Alec Atkins and Malcolm Brickhouse of Unlocking the Truth perform during the South By Southwest music festival at the Dirty Dog in Austin on Tuesday, March 17, 2015. Unlocking the Truth is a heavy metal band from Brooklyn, NY, whose band members are only in the eighth grade. Photo by Lukas Keapproth/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Andy O’Connor reports on Tuesday night in metal at South by Southwest:

Unlocking the Truth’s set at Dirty Dog on Tuesday, in a way, felt bigger than their performance at Fun Fun Fun Fest in 2013, with metalheads densely packed to check out the trio of young kids from Brooklyn reaching for heights of metal glory. It’s definitely easier to get metal fans together at night than in the morning. A healthy, even for a Tuesday, crowd reacted positively, but the question remains:

Should Unlocking the Truth have even played SXSW? You really want to root for them – they are young and black in a metal world dominated by middle-aged white men, and they have chops to boot – but there’s also a nagging sense that maybe they should not be growing up in the spotlight like this. Unlocking The Truth’s performance comes off the news that the group is trying to get out of their multi-album deal with Sony, and even someone with no industry experience could tell you it’s a bad deal, no matter what their age. Sony was clearly trying to capitalize off the novelty (even though metal really does need to become more diverse), and there’s little certainly the company had their best interests in mind. Unlocking the Truth, to put it mildly, do not need that at this point in their life.

That’s not to say they’re can’t handle fame – they exuded greater confidence than during FFF, drummer Jarad Dawkins shook many receptive, envious hands right after their performance, and he ate it up. On an instrumental level, they’re no worse than the average packs of adult bros that play Dirty Dog regularly. Guitarist Malcolm Brickhouse’s shredding may be rote, but hardly anyone his age could get even halfway there. He also sings now, sketching out their mainstream ambitions. The songwriting still isn’t there, but that sort of a discipline takes a different kind of cultivation than technical competence. By the time at least one of those dudes is 18, Unlocking the Truth could be an amazing group. Whoever’s calling the shots needs to let them focus on writing killer songs.

Royal Thunder were the other main attraction at Dirty Dog on Tuesday night, playing their only SXSW show. This is in contrast to 2013, when they were running all across downtown wearing themselves out.

Limiting themselves to one show did wonders, especially for their main selling point – Mlny Parsonz’s voice. Rested and ready to showcase material from their forthcoming record, “Crooked Doors,” she roared through with tough sultriness and confidence for days. While their records can get a little long, their set was a compact display of their abilities. They’ve put country soul in a metal group, giving them a warmth that shines through even the darkest, smelliest bars. Royal Thunder have hooks, but weren’t afraid to indulge in their jam side, even just a little. The focus, however, was always on Parsonz, who’s got it as a frontwoman. Also notable was the addition of Zoroaster guitarist Will Fiore, who kept his stacks of amps at home for a simple Fender Twin Reverb setup. This would be the sort of group that might have been able to “break out through SXSW” back in the day, but at least they got to play a solid set without overextending themselves.