Published May 04, 2015Flatbush-bred metal band Unlocking the Truth aren't your average teenage band. First off, they're a lot more technically proficient than the majority of kids their age; second, they were performing live before they were even in middle school; and finally, each of the three band members is African American. That's the unique combination, according to frontman Malcolm Brickhouse, that got them signed to Sony Music Entertainment in 2014, and nothing more. Such honesty and introspection is rare for a 13-year-old, but it just goes to show how jaded a major label can make you once you're part of the machine.
Breaking a Monster, director Luke Meyer's candid documentary about the trials and tribulations of Unlocking the Truth's career thus far, holds a magnifying glass to the music industry and showcases all the bullshit that comes with being a young band these days. Being that each member of the group isn't even old enough to drive, even at the time of this writing, Breaking a Monster spends little time tracing their early movements through music. Instead, it documents their transition from viral video sensations to major label pawns, depicting their joint struggles to stay relevant, grow as musicians and make time to simply be kids along the way.
Because of this, Breaking a Monster will most likely leave you feeling pretty angry. Almost all those involved with the band's career are clearly out of touch with reality (one scene finds label professionals searching Wikipedia to find out if throwing the horns is a gang sign), and the vaguely racist bullshit they put up with is infuriating (an early graphic for a band t-shirt had them drawn to resemble the stars of The Boondocks). It's probably not surprising to hear that the group publicly stated they want out of their contract last March at the film's SXSW premiere. Chances are, like most teenage metalheads, they're still slightly enamoured by the idea of Satan, but their life is clearly a living hell.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the film's latter half, when bassist Alec Atkins is disallowed from playing Grand Theft Auto after his manager rats him out for being unruly (i.e. bored) at a recent meeting. (Remember, this is a 13-year-old boy.) "I like it because I can live a life before I live it," Atkins says as he details driving a car around San Andreas and the endless possibilities of that limitless virtual world. The fact that a soon-to-be-millionaire, one who plays concerts and clubs while most of his friends are stuck doing homework, can feel so low shows how dishearteningly restrictive working in the music industry can be.
Unlocking the Truth, and their story, will ultimately launch a hundred pre-teen bands. But will those bands ever sign to a major label? Probably not. (SeeThink Films)