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DIY metallers merge for mental health

Bands collaborate across the Pennines to produce split release, Eye of Mirrors, in aid of mental health during pandemic.

Dead Cosmonauts

Dead Cosmonauts.

“I just remember everything in my body going completely cold.”

Nick had just read a message from his bandmate, Chris, saying that their mutual friend had taken their own life.

“It really pulled the rug out from underneath me”, says Nick. “The sense of losing someone to suicide was a new and horrible thing that I had never experienced before.”

It was mid-December 2020, the end of a tough year. With a new nationwide lockdown announced, Christmas was set to be a write-off with no clear end to social restrictions in sight.

Floored by this news and with little to look forward to, Chris and Nick spent several days talking it over. As founding members of the Sheffield-based post-metal band Dead Cosmonauts, they wanted to use what resources they had to do something positive and reach out to anyone who would be fighting their demons – unfortunately, another member of the band had also lost a friend to suicide during the pandemic.

They had been working on a new track for a few weeks when they received the news, and decided to dedicate the song to raising awareness and funds for mental health initiatives.

The track, ‘Blade Runner (End Titles)’ – a metal reimagining of the closing theme of the 1982 sci-fi classic – was recorded entirely remotely, with all members in isolation due to social distancing.

“Our contact as a band had proved to be such a useful activity for us in staying healthy and hopeful (during lockdowns). It seemed fitting to honour the memories of our friends in its release”, says Chris.

All proceeds raised from downloads would be split between the Sheffield and Manchester branches of mental health charity Mind.

“Charities have been far from immune to the challenges thrown up by the pandemic, and many have faced the twin difficulties of an expanding workload coupled with a reduced revenue stream”, explains Nick.

As a means to collaborate and reach new audiences, Dead Cosmonauts decided to release the track as a split. Purely by chance, they had caught wind of Manchester-based band, Agvirre, who were in a similar situation – they had recorded a track for a split that needed a home for release. Agvirre were also keen to raise money for mental health initiatives in Manchester, having lost friends of their own to suicide.

“It was great to find another band who are also so conscious about it”, says Frenchie of Agvirre.

Agvirre address mental health and other social issues in the lyrics of their music. The track on this split, ‘The Let Go’, features themes of loss and transition, something that resonated with Dead Cosmonauts.

“The track is about the transitional period you have to take when moving onto a new chapter in life, and how hard it can be to adjust”, explains Frenchie.

Both bands hope that the split release, titled Eye of Mirrors, will bring hope to listeners in the hardest of times. Chris of Dead Cosmonauts has hopes that some of the more unhelpful attitudes towards mental health in music can start to change, too.

“In the music industry, there’s unfortunately still some phoney glamorisation of mental health issues and toxic, unhealthy behaviours. It often seems exploitative and doesn’t really signpost people to the things that they can do to start living more healthy lives”, he says.

“Getting better is not some grand, cathartic moment but about a journey started by the small steps you can take on an everyday basis to gradually return to health. There’s loads of support and help out there, including that offered by the charities we are supporting through this project.”

The pandemic and resulting lockdowns have seen an increase in demand for mental health services in Sheffield, particularly in acute and complex cases.

“We started getting lots of calls from the public – from people who weren’t coping well with being ‘cooped up’ and also from people who were feeling the effects of isolation”, says Margaret Lewis, CEO of Sheffield Mind.

Money raised from Eye of Mirrors is going directly towards funding a phone line, ‘Listening Line’, that’s been set up by Sheffield Mind to support anyone struggling during lockdown.

Agvirre

Agvirre.

“Since May 2020, we’ve made or received 720 calls and we really want to keep the phone line going – to the end of the pandemic and beyond”, says Lewis.

Since the online release of the split, over £400 has been raised for the Sheffield and Manchester branches of Mind.

Nick and Chris are delighted with the response, which they say is phenomenal. Looking forward to the end of the lockdown, the post-metallers have started making plans for future shows and collaborations. As the sense of loss remains, they hope the message from this project stays with listeners.

“We wanted everyone to know that even if you feel like you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, you are not alone; there are people out there who can help you and it’s important to access that help”, says Chris.

Filed under: #Mental Health #metal #DIY

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