Black teen metal band Unlocking the Truth became a viral sensation thanks to a 2013 video of the members shredding in Times Square. The three ensuing years saw drummer Jarad Dawkins, bassist Alec Atkins and guitarist/singer Malcolm Brickhouse sign an exploitative record deal with Sony, resist music industry pressures and establish themselves as more than a novelty—all while trying to be kids. Their struggles in an industry that often exploits Black artists were captured for a documentary; “Breaking a Monster” was released on DVD and video on-demand (VOD) yesterday (October 11).
In the clip above, posted by Shadow and Act, Brickhouse’s parents Noreen and Tracey talk about their decision to turn over the band’s managerial duties to professionals. “I put myself in this position and I’m flying the plane as I’m building it,” Noreen says.
Shadow and Act also described documentary scenes that perfectly encapsulate the band’s discomfort with sleazy music industry practices:
From the moment the [record] contract is introduced, we see the industry encroaching on their ability to simply be kids. A shadow drops in over the group, eclipsing the initial innocence of their musical journey together. It is as if they are being dragged into young adulthood. In a chilling moment of record label depravity, a Sony executive tells the boys, “We have lots of beautiful women who are singers for you to meet, who think you’re adorable already.” Brickhouse and Atkins chuckle uncomfortably. Dawkins remains unfazed.
The comment epitomizes the sexism inherent in the music industry. A scantily clad woman flanked by dancing pandas in gold chains, gyrates and sings a grating song, while two of the boys pretend to enjoy themselves. Dawkins, the most mature of the trio, is nonplussed and his expression shows it. He’s not here for the antics. Within the first fifteen minutes of the film, we learn that while Brickhouse, Dawkins and Atkins have a healthy desire to inhabit the world of children (we see ample shots of them playing games on their phones, texting and sharing inside jokes and rough-housing). But they are not playing around when it comes to their careers. In vain, Sony dangles things like rappers and high profile hip-hop producers—things that run counter to their sensibility. They don’t even like rap music.