Thursday, 3 July 2014

Extreme Thursday: Derkéta

Everything has to start somewhere. According to biblical accounts, the very first Thursday was the day before humans, steak and pork chops were invented. A terrible day indeed. This Thursday we're winding back the clock to 1989 for a particularly pertinent first; the first all-female death metal band.

Not that Derkéta particularly wanted to be known as such. They just wanted to play brutal, downtuned, doom inspired death metal to a hungry audience. Things never do run smooth, and Derkéta's Yale is a 25 year journey of woe and hardships.

Hauling from Pittsburgh, PA, Derkéta was formed in 1989 by guitar player and vocalist Sharon Baschovsky and drummer Terri Heggen. There first foray onto the scene was a recording of a rehearsal session in '89 that pricked up a few ears. After that, a four track Demo entitled The Holy Ground in 1990, then a two track 7", Premature Burial, containing remastered demo tracks.

The name Derkéta comes from the name of the Goddess of death of a blood-drinking cult in Stygian mythology. She is referenced in Robert E Howard's Conan books and is goddess of the Kush. This image was adopted by the band due to both their gender and their brutality.

The matter of their gender could not be escaped, of course, and it is cited as one reason for the band's separation in 1990. Another is musical differences between Sharon and Terri, with the former determined to maintain the band's sound at all costs. Terri left to form the short-lived Mythic, a very similar band but one that eschewed the doom influences and produced a faster, less brutal sound.

Derkéta was in crisis. Sharon fell out with Terri because Mythic seemed to be cashing in on and weakening Derketa's ideals. She married, divorced, and increasingly drifted out of the deaty metal scene. Disliking the direction away from doom origins and toward a more blastbeat and chugging style of death metal, Sharon resolved to keep the original sound rather than follow the crowd.

This determination came to a head in '97 when Nunslaughter asked Derkéta to join them in a split EP. Terri returned and the recording was attempted. It went horribly wrong, with style disputes and personal issues wrecking the process. In the end the effort was abandoned, and it seemed very much like the end of Derkéta.

Not to be outdone, though, Sharon picked herself up and, in 1999, completed the split EP with Nunslaughter as the only permanent member of Derkéta. Increasingly, it seems, Derkéta was Sharon, and vice versa.

This regrouping did not last long, unfortunately. A four way split EP with Gravewurm, Witchburner and Sado-maniac called Behold The Legions Of Hell in 2002 was the last track from Derkéta with Sharon as sole member. 2003 saw a compilation of everything Derketa had done before remastered to CD, including multiple versions of some tracks. Put out by Necroharmonic Productions. This was the closest any of the die-hard Derkéta fans expected to hear of a full length record. Sharon confirmed that she was writing material in 2003, but went ominously silent.

Derkéta had always been very vocal in their local metal scene, contributing and collaborating, producing limited run vinyls, flyers and fanzines with many of their fellow metalheads. This is where their original, extensive fan base grew from, in spite of the relative lack of output. Sharon's dogged determination to maintain the band's sound may not have pleased producers and record bosses, but it pleased the fans.

In 2006 Terri and Sharon got back together and reclaimed the original name and the original intended line-up with Mary M beilich and Robin Mazen. Terri and Sharon buried the hatchet and agreed to not let band issues get in the way.

A mere 24 years after deciding to form Derkéta, the band's debut album In Death We Meet was self-released in 2012. Thanks to Sharon's determination the Derkéta sound remained intact. In fact, it finally became what she had wanted all along.

After recording the album Terri once again left the band and was replaced by Michael Laughlin on drums. The lineup remains to this day, and the band have maintained their original ethos and in 2014 released a two track single called Darkness Fades Life as a limited edition, 300 copy 7" single. As yet no way of hearing it beyond seeking one out has been found.

With the release of Darkness Fades Life it seems the band have hit their stride and are remaining determinedly underground. For those that find them, there are 7" disks of raw, guttural death metal produced with passion and determination. For the rest of us, there is YouTube and Bandcamp.