Young black metal band shatters the mold, new doc explores group’s rise

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Just a few years ago, the heavy metal trio Unlocking the Truth were turning heads in Times Square performing rock music for awestruck pedestrians.

At the time, Malcolm Brickhouse, Jarad Dawkins, and Alec Atkins were middle schoolers in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Surrounded by the hip-hop and R&B scene of the city, the three broke the mold and have since walked a path towards metal fame, inking a $1.8 million deal with Sony Music Entertainment.

Black teenage heavy metal band signs deal with Sony

But the road to success hasn’t always been paved with gold.  The boys have had to juggle meeting the demands of their label, keeping their own authentic sound and growing up.

The group recently celebrated the release of their first full album “Chaos” and talked with theGrio about their new documentary, “Breaking a Monster,” which chronicles their journey in the music business.

TheGrio: What was it like filming the documentary and having people following you around?

Malcolm Brickhouse: It was like a fly on the wall while we were filming it. So people would ask us if having them around us was a problem: not really. We had the microphones on too, so we usually forgot that they were even there. They didn’t really ask us questions like “do this, do that.” It was like a true reality show, I guess.
TG: What do you hope people got from it?
MB: It just shows the inside of the music business. Shows like “Empire” act like they know the music business, but this is the truth. Like everything was happening all in the moment. And it shows exactly how the record industry works for us.
TG: You mentioned in your documentary that you might want to make heavier music but couldn’t at the time because you also needed to stay popular. Can you elaborate on this?
MB: I don’t feel the same way about that anymore… I’m just trying to bring in other elements to our music. I just want to make it diverse. Our music is already not strictly metal. It has a lot of melody. And I’m trying to incorporate other aspects to it to reach a bigger crowd but keep our metal crowd.
TG: So you might move between genres?
MB: No, I’m gonna keep it metal. But I’m trying to try to add some elements of other genres so we can gain more fans. Like when Korn made a song with Skrillex, stuff like that. Doing it in a good way, not just in a forced way to get more fans. Not like selling out. Making it more diverse.
Alec Atkins: The second and third album, you’ll definitely hear better, more mature material. People are already saying the first album is very mature and to us it’s like “ahaha!”…’Cause it’s not the best we can do… People who think that it’s horrible, well they got something to look forward to, ’cause like I said, it’s not over!
TG: The way you’ve looked at other metal bands, has that changed since you started?
AA: We view them as other people. Like people view them as, when they see them performing, people identify them as gods… Like we don’t feel like we’re on their level, but we feel like we can relate. And once you get to a certain point in your career, like all the things we’ve done, we feel like we can understand what the other bands go through.
Jarad Dawkins: We just practice a lot, you know? And when we practice, we work really hard to make things perfect.
‘Breaking a Monster’ is currently playing at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema in New York and opened at the Laemmle Monica Film Center in Los Angeles on July 1st. The documentary will soon play in cities across the country.