APOSTASY – Death Return (2021)REVIEW

Back after just a few years with a third album of arcane evil speed-metallic riffcraft, there is no questioning the apex of inspiration is still riding high beyond classic Chilean thrash metal band Apostasy‘s return back in 2013. Driven by their own fiercely traditional conviction from the start the banners of this classic Valparaíso-borne forever underground entity still fly by a strong willed and highest standard. If we can consider their previous full-length, ‘The Sign of Darkness’, the band making good on their promised return with blazing and uncompromising evil thrash then we can view ‘Death Return‘ as further solidification of their legacy featuring prime works beyond 2018. The mid-to-late eighties are still in sight as these new pieces generally veer towards brutal South American thrash of that era but, this time around they’ve made some room for nostalgia including a few remade classics from ‘Sunset of the End’ as well as the strongest tracks from EP and demo releases during the interim. The greater effect is a summary of this dark-souled thrash entity’s past and present self framed as one experience, a sustained continuum of steadfast ideals.

Since I’ve taken a crack at brief biographical round-up of this band several times over the years between a retro column on their self-released 1991 debut full-length ‘Sunset of the End‘ and a fairly thorough review of ‘The Sign of Darkness‘ (2018) the gist of it is that their work is not only legendary within the Chilean thrash/speed metal underground but their return a little over a decade ago was unquestionably worthy of maintaining and amplifying this status. The same could be said of what we’ll discover here on ‘Death Return’ but there are many ways we can frame this release that make it one of their most interesting records to date. First, they are unconcerned with about one third of the album being spent rearranging idealized versions of two of the most classic tracks from their original late 80’s/early 90’s formation (“Deceased in Funeral” and “The Great Apostasy – The Night”) and I completely understand why, these are refreshed here but not made “modern”, drawing a clear line between the rest of the material on ‘Death Return’ and the original purpose and style of the band. It is both nostalgic and inspiring to hear these songs I’ve worshipped for decades infused with new fire, there is something timeless about the level of ambition in each song and they sit very well on the album as a whole.

Also of note is that, for the time being, the band becomes more of a studio only project now that founding member Cris Profaner has moved inland to Santiago and announced live performances and tours are indefinitely on hiatus. Apostasy have always been a do-it-yourself kind of project either because there was no thrash and extreme metal labels picking up bands in late 1980’s Chile or, due to it being the right way to do things nowadays in the collapsed state of the music industry. This has long served a personal and ‘cult’ status to their work with hand-picked artwork and carefully chosen alliances along the way, this die-hard feeling blasts from ‘Death Return’ not necessarily as a statement of stubborn defiance of ‘progress’ but for the sake of serving the essence of Apostasy which is recognizable from a mile away. For the uninitiated this means the outspoken attack of ‘Hell Awaits’-era Slayer, the physical tension of albums like ‘Schizophrenia’ and ‘Pleasure to Kill’, and guitar work that often speeds up to a death/thrash level of intensity a la ‘Chemical Exposure’-era Sadus. I’ve always seen their attack as on par with the early days of Sadism of Atomic Aggressor when thinking of eldest, most pure Chilean extreme thrash standards moreso than black/thrash but it all lines up from a broad angle. “Son of Hate” does a fine job of showcasing these many sides at once within a very classic thrash metal composition, the ornate and multi-tiered hand of late 80’s thrash metal is vitally alive therein.

“Intro – Death Return” is fearsome in its accuracy, not as a “retro” thrash metal recreation society entry but simply as a brutal and cryptic attack that has every bit of arcane resonance a record can. I do not normally kick off into appreciating the sound design of a thrash metal record up front but the Sebastarot (engineering/mixing) and Lamech Studios (mastering) yet again yields incredibly natural results, organic enough to hit the “street” spirit of speed metal and otherworldly enough to convey the menace of their extreme thrash metal ways. It is rare that a record of this style really pulls me back into purpose and the “real” sensation of thrash metal but when it happens it is almost always sourced from Chile (Critical Defiance, Ripper, etc.). Anyhow, back in the inferno “Jus Primae Noctis” has more of a Teutonic witching metal attack, tentative speed metal breaks and some first wave progressions that are surrounded by the spiral of ghouls that follow the vocal work with echoing presence urging the ear towards the ~2:15 minute mark one of many true heavy metal riffs that plant themselves in mind more with each listen. Whammy-dives, clusters of psychotic voices and shredding solos arrive at the exact right points of emphasis and with blazing speed. Fans of the previous album will feel right at home within the fluid strokes shared between the three pieces that kick off the album, the extreme end of Apostasy being emphasized to start.

From this point it is clear some of these sessions featured slightly different configurations for vocals and drums, perhaps because it was important to keep the soul of “Deceased in Funeral” and “The Great Apostasy – The Night” in tact. Vocals are a bit more “clean” to emphasize the layered approach of the originals, arrangements are not mutilated or hurried in any sense but these songs are undoubtedly from the most technical era of the band and this is emphasized by the sharper fidelity of these recordings versus the originals. I won’t fawn over these two songs too much only because I have in the past, ‘Sunset of the End’ is one of my favorite thrash metal albums of all time and these are strong versions of some of their best moments. From there we’ve got a new version of “Praise the Darkness” an introductory/interlude piece found in various configurations throughout their modern discography alongside substantial closer “Obey the Antichrist”, which we’d gotten a preview of on the ‘Into the Rehearsal’ tape back in early 2018. Since this song predates ‘The Sign of Darkness’ it does bring back the energy of that album while also fitting in with the newly penned pieces that kick off the album. There are a few ways we can consider ‘Death Return’ upon closer examination of its running order, almost as a collection of various pieces in the works since 2018 alongside an EPs worth of new material but ultimately it does function as a 40 minute full-length. Again, the re-recordings might feel like a detour for folks who follow every bit of Apostasy movement but for folks collecting the main discography this should feel like a natural follow-up to the previous record.

An imposing yet accessible underground “evil” thrash metal release, ‘Death Return’ represents each stage of Apostasy‘s discography past and present while emphasizing their consistency over time and featuring a logical step beyond the already impressive blaze of ‘The Signs of Darkness’. The full package is worthy of some consideration here as they’ve once again gone with strikingly colorful work from Polish artist Arkadiusz Zając who maintains his hand drawn style without any digital fussing via this unforgettably nuclear acrylic piece which does quite a bit to hold ‘Death Return’ fresh in mind. Though you can excuse some of my enthusiasm for the sake of being a longtime die-hard fan of this group’s work, there is no denying the dark thunderbolt of Apostasy still destroys and that their riffcraft is yet immense as it is classic. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (90/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
TITLE:Death Return
LABEL(S):Fallen Temple Records [EU]
Cabalist Records [CHL]
RELEASE DATE:May 14th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Thrash/Speed Metal,
Death/Thrash Metal

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