- Title : Metal Lords
- Director : Peter Sollett
- Cast : Jaeden Martell, Adrian Greensmith, Isis Hainsworth, Joe Manganiello
- Genre : Comedy, Drama
- Publication Date : April 8, 2022
- Runtime : 98
- Production company : Bighead Littlehead, Kingsgate Films, Netflix
Metal Lords is an American teen comedy film. It was directed by Peter Sollett (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Freeheld) and written by D.B. Weiss (Game of Thrones), with Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine contributing as the movie’s executive music producer. The movie is about two unpopular high school kids named Kevin (Jaeden Martell) and Hunter (Adrian Greensmith), who set out to form a metal band named Skullfucker. Naturally, they face plenty of resistance from their entourage at school and at home. They decide to compete in the upcoming Battle of the Bands, in order to prove their worth and shed their “loser” image. Things don’t go as smoothly though, as Kevin can barely play the drums, Hunter has a serious attitude problem and the band is in dire need of a bassist.
If this plot synopsis sounds vaguely familiar to you, that’s because it absolutely is. The story plays out like a hybrid version of School of Rock (2003) meets Deathgasm (2015). Only this time, the target audience seems to be set in the age bracket between the kid-friendly School of Rock and the adult-oriented Deathgasm. Unfortunately, Metal Lords never quite manages to reach the same heights as its predecessors. Instead, it plays out like a more sanitized adaptation that’s lacking a distinct personality, with insufficient heart or playful irreverence, featuring humor that falls flat more often than it succeeds. Though we have to admit that we had quite the giggle when they played around with the joke that metalheads often deem things unworthy or “gay”, while much of the metal scene’s aesthetics they love so much are rooted in gay culture.
Is it really that bad though? Not at all. Overall, it’s actually a sufficiently enjoyable movie. One that might even incite some younger less-seasoned viewers into digging a little deeper into this beloved yet vilified music genre. Speaking of music, Metal Lords features plenty of classic metal tunes from the likes of Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Metallica, Pantera and Guns N’ Roses. I particularly liked how Metallica‘s Whiplash and Black Sabbath‘s War Pigs were integrated within the story. I was also pleasantly surprised to hear a song from Mastodon and even one from Zeal & Ardor. The song Machinery of Torment, which was written specifically for this movie, is also quite the earworm. There’s even a comedic scene involving some unexpected cameo’s from a couple of legendary metal musicians.
I’m guessing that a big chunk of the movie’s budget went to securing the rights to these classic tunes. This would explain why other aspects of the film occasionally look rather cheap. One scene involving a character who’s had too much to drink, for example, features some very unconvincing CGI vomit. Also, certain locations within the school look way too clean and empty, like a made-for-TV film set. You’d think that a school housing hundreds of teenagers year after year would have a more lived-in appearance. The movie also doesn’t feature any big name actors, except for maybe Joe Manganiello in a brief supporting role.
The acting is pretty decent overall. The supporting cast is mostly relegated to one-dimensional stereotypes, but the main characters are sufficiently fleshed out and the main actors play well off each other. I particularly liked Isis Hainsworth‘s performance as Emily, a talented cellist who is well-intentioned, yet suffers from a condition that makes her prone to fits of uncontrollable rage. Her blossoming romance with Kevin is endearing in a kinda youthful innocent way. Jaeden Martell does a decent job as the main protagonist Kevin, even if his characterization feels like a slightly older, stutterless, version of teenage Bill Denbrough from Stephen King‘s It.
Adrian Greensmith is very believable as the passionate metalhead Hunter. It’s difficult to empathize with his character however, as he’s written to be a dick to pretty much everyone around him, including the people who are trying to help him. The fine line between flawed yet likeable, and downright despicable is crossed a bit too often throughout the film, making it harder too empathize with Hunter when things go bad for him. Fortunately, the character does redeem himself somewhat towards the end of the movie.
This is also the overall feeling I had with the movie itself when the credits started rolling. I found it to be a somewhat mixed bag of good intentions with flawed execution, but it turned out to be more enjoyable towards the end. Even if the writing is flawed and lacks a distinct sense of identity, you can tell that the filmmakers have a genuine love for metal music. From a technical point of view, I think the movie might have benefited from a slightly more stylistic approach, with maybe some more dynamic camerawork and editing. Just imagine what this movie might have looked like if it had been directed by someone like Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Baby Driver). By no means am I saying that Peter Sollett‘s direction is bad. It just doesn’t particularly stand out in a memorable way.
- Story / Content 6.5/10
- Cinematography / Directing 7.5/10
- Entertainment / Merit 7/10
- Soundtrack / Film Score 7.5/10
- Originality 5.5/10
Metal Lords is an uneven yet well-intentioned coming-of-age story about 3 teenagers cultivating their passion for metal music. While the film’s heart might be in the right place, it all feels too safe and too cookie-cutter for veteran metalheads, who’ve already seen it done better in the past. However, this film might resonate more with younger viewers perusing Netflix. Who knows? It might even be their first stepping stone on their metal journey.