Published Jun 21, 2016A series of viral street performance videos in 2013 catapulted Flatbush-bred metal band Unlocking the Truth from their basement practice space to playing Coachella's main stage, appearing on national TV and supporting the likes of Guns N' Roses and Queens of the Stone Age on tour — all before they had reached middle school.
The buzz came to a head when Sony inked the band to a $1.8 million, five-album mega-deal in 2014, and though the trials and tribulations of working with a major label nearly left them as pawns in a volatile industry, the trio persevered and were able to get out of their contract last year. During the career roadblock, vocalist/guitarist Malcolm Brickhouse looked to one of his favourite manga characters as inspiration to stay positive.
"The main character in Naruto never gives up," Brickhouse tells Exclaim! "He doesn't let anything stop him no matter what's happening. You can't always look at the negatives. The situation was hard for us, but we kept looking at the positives and the opportunities we had."
The trio of Brickhouse, drummer Jarad Dawkins and bassist Alec Atkins are back in the driver's seat with their debut full-length Chaos, out now via Tunecore. Comprising six songs from a previously shelved EP and five new compositions, the record shows they still have the potential to be much more than another viral sensation.
Freeing themselves from the shackles of the major label machine brought the trio together closer both as bandmates and friends. "We depend on each other," Brickhouse says. "We're all in this together and we feel each other's pain. It's like you're fighting a war [against the industry] with your best friends: both the wins and losses always bring us together."
However, Brickhouse isn't ready to rest on this long-awaited accomplishment alone. Self-aware and well-spoken at age 15, he points out that many will still view Unlocking the Truth as nothing more than a gimmick, whether it's because of their age or the fact that three African American teenagers have chosen to make music in a predominantly white genre.
"We don't want to sound or look the same as everyone else, but people will still think that way because of our skin colour or age," he says. "If you listen to our music, it sounds different than a lot of metal today and quite grown for how old we are."
When it comes to these inevitable detractors, Brickhouse would rather let the band's music do the talking. A mix of metal styles both old and new, with an emphasis on melody and lyrical work concerned with heartbreak, anger, uprising and strength, all come from the vocalist/guitarist.
But as grown as the music may be, he feels his penmanship has some catching up to do. "Some might not be as mature because I wrote them when I was younger," he admits. "But they still came from experiences that I had. As I get older and my view of the world continues to change, I feel my writing becoming better than before."
With such drive to better himself as a musician, what's to come now that school's out for summer for all three of the boys? "A lot of band practice and new music," Brickhouse says excitedly.
Unlocking the Truth's meteoric rise and career roadblock are chronicled deeper in an accompanying documentary Breaking a Monster, directed by Luke Meyer. Watch a trailer for the film below before its wide release on June 24.