„We won’t change our musical direction”

Singer Nathalie Markoch talks about her band NMK and its debut album Ravenous Spectre

Female fronted Peruvian band NMK (Now Mankind Knows) plays death metal with some thrash and heavy metal elements. Nathalie Markoch sings mainly melodically but also growls in some parts. Their debut album Ravenous Spectre came out this year so I asked the singer to introduce herself and to tell me about their past experiences, present activities and future plans.

Nathalie, what does the mankind know now? In other words, what does your band name mean? (At first I thought that NMK is coming from your name: Nathalie Markoch…)

Yeah, at the beginning it was an acronym of my name, but when we decided to form the band, I decided to give it a proper meaning. “Now Mankind Knows” refers to the message we, as a band, share through our music, artwork and concept. “The Shadow Government”, aka “The Global Elite”, “The Power Behind The Power” is keeping mankind under surveillance, manipulation and with a veil of ignorance above us. The less we know, the better. That’s why they’re working really hard in creating illusions that keep us entertained. All wars, terrorism, diseases, educational system, pharmaceutical industry, food industry, even sports… everything… every aspect of the human being living in society has been manipulated in such a way, that drains us of our energy.

We don’t know the true power of our DNA. We don´t know the meaning of being a consciousness living within a human body that is interconnected to all that is. Nowadays, it’s possible to be aware of this situation. Information and knowledge is right in front of our eyes. Mankind is no longer completely under their control, because so many individuals are awakening to this kind of „nightmare” or disconnection with the self. Hence the reason why „Now Mankind Knows”. We have access to info we haven’t had before and there are many who are using these tools to free themselves.

Please, tell me a few words about yourself! Which heavy metal bands made the main influence on you?

I’ve been a metal fan for 15 years now! My main vocal influences ranges from Mikael Akerfeldt, Mikael Stanne, Peter Tägtgren, Jeff Walker, Angela Gossow to Tarja Turunen, Floor Jansen, Russell Allen and Jorn Lande. However, if I think about some of the bands that influenced me the most in composing my own material, I would say Carcass, Demonoid, Symphony X, Unleashed, Bloodbath and Opeth.

Do you have any idols among female heavy metal singers?

I don’t have any idols, but there are singers I admire nowadays for their unique voices and passion, not only in heavy metal, but in metal in general. Angela Gossow (ex-Arch-Enemy), Tatiana Shmaylyuk (Jinjer), Federica de Boni (Whiteskull) and Doro (Warlock) are some of the singers I look up to.

Did you perform in any other band before NMK?

Between 2006 and 2010 I was part of the first Nightwish and Epica tribute live band in Peru called Hypnox. In parallel, I worked for several bands composing original songs and creating concepts, but sadly none of them managed to record those songs into a finished product. In 2012, Rafael Nuñez (NMK’s manager, singer of Hypnox and thrash band Hellium) suggested me to record a solo album and I formed a live band (Elias Checco – guitar and Luis Medina – bass took part in that band) with whom I played those songs live for 4 years approx until I decided to record a 2nd album with all original tunes. Ravenous Spectre was born with that idea in mind, but while composing it alongside Elias, we realized it was better to form NMK as a band.

Please, tell me about your solo material! What kind of music is it?

Influences & Connections Vol. 1 was the first album I launched as a solo artist. We recorded, mixed and mastered it at Shredded Sound Studios with producer Adolfo Gazzo in Lima, Peru. It has 15 tracks, one of them being the only original song entitled The Fraud. That song was the base for the ones that I composed afterwards for Ravenous Spectre. It had that melodic death metal feel with some heavy/thrash influences.

I wanted to record several songs that were important for my music development since teenage years until that point (2011). My vocal technique was mainly inclined to the melodic soft side and some soprano influences and that’s why I sound like that on the album. It was a major turning point for me, ’cause I realized how hard it was to record different songs that were outside my comfort zone, vocally speaking.

Personally I’m glad about you singing mostly melodically instead of growling (in contrast with, for example, At The Gates cover Blinded by Fear). Because of this Ravenous Spectre is not a typical death metal stuff but a specific, extraordinary material. Why did you decide to choose this way of singing?

Thank you! Well, it is indeed something rare for melodic death metal fans, I’m sure. I decided to sing this way in the album, ’cause while I was composing The Fraud, I had the limitation of not being able to growl and my voice lacked aggressiveness. But I was so stubborn in creating this kind of music despite these limitations that I managed to include the aggressiveness within the vocal melody and its phrasing. I needed the counterpart for my melodic singing in growls, that’s why I invited Rafael Nuñez to record those sections (and that’s why there are more melodic parts than growls).

While composing “Ravenous Spectre” I was able to put more aggressiveness to my vocals, but it was just before finishing recording the album. Adolfo Gazzo (producer) suggested us to include my growls in the recordings since he liked very much my newly found growl technique. So I managed to record them on the album in just a couple of days, haha (we kept some of Rafael’s low growls on the album to make it more interesting).

We were all very excited and I was thrilled since this was what I always wanted, to be able to growl and being able to do it on the album before recordings were finished was incredible. That’s how NMK vocals came to be!

At the same time, you are responsible both for melodic and guttural singing. How difficult is it to change from one to another – either verse by verse?

I didn’t intend to do it that way at the beginning. I composed the lyrics and vocal melodies for me and the growling parts for Rafael and it was just after finishing recordings that I managed to growl properly. That’s why we included my growls on the album, but I knew that one thing was to record it and another was to perform it live. So we rehearsed the songs with this change in mind. Luckily, I managed to develop a growl technique in such a way that I don’t use my vocal chords, but the false chords and I distort my voice on the soft palate. I found it was easier to change from melodic to guttural and vice versa that way without stressing anything down there. I trained myself to do those shifts with more confidence gradually.

As I know you founded the band; does it mean you are the boss? Do you make the decisions about the line-up of the band, the musical direction, which tracks are going to be on the album etc.?

Haha, well I indeed found the band alongside Elias and Rafael and you could say that I’m NMK’s leader. In my opinion, for a band to have strong ties and to gradually grow, there must be a leader who can put things into perspective, taking everyone’s opinion into consideration. I’m not the boss, but the one who orchestrates mine and everyone’s creativity and puts them in such a way that creates the end product.

Do you write the lyrics solely?

Yes, it’s something I’ve always done. Not only for NMK, but for all my previous bands. Since elementary school I have always found solace in my writings. I always daydream while doing so. I also love poetry and short stories. I think I will publish my first poetry book entitled Remnants sometime in 2019.

In general, what are your songs about?

It depends on the project I’m working on. On Ravenous Spectre, the songs are about the evolution of consciousness of a human being, the illusions we face as a slave race, the tools we have to transcend the reality of martyrdom and enter a new one which takes in consideration that we are the microcosm of the macrocosm.

Which one of you writes the music?

The instrumentation was composed by Elias and myself. We used to gather at my house, guitar in one hand, recorder in the other, and Guitar Pro software in front of us. That’s how Ravenous Spectre was entirely composed.

What does the Ravenous Spectre title mean for you?

The name of the album refers of the title of the song that has the same name. This song is about the Shadow Government, the Global Elite. Not the bankers, the secret societies, the governments or the 13 family bloodlines. It refers also to the Draconians, the Annunaki, the Dach Soldiers, the Luciferian Soul Group. We are being enslaved by them, making us their source of energy. They don’t have the option to get their energy directly from Source. That’s why they are always hungry and in need. They can’t exist without us. That’s why they’ve created technology to take the energy directly from us. We don’t have any idea of how powerful the human being is but those Ravenous Spectres surely do.

The album was recorded and mixed in Peru, but the mastering happened in Sweden. How did this idea and opportunity come?

We wanted Ravenous Spectre to have a specific sound and we knew that in Fascination Street Studios we would achieve it. We’re fans of bands like Symphony X, Kreator, At the Gates, Bloodbath, etc. and we knew the sound we liked so much came from the same place. It was not cheap at all but we decided that if we wanted the album to sound professional we needed to have them mastering it. Tony Lindgren was the one in charge of the mastering and we are very pleased with the end product!

You brought out the record independently. Could you be happy about a contract with a bigger record company?

For this album, we wanted to do everything ourselves. It was a matter of doing this at our own pace and we wanted to put special details in every process. We started in 2015 and just launched the album in march 2018, so there were some things we had to take care of between those years to finally be able to start promoting the album and playing live. We are currently negotiating some distribution deals and there are some labels that want to edit our album in their countries. It’s something that can happen in the near future, but we are not going to rush anything, especially now that we managed to launch the digital as well as the physical digipack version ourselves. Also, there are some big labels that want to work with us for the next album, so we are very excited to start composing new material at the end of the year.

Why did it take so long to publish the album? What kind of difficulties did you have to face?

Aside from work/study related and economic factors, it was due mainly to a very serious health condition I was dealing with. I couldn’t even function properly on a daily basis and basic tasks. I had to put everything on hold and start a self-healing journey. It took me almost 3 years to get near the gate. I’m currently in the last phase of finally being able to be healthy again and I’m thankful and so happy that I was able to get most of my strength back by now and that I can sing and perform again.

You published the material in a limited 500 copies. What kind of format does it mean?

There are indeed only 500 copies available of the physical version of Ravenous Spectre, in digipack format. This version comes with a special A3 poster, a postcard and a sticker. There’s also a very limited 2nd pack that comes with all of the above and includes the digipack version of my solo album Influences & Connections Vol. 1, that’s almost sold out.

Didn’t you plan to make the album downloadable? For some money, of course…

Yeah, the album is available in all major digital platforms like iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Music, etc. We recently decided to upload it to Bandcamp, since a friend of ours suggested it. Good we did it, I’m glad people are buying it there as well!

Before the album an EP (Lack of Judgment) came out. It contains an At The Gates cover (Blinded by Fear), too. Why did you chose this song?

We are big fans of ATG and the classic melodeath sound since forever and I wanted a song where I could growl comfortably, to let fans know that growling was indeed part of my toolbox, haha. Since the album doesn’t have a song that has entirely guttural vocals, we decided to record Blinded by Fear with producer Daniel Roman at DRS Studios in 2017, and we recorded the video clip to promote it with director Illari Arbe.

In May NMK will perform as the opening act of Therion concert in Lima. Which of their musical era do you prefer the best?

Sadly, we were recently informed that the tour manager of Therion decided they will bring an international act to open their shows in South America. So we had to step down from that gig. It’s kind of a downer for this show to be cancelled for us but it’s beyond our control so we just let it be and look forward to play with other big names in metal in the near future.

I personally don’t follow Therion, but I’m a fan of their side-project called Demonoid that some of the members made in 2004. Riders of the Apocalypse, with a kind of death/black/thrash sound, is one of the best albums I’ve ever heard in my entire life. It’s part of my top 10 albums of all time!

Peru has a big and teeming heavy metal scene. What kind of chance do you have to make a big break, to be successful as a new band?

Well, we were and are focused on the details. Our music, art and concept is the most important thing, so we dedicate ourselves to that mainly. On our live shows, we constantly try to upgrade our game and we want to keep growing with every single song, video clip and every single show we perform. Time will tell if we are cut to make a big break or not. But we are really happy and thankful for all the support we’ve received so far from fans here in Peru and around the globe. We are really stoked that you guys like the music we create from the heart.

Who are your biggest ideals/heroes on your own continent?

Well, I don’t think of them as ideals or heroes at all, I don’t have any. What I admire is the musicians who make metal from the heart. It doesn’t matter if they are academically trained or have the right technique. I admire the ones who take upon themselves to passionately create music on their own and are honest about it.

Did you get any gigs outside your country?

We have several invitations to play in Mexico, Germany, Russia, Italy and some other countries and we are stoked that our music has reached them in so little time! We have been invited to do a 10 city tour through Russia and a 4 city tour through Germany. If we are going to travel there, the best thing to do would be to get some other gigs in other countries as well. Let’s see if we can make it happen in 2019!

It’s kinda difficult to organize those trips, since everyone of us has day jobs and we have to consider vacation days and also when our budgets allow us travel and where. I hope we manage to play live abroad very soon!

What is going to be the next step: concerts, new songs? Are you planning to change your musical direction (sound, singing, musical or lyrical themes)?

We will play live on May 4th at a local concert alongside Blizzard Hunter (underground heavy metal band) at La Noche de Lima and on May 5th we’ll be playing at the Metal United World Wide Festival alongside bands like Necrodemon (Chile), M.A.S.A.C.R.E, Estigma, Necropsya and Fallen Symmetry (Peru) at CC. Festiva. On June 2nd we’ll play at the Fem Metal Warriors II Fest alongside Hamadria (power/gothic metal).

There won’t be any new songs for now, but we’ll publish a new video clip for the song Outrage before the end of the year.

We won’t change our musical direction. NMK’s main characteristic is its melodic death metal sound with thrash and heavy metal in the mix. Vocals will always contain the melodic predominance and the guttural counterpart in a lesser degree. Although I’m considering in adding a little more guttural parts on some songs of the new album. Lyrics won’t change directions either, they will only morph due to the change of perspective on the same theme: human awareness and mind control.

What can be the date of the publishing of your second album?

That is uncertain. We’ll start working on new songs at the end of the year and I hope that by 2019 we’ll be able to publish our 2nd album. It will definitely take less time than the previous one, that’s for sure!

Concerning of your debut album, what is your message to the Hungarian fans of melodic death metal?

I’m so stoked that „Ravenous Spectre” was able to reach you guys! We know there is a very tiny chance for new bands to be heard abroad so I’m really happy. Hungary is such a beautiful country. My family (from my father’s side) comes from Croatia and I’m really drawn to Central Europe, I would absolutely love to visit you guys and play our music there!

Although Ravenous Spectre is a melodeath album, if you listen to it, you’ll find it doesn’t really fit the label, but at the same time, there’s no other way to describe it. With it’s aggressive and technical riffs, melodic and aggressive vocal melodies and on point gutturals, dynamic drum-work and a fast paced and contundent bass, I think you will be in for a treat. 🙂 Give it a try! Cheers from Peru!

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