow metalheads with a positive music, where I try to encourage metal heads to be strong. To be proud as a fellow metalhead regardless of negative people. We all need motivation and good words and smiles to makes us feel ease from inside.

I agree absolutely!

With age I found everyone has problems. From the rich to the poor.

Yes. Different problems, but still…problems.

At the end, I hope to support at least the people in my own circle of metal, metalheads and metal society.

That would make you one of the oldest active Saudi Arabian metal bands, is that correct? Although, there’s a gap of 11 years of inactivity…can you tell us something about the reason the band went on hiatus?

There are older bands and I know them personally; they were active before us. Psychedelic rock group called Sound of Ruby, I believe [plays] since 1996.

Wow, now that’s very early, indeed!

… and another Saudi Alternative Rock group but I don’t know recall the name. They released an official album through (Stallion Records). I just discovered them recently. Those guys started in 1990. I will try to find the name for you later.

Then you have the bands I saw locally in Jeddah. First one was Pangaea, they played Heavy Metal, but competition within the band members killed the project. The band broke up and each member started a new band.

So, in the end. it was a positive thing.

I can’t claim if it is positive or negative. But the rhythmist made a band in 2004 and I joined as a bassist from 2004 until 2006. Then in 2011 they disappeared and became not active. After Corona in 2022 they were back. The other 2 bands died within a year.

Then you re-started Ostoraton?

No, Ostoraton was on hold. As the prices of recording music was too much – 5000$ for a 4 minutes song – I was a student, I spent 6 months working to buy my first guitar (I still have it).

Yes, the pains of starting as a musician…it’s not that easy, really…

And the drummer Kumkumji couldn’t buy a drum set. The cheapest drum set was 2000$. At least I managed to buy the guitar within 2 years. Kumkumji bought his first drum set in 2006. I was already graduated from university and started a job, but from 2004 to 2006 I was a permanent bassist for a local band called Immortal Pain.

Really? I know the band name!

Yes, really. We still in touch until this day. Both bands – Immortal Pain and Wasted Land – are considered close friends to me.

I have to say, I haven’t listened to Immortal Pain yet, but Wasted Land is great!

I know the guys personally, and we chat and greet each other’s from time to time.

Wasted Land is a good band, they also follow their dreams, and they were lucky as they had their own home studio.

…As you have mentioned how expensive the recording time is…home studio is indeed a big help.

As for Ostoraton. I didn’t find any support. Or a home studio. But the dream was still there, [so] in 2013 I bought a Mac desktop. But the firewire technology didn’t work on Mac PC as in they had new technology called Thunderbolt. And all spare parts I used to order from the US. It took almost 3 months to be delivered.

Yes, I remember fire-wire being a thing for some time….

I got tired of Mac, so again, the project went on hold until 2017. I got divorced and I was broken down. Allah saved my life through the metal music. Brother, As a teenager they told me: Metal music is just a teenager phase. You will grow out of it. Today I am 40 years old and I would tell you Metal Music saved my life since teenage until today.

…the teenage phase…I’ve heard it too!!! And I think many other metalheads as well…

And I want to help teenagers and other metal heads to keep up the fight with confidence and big smile.

Ostoraton album cover

Ostoraton has resurfaced back in 2013, but it took another 7 years, till 2020, to release your debut album, “Rehla”. I have a few questions to ask about it, but how about letting you to introduce the album yourself…?

Hmmmm, 2013 when I met the lead guitarist Khaled Al Kandari. That time I considered the band is ready with drummer, lead guitar and myself. Rehla was released 2020, dear brother, but recording took me 3 years as a beginner…Plus I had too many broken promises from local friends to help. Where at the end. I did everything myself with the help of Khaled, the lead guitarist, and the drummer Kumkumji.

“Rehla” in arabic language means “Journey”. The album mainly talks about Human Virtues such as faith, honesty, confident, courage and seeking knowledge.

What was the biggest obstacle you have to overcome when preparing and recording the album?

Money and the high-end equipment’s. It’s not available here in Saudi Arabia or neighbouring countries.

I’ve bought my equipment from the US. I am blessed as my job is drilling engineer working for an American company. In 2013 I bought the basics equipment and in 2017 I bought the PC where I can have my own home studio and start recording.

I think the development of the PC machines helped many aspiring musicians in a great way…

Indeed. I am using Gigabyte. Highly recommended. Disregard all other laptops you name it. They all brake down or slow. Gigabyte is not a famous company, but I swear its very reliable and I am grateful to those Vietnamese people who manufactured such a piece of art, both in performance and in quality.

We’ve already hinted about the lyrical themes but let’s talk about the lyrics a bit more…what is the message of Ostoraton and who’s the main lyricist for the band?

The lyrics will vary especially in future, but the main theme will always remain about Arabic and Islamic culture, history, ethics, also self-development and self-struggle.

The lyricist is me. And I write lyrics based on life experience or teaching myself about an Arabic historical story such as in Zahfon Madin song.

Do you have any particular favourite historic period you are inspired by?

Awww. I do have. That would be the time of all prophets in the Arabian Peninsula such as Saleh and his great camel. The tribe of Aad and Thamud where they used to be giants and carved houses inside mountains. Noah and his great Ark, and so on…Also Moses and the Exodus it was here in Saudi – 40 years lost in the desert of Saudi Arabia… But, brother, when you hear the stories and you see the evidence, you will believe immediately.

Check (Al Oula) in Saudi Arabia. Giants build these houses.

Let’s talk about the using the local folk instruments in your music. Did you plan to use them in your songs from the very beginning of the band’s existence? And talking about the folk music instruments – what exactly are they?

To be honest – no. But with age the idea of the band developed. And I wanted to change the idea about Arabs in the eyes of non-Arabs and non-Muslims. As the Western media shows Arabs and Muslims as terrorists. I wanted to show that we are normal people. So, I decided to include more Arabic elements in the music to be unique and to bring attention to the listener to have the courage to read and discover who the Arabs and Muslims really are.

What are these instruments called? Is it some kind of sitar?

The folk instrument is Oud. All the other strings instruments are derived from Oud.

I see, interesting…

But everyone denies that. Only Arabs, we know about it. It was actually a one string instrument, made from Deer intestines. It’s called “Rababa”… one string instrument.

Cool!!! Let’s get back to Ostaroton…The album was followed by the 2022 “Somood”, which – in turn – was followed by the single “The Warrior” in 2023. As the status of Ostoraton (as far as I can ascertain) is being unsigned band, did these serve as a way to find a record label?

I reached out to several famous record labels. I’ve got no replies.

Sorry to hear that…

It’s fine. Because I see zillion metal bands… I understand that, because music today is all about profits and making money, not to support.

Yeah, big companies are like that…

It’s ok brother. Life goes on.

You are based in the Eastern Province, in Khobar. How does the local metal/alternative scene there look like? Any interesting bands you can recommend for us to check?

As I mentioned you have Sound of Ruby, psychedelic rock, also Creative Waste. A grindcore band. The rest are solo artists.

The scene – compared to other countries – is still relatively small, so I guess Saudi metal musicians basically know each other, right?

Haha, indeed! I know many of them as acquaintance but people I know personally Immortal Pain, Wasted Land and Creative Waste.

We need to mention also other aspect of any music scene – for example, record labels or distribution services. For those who want to know more about the Arabic metal scene, what labels are there to satisfy the need of the listeners and metal fans?

We have none, all music lables concerned only with money-making music. I can say – Wall of Sound – Dark Mode , but even this one rejected me before the release of the album.

Another thing we need to mention – live shows. I know that there was a time the public metal shows were non-existent in your country. What is the current situation regarding rock and metal gigs in Saudi Arabia?

We used to make our own shows underground. Today with the presence of our crown prince everything became official and legal. In the last 2 years I’ve noticed a girl named Gigi, she made an event company called Heavy Arabia, she is preparing music concerts and shows.

That’s good news!!! I need to ask this question … Indonesia, for example, has Voice of Bacot, the female band which doesn’t hide their islamic faith. What is the current situation for female metalheads in the Saudi Arabia? Although this might be seen as a silly question…are there any females active in Saudi metal (in any form)?

Yes. Check out Gigi from Heavy Arabia. She is a good person and westernized – leather jeans and spikey jackets.

I think I’ve read about her….

There are more but I don’t know them personally.

And I would almost forgot – are there any printed publications in the KSA for alternative/metal music? Officially released magazines or amateur zines?

We have only amateur zines such as Steel Shout, that’s all.

I actually listened to their podcast on Youtube today!!!

We used to have a website called, but the person responsible for the website deleted all the data. He was scared that he might get jailed.

Yes, that’s understandable..although what a loss…

It is.

I know that Saudi grinders Creative Waste have played also abroad (namely, in the UK and Czech Republic, at least of those gigs I know about… how about Ostoraton’s live activities? Any interest – and availability – in playing abroad as well?

I don’t think we can tour as we all committed with family and kids. But yes we are ready to play a live show if we got invited. Also, we are looking forward to play internationally.

For those visiting – or planning to visit – Saudi Arabia, either on business or just as tourists, are there any places metal fans usually frequent, so they can meet their fellow metalheads?

Unfortunately, no. We meet within our own circle. But you can go to Jeddah, the city on the Red Sea coast. We are a big group of metal heads there. We usually meet during weekends.

However, Indokult is not just about the extreme music genres, in my quest to discover the culture of the Asian countries through its various aspects, I want to learn also about the other kinds of music… For example, pop music – you can be sure not many people from Europe can mention any popular mainstream Saudi artists…can we change that? In other words, what popular mainstream artists from Saudi Arabia you can introduce us to?

Hmmmm. We have legends of music writing though they sing only in Arabic, so they will never reach outside of the Arabic society circle.

I would really say – Abadi Al Jawhar [and] Talal Maddah. They make music from the heart. Others they buy it or they have support from rich people.

Besides music, I am also a movie fan, and I can’t let the opportunity to talk about them slip 🙂 I know the Saudi movie industry is small, but my knowledge of it is basically nil. Can you tell us something about the local movies? Any important or significant ones every movie fan should know about?

Unfortunately, the movie and cinema production is weak here. But TV serials are strong – all production out there is drama. One of the long famous TV series is Tash Ma Tash. It talks about society problems. But for movies, sorry.

And back to Ostoraton 🙂 The year of 2023 is slowly nearing its end…what plans – if any – do you want to fulfill till the end of the year and what about the next year’s plans?

You will have 4 more singles, The completion of the demo Somood. And the full-length album in the beginning of 2024. With the new member, Husain, we are already working on the 3rd album.

Now that’s something I am already looking forward to!!!!

I am putting more time and efforts; I really want our fans to enjoy our music and to be proud of listening to our music.

Not to forget one important thing before we finish our conversation – for those interested in Ostoraton, do you offer any merchandise for your fans to purchase? I’ve seen the mention of the physical copies of the album, are these still available?

Currently only t-shirts within Saudi Arabia.

And coming to the final stage of this nice interview – any final message to the readers of Indokult?

I would like to thank you first for your time and for your interest in my band and in our Saudi Arabia. Second, I would tell them: Keep the faith, be strong, regardless of what happens. Every morning is a new day. If you didn’t start yesterday, start today. Go read and learn. Find a good friend and make him a brother for life. Get a wife, start a family. Keep connection with your parents. Eat well. Sleep well and look for a Jiu-Jutsu dojo or any martial arts school near you, sign up and commit!

I wish the best for everyone and to be happy and content, that’s all, brother.

Many thanks for your time, brother!!!! All the best to you, the band and all the Saudi metalheads!!!

Anytime, brother Rudy! 🤝




Rudolf Schütz

The creative mind behind the,a fervent connoisseur of cultural treasures, with an unwavering passion for Asian and Indonesian movies and music. He is a true aficionado, driven by a desire to unearth hidden gems and shed light on the often-overlooked. From the grand stages of mainstream performances to the gritty underground scenes, Rudolf is equally at home, recognizing that every note and frame tells a unique tale. As a cultural enthusiast, Rudolf is not just an observer but a storyteller in their own right. Through his insights, analyses, and reviews, he shares the captivating narratives that ripple through Asia's music and movie scenes. Whether it's a haunting melody that resonates from Indonesia's hidden corners or a cinematic masterpiece that transports you across time, Rudolf is your trusted guide to the captivating world of cultural expressions.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button