Trevor Church is a man with a vision. A guitarist and singer, he’s currently leading two bands, Beastmaker and Haunt. While each is unique, they are both recognizably the work of the same man.
Beastmaker was formed in 2014 and released two albums on Rise Above, the label founded by former Napalm Death and Cathedral vocalist Lee Dorrian. Rise Above specializes in all sorts of doom, sludge, stoner metal and ultra-heavy psychedelic rock, and has released albums by bands like Electric Wizard, Orange Goblin, and Ghost. Beastmaker fit right in. Their sound on 2016’s Lusus Naturae and 2017’s Inside the Skull was pure old-school doom. This is slow-motion headbanging music—Church’s vocals are a wavering caterwaul, singsong melodies punctuated by anguished howls, and the riffs drop like hammers from the sky, bolstered by John Tucker‘s deep, throbbing, frequently distorted bass and Andres Saldate‘s pounding, minimal drums. Beastmaker lack the swing of Black Sabbath, but they have the whomping power of Saint Vitus or Pentagram, and Church’s guitar solos can be quite beautiful. Guest vocals from Johanna Sadonis of Lucifer on “Now Howls the Beast,” from Inside the Skull, are an unexpected bonus.
Beastmaker are a self-contained operation, recording in their own home studio, which allows them to work at their own pace. And that pace grew surprisingly frantic in summer 2018, as they released eight digital-only four-song EPs via their Bandcamp page. The new songs are often faster and more aggressive than their previous work; “Colors of the Dark,” the first song on EP 1, opens with a sample from some 1960s horror movie trailer, and proceeds to practically gallop along, with ominous floor tom pounding, haunting, one-note keyboard interjections, and shouted gang vocals, but it still gets its point across and ends in only three minutes. Throughout these 32 tracks, the band can be heard experimenting with small but potent adjustments to their songwriting and overall style, always staying within the realm of occult doom but demonstrating a creativity that any fan of old-school metal should appreciate.
Haunt is Church’s new project. The lineup includes Beastmaker bassist Tucker, here playing guitar, bassist Matthew Wilhoit, and drummer Daniel Wilson. They released a four-song EP, Luminous Eyes, this spring, and are following it up with a full-length album, Burst Into Flame, this week.
Haunt is clearly Church’s outlet for his more uptempo, classic/power metal side. The songs are twice as fast as Beastmaker‘s; Burst Into Flame begins with its title track, which is as fast as any early ’80s thrash act, but with a high-pitched wail for vocals. On choruses, he comes close to a falsetto. The presence of two guitars makes a big difference, too; the solos are short and potent, but the riffs are still there, grinding away. Fans of bands like Cauldron and Enforcer—and of course old-schoolers like Judas Priest and Blue Öyster Cult—will find a lot to like here. At times, like on “Crystal Ball,” the melodies are almost as hooky as Ghost‘s, but with more raw metal power.
The production on Burst Into Flame is just as bare-bones as that on the recent Beastmaker EPs, but too much gloss would take away from the music’s impact. Haunt makes music for blaring out the windows of a primer-gray muscle car, as it speeds down the highway to the nearest beach.