Burst Into Flame, the 2018 debut full-length from Church’s next project, Haunt, unfolded like a full-fledged novel. The musical palette was more diverse, ranging from pyrotechnic uptempo thrash to moody retro hard rock, the songwriting was sturdier, and the themes more mature.
To hear Church tell it, part of that shift had to do with taking cues from his many non-metal influences, including recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees the Zombies.
“The fantasy stuff, I love it, [but] I don’t relate to it,” Church says. “The Zombies? I relate to it. Love, loss, life, passion, death — those things bring me a lot closer to me than a sword and King Arthur.”
These sorts of timeless themes also play into Church’s latest album, If Icarus Could Fly, and companion EP, Mosaic Eyes, both released in March. Icarus opener “Run and Hide” is a call to transcend oppression (“Let’s take them down with force and break away these chains”) while Mosaic Vision’s gorgeously yearning title track is about rising up to embrace destiny (“Set a course to explore a world of my design”). In the hands of a lesser talent, topics like these could seem trite, a tired rehash of decades-old metal tropes. But Church’s expressive vocals — high and melodic but with a crucial hint of world-weary pathos — along with his fierce, inventive riffs (often harmonized in vintage Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden style), ornate solos (some played by bandmate John Tucker) and concise, catchy songwriting align to make his retro ideas feel uncannily vital. Rounding out the presentation are his warm, unfussy production values, which run counter to contemporary metal’s often sanitized feel. – Excerpt from Rolling Stone interview with Trevor Church