‘Metal Lords’ review: outsider high-school comedy riffs on ‘School Of Rock’

Black Sabbath and Metallica make a mega soundtrack, as selected by Tom Morello

Game Of Thrones showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff pour a whole lot of heart into their lightweight, heavy metal high-school comedy, but all Metal Lords really does is make you want to go back and rewatch School Of Rock. Missing the required power chords to be something more than just another teen outcast musical, a trio of rising stars (and a kick-ass classic rock soundtrack) make sure there’s still plenty to like though.

Directed by American filmmaker Peter Sollett, Metal Lords finds best friends Kevin (Jaeden Martell from Knives Out and It) and Hunter (newcomer Adrian Greensmith) struggling to fit in. Hunter loves metal and Kevin just wants a friend, so the pair form Skullfucker in a basement and start perfecting their Black Sabbath riffs. Getting laughed out of a house party where everyone’s into wet indie covers of Ed Sheeran and Imagine Dragons, Hunter backs further into the corners his douchebag dad keeps kicking him into, bullying Kevin into following wherever he goes.

Metal Lords
Jaeden Martell in ‘Metal Lords’. CREDIT: Netflix

When a battle of the bands competition gets announced, Skullfucker think they’ve found the one thing that’ll make them popular (and Weiss and Benioff find the one high school cliché they haven’t mined yet). the only problem is, they haven’t got a bass player. Just in time, classical cellist Emily (rising star Isis Hainsworth) turns up from Scotland and has a fuck you freak-out in the middle of marching band practice. Kevin instantly loves her because she’s a girl – and Hunter instantly hates her because she’s a girl. Soon, though, they discover she has more than enough rage and talent to nail the ‘Enter Sandman’ solo. Can you guess what happens yet?

Stuck in the teen movie tropes of 20 years ago, Metal Lords pits the jocks against the freaks while the main love triangle sees everyone falling out, growing together and coming of age. Plucking at deeper chords like drug dependence, broken families and emotional disorders, the film never really has the strength to play them properly – leaving all the bigger issues buried far beneath the surface.

Metal Lords
Isis Hainsworth proves herself one to watch in ‘Metal Lords’. CREDIT: Netflix

Hainsworth, in particular, gets short-changed by the script here as her few chances to push Emily in darker directions really mark her out as one to watch. Martell and Greensmith also help steady the shaky tone despite playing two deeply unlikeable kids. Throw in a killer list of bangers – courtesy of executive music producer Tom Morello – and everything lands with way more weight than it probably deserves.

With a finale that lifts a trick from the Elton John biopic, Rocketman, the biggest problem with Metal Lords is that it doesn’t feel very metal. “Metal is sticking it to the man, speed, taking the wheel, being yourself…”, narrates Kevin at every opportunity, holding up half-hearted devil horns at anything with an attitude or a beat or personal challenge. Never quite sure enough of itself to answer its own questions, this is a fun, sweet and occasionally funny film, but it’s never going to win a battle of the band movies.

Details

  • Director: Peter Sollett
  • Starring: Jaeden Martell, Adrian Greensmith, Isis Hainsworth
  • Release date: April 8 (Netflix)
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