Alongside Bolt Thrower, Mythic and Nuclear Death, Derkéta are one of the longest-running and most well-respected female powers in extreme metal, and for good reason. The music created by these four women from Pittsburgh isn’t just dark, it’s downright oppressive: no light, no hope, no compromise. Their pummelling take on death/doom was restricted to a series of demos, an EP, a split and a compilation, but never came to fruition on a proper full-length album. That is, until now. They’ve just self-released their first-ever full-length, a massive slab of cavernous death/doom perfection titled ‘In Death We Meet’ and have already been plotting their next moves. The band parted ways in 1997, so to see them not only return, but to come out swinging, armed with one of the best death metal records of 2012 and a packed schedule of upcoming live gigs, is a wonderful sight indeed. Fifteen years is a hell of a long time to spend away from the metal world, though, so vocalist and guitarist Sharon Bascovsky filled in some gaps for us.
“Well, it’s a bit of a story, but this is the short version. Back in 1997, Don [Of The Dead, vocals/bass] from Nunslaughter had asked Terri [Heggen, drums] and me to put out a split 7” with them. We agreed and everything seemed okay until we went to record. We went to record at a friend of Terri’s but the guy recording us wanted to change us into a goth band because he said ’80s death metal was out, goth was in. He was trying to play producer. Terri was open to the idea and I was not. When you write a song, you can hear it in your head and the purpose of recording is to get it all materialised to the best that you can. Making it into something that it is not is just not good.
“It was when we went to record when everything fell apart and I found myself in an extremely awkward position. I was on my own and felt hated by the guy recording us. It was one of the worst experiences that I have ever had. That ended me and Terri’s friendship for a few years. I felt betrayed by it all. I started rehearsing and putting out 7”s with Jim [Sadist] from Nunslaughter on drums but I really wanted to put out a full-length. I had unrecorded songs from over the years and wanted to get them properly recorded. Originally I was thinking this full-length would be the last Derkéta recording and I wanted to end it with Terri since she was there in the beginning. By this time she and I had made peace and she still had a love for the older style of death metal, so after five years of me talking to her about it, she finally decided to record it with me. Once we mentioned it to Robin [Mazen, bass], she immediately said for us to just reform completely with Mary [Bielich, guitar], play some live shows and keep it going. Unfortunately Terri only agreed on doing the album because she doesn’t have the time to play shows.”
A local promoter put them in touch with now-drummer Mike Laughlin of Creation Is Crucifixion Is Creation (ex-Cattle Decapitation), and the rest is recent history. ‘In Death We Meet’ was released earlier this summer, and made it deadly apparent that the addition of Mike was just what the doctor ordered. In the liner notes for the album, Sharon cited the untimely passing of a close family friend as the inspiration she needed to bring Derkéta back from the dead. She dedicated a song to her friend Dara too, one that shows a raw, intensely personal edge seldom seen in the context of death metal lyrics.
“I had told her daughter about it years ago and she was happy and thankful about it all. It’s not the kind of music that she would listen to but she was pleased that the tribute was done, and just knowing how much her mom meant to me. We grew up together and have a lot of great memories that I don’t ever want to forget. Once I wrote the song ‘In Death We Meet’, it inspired me to continue writing and to get the band going again. It felt only right to tribute Dara on it and it’s nice that the CD always reminds me of the good times from when she was alive. For years I couldn’t get the image of her lying in the coffin out of my head. I’ve noticed that since the recording has been out and I’m talking about it more in interviews, I focus more on the fun memories so maybe it has brought me some sort of peace.”
Sharon’s past makes its presence known in more than just her lyrics. She was brought up in one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most vibrant periods, which directly affected her introduction to and subsequent worship of the heavy. “Back in the ’70s, rock was very prominent on the radio. Then in the ’80s our local radio stations used to play Rush, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Fastway so I was exposed to heavy metal at a very young age. When I was ten years old my aunt gave my brother Black Sabbath’s ‘Greatest Hits’ and I would listen to that album constantly, so I think they’re the reason why I always leaned more towards the doomier side of metal. Doom metal has more of a blues type of riffing, which gives off more of a feeling of dread versus straight, fast metal. It’s just something that I personally like to listen to and play.”
Derkéta’s status as an all-female band has always added to their mystique, but the band never allowed themselves to be defined by gender – it was all about brutality, darkness and death fucking metal for Sharon and her sisters-in-arms, no matter what anyone else had to say about it.
“When Lori [Bravo, Nuclear Death vocalist/bassist] and I started out, we were definitely the minority and some people didn’t know how to take us. Lori is brutal, there’s no denying that. I don’t think the women in metal really care what guys think of them, we’re just doing what we love to do. If anything, people should at least respect that. I personally don’t see what the big deal about it all is. I’ve always been somewhat of a tomboy – actually, so have Mary and Robin – we’re not girly girls, we’re just females that like metal and enjoy playing an instrument. I don’t understand it at all, and people will probably ‘boo’ at this answer, but what I found is a lot of metal guys are a bit pretentious. They walk around in their leather outfits and think they’re better than everyone else because they’re in a band and think they are truly brutal and everyone else is not. Or if they’re into the Satanic thing, they walk around like they have supernatural, evil powers and have one-up on the everyday person, whereas punk and crust guys are more honest and just want to play shows and have fun, regardless of your gender or race. As long as you’re a cool and honest person, they accept you.
“That is just what I’m used to and when I’m exposed to judgmental people, I’m a little taken aback. I really don’t know what the deal is. It’s not all metal guys, but when the sexism thing comes into place, it’s usually just with the pretentious metal guys. Luckily they are the minority in the scene; otherwise it would be very annoying. Metal, punk and crust are all extreme forms of music so we all have something in common with one another, it’s just personal taste of what you chose to listen to or play. Something what I find interesting is you’ll hear guys talk about women in their lives, either being bitches or psycho-crazed, so they’re labelling these women as these fierce creatures. Why would it be shocking to them that a woman is into fierce music? The logic isn’t there. Interests are open for any gender; it’s all about being true to yourself.”
Sharon is clearly a woman who practices what she preaches, and now that Derkéta are back in full force, they’re taking no chances on slowing down.
“We have a few shows in Pittsburgh booked for this fall, and then we’re heading out to New York in September. One show that we’re working on setting up is a benefit for kids’ cancer (check out www.ConcertsForKidsCancer.com). Our song ‘Witchburned’ is also appearing in the Death Shriek comic book [with art by Kam Lee of Massacre], which is a metal horror comic book with the comics based on a band’s song. We’re going to go into the studio around September to record a Death cover song for a cancer benefit compilation CD, and we’d like to make it to Europe and South America next year to experience the metal scene outside of the US. We’re starting to work on new material as we would like to put out another full-length release next year. All four of us are willing to put the time and effort into it all to accomplish as much as we can while we’re all still able to, and are having fun in doing so!”
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