On Oct. 9, classical music buffs and heavy metal groupies may find themselves cheering and clapping to music that caters to both their styles. This strange, harmonious phenomenon is the result of student-created rock band Break of Reality, who will be the first ever rock band in recent memory to grace the renowned Kilbourn Hall.

“We intend to take this classical venue and rock it out,” junior and founding member Patrick Laird said.

He and his four other bandmates – juniors Erin Keesecker, Jeff Hood, Andrew Larson and senior Ivan Trevino – promise an intense concert Sunday. Their repertoire includes covers of Metallica, System of a Down, Tool and other bands of the like, as well as original compositions. The instrumentation is simple – four cellos and a drum set.

After hearing this, a vision comes to mind of Eastman School of Music concert regulars gawking at an “unsophisticated” ensemble and rock lovers trash-talking the “wannabe” heavy metal band of string players. But, after a brief discourse with Laird, four sound clips and a tour of the band’s Web site, http://www.breakofreality.com, I can now vouch for the legitimacy of these budding rock stars.

In fall 2003, Laird, then a freshman, decided he wanted his classical music talent to cater to his other passion – heavy metal rock music.

“I was greatly inspired by the Finnish cello quartet Apocalyptica,” Laird said. There are more groups like these, and Laird’s role model happens to be a pretty famous one. The three other freshman cellists soon joined along with Laird.

“After we read together, we decided that we all wanted to take the group a little more seriously,” Laird recalled.

Regular rehearsals encouraged the bold move toward purchasing amplifying equipment, which led to the acquisition of the band’s drummer, Ivan Trevino. Their debut concert was at Java’s Cafe, a regular hang-out spot for students and a springboard from which Break of Reality would leap to future success.

Some skeptics may ask, “How can you ‘rock out’ on a cello, a traditionally classical instrument?” Laird is prepared to provide an earful of reasons.

“The cello is much more powerful than your standard guitar or bass, but one would not normally realize this simply because a cello has the handicap of being primarily an acoustic instrument, whereas guitars and basses utilize amplifiers and distortion,” Laird said. “So what happens when you put that on cello? The answer is Break of Reality.”

It is obvious that this hard rock aficionado feels his band does justice to the genre. As for the other side of the spectrum, classical music fans looking for a pure string sound won’t cringe upon hearing the music.

They incorporate traditional string effects, like pizzacato, which result in a unique string sound within a rock context.

Commenting on the classical/rock fusion, Laird said, “What we are trying to do is combine the energy of today’s rock music with the versatility, pitch, range and beauty of the cello. It’s a very clean and thick sound that normal rock instruments cannot emulate.”

But some still argue that a rock band is not a rock band unless there are guitars, basses, vocals and an MTV music special. Except for the MTV special, Break of Reality can still match or outdo any rock band basics.

“The cello can do so many things a guitar cannot,” he said. “We have a bow that allows us to play much more smoothly than [a guitar can]. Oftentimes certain scales or rapid solos are almost entirely impossible on the guitar.”

Continuing, he said, “The foundation of most of the heavy songs on the radio that hit you over the head with energy is power chords – simply two notes a fifth apart.”

This technique is something easily accomplished and strongly effective on the cello. As for vocals, the band’s 2004 release of their debut album “Voiceless,” says it all.

“We can only express ourselves through music, not lyrics,” Laird said. “We use the beauty of the cello and oftentimes you will hear a very melodic line, much like that of a singer, over a heavy and rapid riff.”

The presence of this human-like singing voice is a perfect compliment and the real thing isn’t missed. Break of Reality knows how to be a synthesis of both styles – the middle ground between the classical doctrine and the heavy metal mantra.

The band certainly blurs preconceptions of this “classical” instrument. Being a cellist myself, a scenario I experience at least twice a week comes to mind here. As I study in my room with the door open to enjoy the busy lives of classmates coming and going, one person or another will walk by and see my hard, blue cello case standing at the foot of my bed. They inevitably remark, “That’s a friggin’ big guitar.”

“It’s a cello,” I proudly respond.

Hiler can be reached at khiler@campustimes.org



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