Last week, NYC was treated to the world premiere of the new documentary Breaking a Monster from director Luke Meyer. The film, Meyer’s third full length documentary, chronicles the young heavy metal rockers Unlocking The Truth on their journey from YouTube sensation to their first major label release. Today, the film makes its west coast debut at the LA premiere at the Laemmle Monica Theater.
If you’re unfamiliar with this talented young band, you should immediately correct that. As of this very moment, the members of the band are 15-16 years old, but they began their band around the time they were 8 years old (yes, you read that correctly). Three years ago, they began to create buzz when YouTube videos of the then 11 and 12 year olds playing in Times Square began to go viral.
Not too long after this, when the boys were 13 to be exact, Luke Meyer began his fascination with the band and worked with them to record a documentary short. The short gained some steam, and a full length doc started to be developed and produced. The boys were 14 during the making of the documentary, and the focus became about how the band would face being young and new to the scene in the midst of signing their first record deal and releasing their first album. The resulting product of 2016’s Breaking a Monster is a fascinating look at adolescence and being part of the corporate music machine.
In one sense, you can remove the music and the music business from the film entirely and boil it down to growing up. Luke described one of the themes that became prevalent in making and editing the film being “letting go of your childhood” and facing what life has in store for you as a young adult. The film includes many moments where the kids are forced to stop thinking like kids to one degree or another and, thus, start looking at things from a more adult perspective. We all can sympathize with that period of our lives where we had to start growing up in our actions and our decisions, which makes the growth of the boys extremely relatable, even if those of us watching haven’t ever been on the verge of breaking into the rock’n’roll world. Luke has talked about this period of time being the period where the boys had to “put aside thinking that things could work in only one way” and listen to those around them in order to mature and see the different ways the world can operate. In short, the film is very much about what it is to be an adolescent growing up and maturing, no matter the context of who is the one growing up and where they find themselves doing it.
In another sense, the film is very much about what it is to be a fledgling band on the scene. The band signs their first record deal, prepares their first single, makes their first music video, opens for Metallica (at the request of Metallica), and goes on their first tour. All of this occurs during the small window of time in which this film takes place. This isn’t uncommon for many bands, who are forced to go through many of their milestones all at once when faced with their first push towards mainstream success. For Unlocking the Truth, one of the big differences is that they are also fighting being labeled a gimmick band from the onset, due (unfairly, but understandably) to their age. With their young age, they have this battle, as well as scheduling issues due to school and other related concerns, to compound the already difficult transition period that many bands in this position face. The film does a great job of portraying this.
The band is simply great. Anyone who has followed them can see that from an extremely young age, they have been talented and dedicated musicians. Their early music was instrumental, and this made things easy in some ways. However, this was never the final intent, and adding vocals to the mix is a challenge when a band is playing a decidedly brutal form of music but has three members that haven’t yet had their voices change. One of the most incredible parts of the film is watching the evolution of their performances, especially in the vocal delivery, from the first time they played “Monster” (their first single) to the actual recording of the song. Through vocal coaching and lots of hard work, the end product is a far cry from where it began. This evolution of a vital piece of the band’s new and complete sound is chronicled in detailed fashion, showing the hard work of the young band. The band is all the better for it.
Luke Meyer is a fantastic artist in his own right, his art focused on the documentary medium. Documentaries are something that Meyer has been interested in for some time, and he believes that the medium allows for organic creativity to spring forth naturally. He has little interest in moving into fictional filmmaking and has multiple documentary projects lined up after he makes it through the initial push of this great film. Beginning in college, where he was first bitten by the movie bug, Meyer began working in the documentary medium and immediately fell in love with it. Before this project, he released two other full length documentaries, 2006’s Darkon, about a specific world within the LARP (Live Action Role Play) community, and 2009’s New World Order, which explores the vast conspiracy theories and supposed network of powers controlling our everyday lives. Luke’s work all possesses an honesty and earnest authenticity that is the hallmark of good documentary filmmaking.
Breaking a Monster presents the opportunity to get to know a young and up-and-coming band intimately through seeing them as who they are, teenage boys faced with the reality of the music industry. Meyer’s film is a story of growing up, a story of climbing the hills and mountains set in front of us, and a story of what it means to be a musician facing the corporate music machine. A truly fantastic film, this documentary is sure to capture the hearts and mind of all who give it a chance.
If you aren’t in the LA area or can’t make it out to tonight’s premiere, check out the full list of screenings to find the one nearest to you. And in the meantime, check out the original short below.