Silent Planet Addresses Depression With New 'Understanding Love As Loss' Video Exclusive Premiere

Jonathan Kemp
Silent Planet

The national conversation surrounding mental health has intensified in the days following Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell's death on May 17 of an apparent suicide. The loss has been felt by the entire music community: In addition to metal and hard-rock artists, luminaries from Elton John, Brian Wilson and Chaka Khan to Jason Aldean, Nile Rodgers and Wale expressed their condolences to Cornell’s family and admiration for his talent.

It’s impossible to know how Cornell was feeling prior to his passing. However, there were times during his career when he discussed in the press that he’d dealt with depression. Cornell is far from the first artist to wrestle with that issue and that connection between creativity and depression is something that Garrett Russell, vocalist for metalcore band Silent Planet, sought to explore on “Understanding Love As Loss,” a track from the group’s 2016 album Everything Was Sound.

“This is in no way a research-backed clinical opinion, but I have come to find that people struggling with depression generally have a unique angle of perceiving others -- one that can be quite full of insight,” says Russell, who worked as an interning therapist while studying for a Ph.D. before pursuing music full time. “I’m convinced that good art in all forms -- music, literature, drawing, dance -- comes from a profound understanding of narrative. Something about that deep gaze into the other might come at a cost. Maybe we take the burdens of the other when we look into them, as we also leave a bit of ourselves.”

Russell knows about this firsthand. He has grappled with depression himself, leading to a suicide attempt at the age of 15. When he was around 23, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which started him “on a more intentional path to accountability with my loved ones and a clinician.”

At those points in his life, Russell found himself facing “personal instances of failure, and I think my ego was broken to a place that felt like I wouldn’t recover,” he recalls. “Being someone with perfectionist tendencies and some ineffective coping mechanisms, I would resort to self-harm even to the point of threatening my life, feeling like I didn’t deserve to live and that living wouldn’t be worth it if it entailed these unbearable emotions.” He attributes his faith, as well community, friends, and his father, as being integral to his survival.

Russell approached the writing of “Understanding Love As Loss” by focusing on four favorite authors: David Foster Wallace, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway and Sylvia Plath. All of them committed suicide, so “the link between their artistic gifts and taking their life was something I wanted to examine,” says Russell. “Thus, the first four lines of the song were dedicated to them.”

Watch the video for “Understanding Love As Loss” below:

Woolf’s suicide -- she loaded the pockets of her coat with stones and waded into the Ouse River in England -- “left an image that sometimes haunts me,” admits Russell. The video alludes to Woolf’s death by showing a young woman stepping into a pond and struggling in a current of muddy water. But because the song is meant to give listeners hope, Silent Planet tagged the number to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255) as well as the web address of HeartSupport (heartsupport.com) -- an online support community launched by August Burns Red singer Jake Luhrs -- at the end of the video for watchers who may dealing with mental illness.

Russell observes that “a very peculiar professor” once told him that all decisions involve loss, and that Russell’s growth as a human depended upon his ability to recognize and make peace with this truth. “As I've spent the last three years primarily throwing my life into relationships with people throughout the world, I've understood that truly loving someone involves giving up part of yourself and allowing them into the sacred space of your self,” he says. “In both the happy and sad endings of loving someone, I've begun to see that love and loss aren't at odds, but are mutually inclusive.”