Although Chile’s thrash metal scene had taken a few years to fully fire up beyond innovative demos from Pentagram, Massakre, and Necrosis in the mid-80’s the true explosion of underground forces would fire into the abyss in 1988. Full-lengths from Warpath and Necrosis coincided with demos from heavier, more intricate newcomers including a long-lost rehearsal tape from Valparaíso based Apostasy. The rise of bestial terror would reign bloody hell across South America as the world began to dig beyond Sepultura‘s debut and in turning the cross upside down in Chile it’d be Atomic Aggressor‘s ‘Bloody Ceremonial’ and Apostasy‘s ‘Fraud in the Name of God’ (1989) demos that would ‘legitimize’ the underground scene beyond Pentagram‘s impressive beginnings. I know there were more dark forces at work back then already, such as Sadism and Torturer, but in the realm of pure thrash it was Apostasy‘s ‘Sunset of the End’ (1991) that had the most potential to speak to the worldwide thrash metal scene of the time who were reeling from the glory of peak Sepultura, Dark Angel, Sadus and the rise of death metal beyond the 80’s. I have a long personal history of trying to acquire an original cassette of this bands debut that spanned the entirety of 2004 as I’d been ripped off by bad Russian bootlegs but, once I’d acquired it ‘Sunset of the End’ would reaffirm a sort of personal commitment to digging for the hidden gems of independent metal music past and went a long way in shifting my mindset from fanatic to actual collector. In my mind it is as vital an entry to exemplar South American thrash metal as ‘Beneath the Remains’. So, there is great weight attached to receiving a follow-up release twenty seven years later.
There is little to worry about, though, as ‘The Sign of Darkness’ is a worthy successor in a hard-fought battle to resuscitate the spirit of Apostasy. In fact it was only a matter of waiting patiently beyond 2013 as the band reformed as a trio with Cris Profaner (Cristián Silva) as the sole original member joined by Ancient Crypts and Invincible Force drummer Cristóbal Vigneaux along with lead guitarist Sebastian Palominos (Henosis). The collective sigh of relief was palpable as ‘Blackened By Sacrifice’ (2013) demo was immediately evocative of ‘Sunset of the End’, particularly the second half; Since then they’ve released an additional EP, ‘The Blade of Hell’ (2016), prior to the release of this second full-length. ‘The Sign of Darkness’ collects those previous compositions slightly reworked while including a handful of new songs. What might surprise older fans is the level of authenticity and amount of riffs they’ve poured over in creation of ‘The Sign of Darkness’; It absolutely feels like an ‘old school’ thrash metal album from the late 80’s and isn’t mired by any too-modern tricks nor does it delve into death metal as I’d personally expected. The hand-crafted, DIY aspect of Apostasy is yet in tact as they’ve recorded, produced and mixed the record themselves with the final master shopped out to Lamech Sound Design. I’m hugely impressed that Profaner handled a great bulk of the instrumentation and songwriting while keeping things tight, energetic and mercilessly heavy.
There is a great purity in the majesty of ‘The Sign of Darkness’ as it evokes the old days while extending the bullet-belted extremist thrash of their first album nearly three decades later; I’d most definitely have included this on my Best of 2018 if it had been easier to track down and acquire but that is my own failing. It is rare anymore today that I hold a record in my hands and truly covet its possession and not because of nostalgia but for the powerful heavy metal within. This is a riff album, not a riff-salad nightmare or even an overtly technical performance but an intricate set of effective guitar performances enhanced by 80’s death metal aesthetics and post-’86 classic thrash structures. What should immediately stand out is Profaner‘s vocal performance which is classic Chilean thrash echoing grittiness that doesn’t imitate previous vocalist Alberto Leyton but brings a similar cadence with the occasional shrieking fit that’ll recall ‘Darkness Descends’ as much as it does Communion.
When faced with an album that was long accepted as impossible and/or shelved I met ‘The Sign of Darkness’ with high expectations and careful enthusiasm. No doubt I waited through the ‘fanatic’ phase of interest until I’d written this because there is always value in some objectivity. I’d say as a full listen this 33 minute thrasher is quick, straight to the point evil and brutal thrash metal in the most classic sense and that’ll always be my preference above most other forms of metal. The part of me that has been obsessed with thrash riffs since I was a teenager is re-lit by this long awaited second Apostasy album and there should be no doubt that it comes with an above average recommendation, especially if you are a fan of 80’s South American death and thrash metal output or the witching metal phenomenon concurrent on the other side of the world. Highly recommended. For preview there are two key duos that bolster ‘The Sign of Darkness’ to nigh classic status, the first is “The Great Damnation” / “Blackened by Lust” with its Attomica-esque stomp and “Praise of Darkness” / “Virgin Sacrifice” which should immediately read as classic Apostasy and classic Chilean extreme thrash for that matter.
Spiriting unbound flesh. 4.5/5.0
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