Sunday, November 24, 2013

Derkéta - In Death We Meet

Written by Kim Kelly.

Cover art by Richard Schouten

Comebacks and reunions have lost their sparkle. They’re a dime a dozen nowadays, fueled by rising guarantees and nostalgia and buoyed by fans' all-consuming urge to see a band play "the old shit." Missed Carcass or Emperor the first time ‘round? No sweat, they’ll be right over (provided the money’s there). Nostalgia is now a thing of the past, but what of the bands that never got a chance to fade away? Derkéta's 2012 opus In Death We Meet may have felt like a comeback, but, improbably enough, served as their first proper introduction - one that took them nearly twenty-five years to make.

Far away from New York's brutish glamor or Florida's swampy heat, an ex-member of pioneering all-female death/doom band Mythic came together with two like-minded Rust Belt ladies and unwittingly launched what would become one of American death metal's unsung greats. It's taken nearly two decades for them to start getting the kind of recognition they so richly deserve, and even now, their first (!) proper album In Death We Meet is still flying further below the radar than one might like. The band's decision to quietly release the album themselves cut down on hype; I only found out the album existed during a chance encounter at a MDF distro stall, but happily plunked down those ten bucks faster than you can say "essential purchase."

Photo by Roy Stewart from Embalmer

There's never really been a core lineup, so to speak - members of Nunslaughter, Mythic, and now Cattle Decapitation have lent their talents to the cause, but at the heart of it all has been Sharon Bascovsky, a slight woman with a penchant for tuning down and possessed of a hugely powerful, caustic roar that'd bring Beelzebub himself trembling to his knees if he found himself on the wrong end of it. Joined by bassist Robin Mazen, drummer Terri Lewis, and guitarist Mary Bielich, Bascovsky has crafted a masterful collection of morbid, unerringly brutal death metal songs that would sound right at home on the band's cult Nineties output. They proceed at a relentless, measured stomp, shrouded in grim resolve. There isn't the faintest whiff of sterile modernity about it, and for good reason. In Death We Meet is the sound of a "Record" button being pressed on songs that have been hanging in the ether since 1990. Dérketa sounds old school because they were there - they lived it, and what's more, they created it. They helped build that fucking school, brick by muddy brick.

Photo by Roy Stewart from Embalmer

The album itself is everything a fan would want, and more. In Death We Meet feels far darker and heavier than your run-of-the-mill OSDM recording. The weight its creators carried on their shoulders press down upon its chords, and the album is intensely personal for reasons beyond its long gestation and perennially uncertain future. As Bascovsky shared with me during an interview last year, the title track on In Death We Meet was inspired by and dedicated to the memory of a close family friend who'd passed away unexpectedly. The death she screams of is not the glorified, incense-swathed reaper of popular metallic imagery; it's deeper than that. This death is all too familiar. Its hands aren't icy cold, but cool and papery, marked with hospital scars and bitten fingernails. It's death in its reality, not its fantasy - a heavy realization, a struggle to understand, and ultimately, the yawning chasm of rage, confusion, and grief that awaits us all. Derketa howl into the void, and come back gasping for air and clawing for purchase.

Photo by Roy Stewart from Embalmer

They have awakened from the cold embrace of their premature burial once more, and seem stronger than ever. Happily enough, Derketa have been playing live with a new drummer, and one can only hope that new material is forthcoming. Above all, they're survivors, and have fought hard for this second chance to shine. It's been a long time coming.

Hail the Goddess(es) of Death!

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Tagged with 2012, death metal, Derkéta, doom metal, Kim Kelly
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