Take Down the Elites: An Interview with Peru’s NMK
NMK revealed the alchemic secrets inside Ravenous Spectre in an one-of-a-kind exclusive interview with the Toilet ov Hell. What mysteries we discover with vocalist Nathalie Markoch and bassist Luis Medina?
Strange things may happen in the intense Peruvian summer. In the busy capital city of Lima people can be seen rushing across the boardwalks, hurrying to avoid burning their feet. Citizens here are accustomed to Mother Nature’s fierce embrace and that fierce attitude is completely visible in their rich culture.
It was a surprise and a pleasure to talk with vocalist Nathalie Markoch and bassist Luis Medina, two members of NMK, one of the most promising bands in the Peruvian metal scene. Their chill and fun speech is sometimes intersected by a notable passion of what they do and what they plan to do to conquer the minds of the extreme music fans, a notoriously difficult crowd to please.
At first glance, and compared with the rushed nature of their fellow countrymen, Markoch and Medina seems to be very focused at their own rhythm into their craft and their music, all of this with a commendable professionalism, which is a very rare trait giving they are part of a young project.
Through a pair of messages and a couple of listening to their single, “Lack of Judgment”, I knew NMK had that special shine, carried by legendary acts in the melodic death metal subgenre like Dark Tranquillity or At the Gates. While, their core is built upon that exquisite European tradition of dualistic melodies, their sound is carefully composed and let it breathes their passionate point of views.
To them, melodeath is just a vehicle to transport the songs through progressive territories in order to advance into a new enlightenment path.
Furthermore, my encounter with them in a huge ass mall in the wild center of Lima gave me the chance to understand the humane touch of their music. They opened their hearts and let me discover a lot of secrets behind the curtains of their debut, Ravenous Spectre, which we covered in our Toilet ov Hell with some nice responses from our Disqus users all over the globe.
In all this chat, NMK revealed to me the topics inside the lyrical concept, their inception and more importantly, who they are in this vast multiverse.
How did NMK get started?
Vocalist Nathalie Markoch was the most active in this long talk. Her youthful demeanor fooled me at first, and when she started to tell the NMK story I could sense their honesty she carries all over in both stage and her personal life.
“As a band, we started around 2015, but my story goes way back”, opens Markoch with candid voice. Her first steps on the Peruvian scene were in 2007, when she started to cover songs from Nightwish and Epica in some clubs, two big brands around the fanbase of the subcontinent.
The initial idea to form a full band was pitched by Rafael Núñez, their manager, who is also a very active character in the Lima metal circuit. “He suggested me to record an album to learn how it was the record process and to find my own sound and style. So, in 2012, I composed “The Fraud” along with Pepe Gazzo, a local musician and bassist of power metal band Nautiluz, and we included it on my solo debut album, Influences & Connections Vol. 1, which was comprised of covers from different bands”.
In Nathalie’s idea, “The Fraud” was an amalgam of all the different styles she covered in that record. But, the live band had also a heavy presence, including Elías Checco and bassist Luis Medina, both of them now part of NMK.
Her solo project had some standout presence afterwards this release, and helped her to get recognized in the local scene. This all happened during a period when metal music was starting to get some gas, after a crude economic recession on the country that nearly killed the genre.
However, the ambitious musicians pursued more on the experience, and were during 2014 when they went more serious about Markoch’s project, which later morphed from a semi-cover ensemble into a full-fledged band.
“During the essays of that year, we used to brand ourselves as “La Banda de Nathalie”, explains the vocalist, “but that moniker did not hook up to us as a serious name, so we took inspiration from a Russian buddy that pitched us the idea of the NMK tag, which was later re-coded as Now Mankind Knows”.
After the quick morale boost that was the identity rebrand, Markoch asked Elías Checco to join in the writing stage. “I found myself struggling with the songs composition process quite a bit. All I know about music and singing is completely self-taught”, she clarifies.
With the invaluable help of the progressive schooled metal guitarist, NMK was finally taking shape. Checco became a riff machine, meanwhile Nathalie wrote all the vocals and assisted with the melodies, as well as developing the whole concept, lyrics and imagery that is now glued to the band. The smooth writing process was effective. In a couple of months, the record was completely written and arranged.
In spite of these advances, Markoch had to face first a couple of new challenges in order to reveal the project. The first bump of her road was her inability to do the growls vocals. She explains that, during the early days of the band, manager Rafael Núñez handled the gutturals, but they agreed NMK needed a full time vocalist to match the dark music in both studio and live setting.
“The music itself quickly transformed from what we envisioned first. It became darker, faster and way more intense of what we thought initially. And that was fine for me, because I was always a death metal fan”, claims Markoch. Núñez, nevertheless, had faith in Nathalie to express the way she really wanted.
During the final demos recordings, Nathalie got some tips to develop the technique and, after a hard night of practice alone at her house, she was finally ready to take the reins of the project. “The other day, Nat could growl way better than any of us, changing voices and controlling perfectly the air. She re-recorded all the songs in just three days. And that took me three whole months!”, jokes Núñez.
After this win, Elías invited an old friend to do the second guitar, a musician named Carlos Rocca, and they asked their long-time pal Luis Medina to handle the bass. Now the band was practically complete.
During 2016, NMK was ready to launch the debut after a whole year of hard work. But, they had to face the second hardship in the path. Nathalie got really sick and her recovery process lasted almost 2 years. This completely froze the album launch, so when the vocalist healed herself the band got reactivated and finished the last touches in DIY way to launch Ravenous Spectre.
What is inside NMK’s debut?
For me, although, this part of the NMK story was another interesting tale. Getting more in-depth information about their formation from the direct source made me understand why I felt it is, indeed, a very special debut.
Albeit a young luminarie in the the Latin American metal showcase, they were very humble during the whole interview, but also very focused in the artistry of their product. Artwork, audiovisual material, lyrics, music and imagery in general is all interlaced with Nathalie Markoch’s concept and all-around speech about life, which is also shared within all the band members.
“I’ve studied high alchemy, metaphysics and naturopathy for the last three years. From my lectures, I know there are forces controlling us, promoting unawarness and keeping mankind in illusion. I call them ‘The Shadow Government’, the real leaders behind the puppets. Everyone in the band has their own perception of reality, but together as NMK we denounce that humanity has a very close-minded recollection of what is our universe, because we are all being programmed to be less, have limited perception and to be weak”, claims.
By this point, Nathalie continues her explanation with more clarity. “Society has a chance to know about this, but it is immediately tagged as a prank or a conspiracy”. Then, Luis Medina compliments the opinion: “We all believe that elites changed all aspects on our society. They have been manipulating information throughout all our history. The weak is always dogmatized to follow ideas and concepts without knowing what will happen to them”.
According to them, NMK stands for a more free minded society, without the shackles of thought imposed by religion, politics and all belief-systems. They hope people find their own path and solve their issues by their own will and knowing themselves as individuals, but also as a community. This is the central theme of their debut.
“In Ravenous Spectre we not only acknowledge the elite existence, but also at all the metaphysical problems that we carry on when we do not open our minds to a broader and more inclusive perception”, sentences the vocalist. In the lyrics, alchemy is used as a sort of philosophical and mystical discipline to help carry on that mission. “This is represented in each lyric of the album, we need to recreate together a new reality”.
Lyrics wise, NMK’s new fans had expressed their feedback to them. When I asked if the listeners found the appealing behind the concept, Markoch expressed surprise about those reactions.
“We have received comments from people on many different countries, telling us their likeness of Ravenous Spectre as a whole. It is an incredible and warm feel to know their opinions. We sing about this not only to reveal what we think are the negative aspects of modern life, we also try to communicate with details how we believe we could all be better as human beings and all the feedback has been so great. We are all connected and this is symbolized on our logo, which is a sigil I made with the concept of Love, Praise and Gratitude”, told.
What will come next?
Moving towards future, the band seeks to finally conquer the Peruvian regions with new shows and promote the debut title. Every form of metal music in the country is buried beneath six feet under in a country where folkloric genres and pop music eclipse every other form of music.
Their first gig was in the Lima’s Hard Rock Cafe, supporting Anna Fiori, a Mexican gothic vocalist. Recently, they were part of the Metal United World Wide supporting the Peru edition, a simultaneous event with over 400 bands in more than 60 countries, all playing at the same time, sharing stage with legendary national acts like M.A.S.A.C.R.E. and Necropsya. June and July will have new dates all over the capital.
They also enlisted a new drummer in their ranks, Franco Almeida, who is handling all the live shows with them and is very motivated to participate in a future recording. “Franco is a guy that wants to squeeze blast beats inside blast beats”, jokes Luis Medina, “he comes from a brutal death metal background, but he is an incredible musician. He really nails the groove and rhythm in the debut. We compliment very well”.
A further second album will be written when the time is right, adds Nathalie. The warm reception of Ravenous Spectre is pushing them to try new tactics with their sound. “This is an album written around what we could do and what we could not do as musicians, it was made thinking in how to start breaking our boundaries. And now we are more confident to explore new textures. With a future album, we will definitely exploit way more the sound we created and I really want to add more brutality, too! Writing should come by the end of the year”.
They want to take the time to advance with this. “However, we are going to do all the shows we can and travel all over the country to promote the debut. We really believe in Ravenous Spectre as a record to reach new audiences”.
After a couple of more minutes talking with the guys about music and life in the Peruvian capital, I had to say good-bye to these new friends. To me, it is safe to think now that NMK are a strong name in this metal niche. They are a band that nicely blend the humane experience inside that ‘controlled chaos’ nature of melodic death metal. They breath and communicate that passion with heartwarming sincerity, and, that, my friend, must be a constant trait to the music we all love.