Raw, heavy music returns to the spotlight again in a film that manages to be entertaining at times, but suffers from stage fright.
”Metal Lords” is not trying to be something it is not. Director Peter Sollett and screenwriter D.B. Weiss have created a movie that aims high, filled to the brim with references to Heavy Metal bands from all the different subgenres, both old and new.
Hunter (Adrian Greensmith) is a high school teenager who lives on the fringe of social norms. He frequently finds himself the target of hateful comments from bullies at school, and is hurt even more by his disinterested father’s lack of concern. However, Hunter finds solace in Heavy Metal music, using it to channel his frustration. Hunter finds a kindred spirit in Kevin (Jaeden Martell), a quiet loner playing the school’s marching band. The dynamic between the very loud and outspoken Hunter and the quiet, shy Kevin is what comes to drive their friendship, and leads them to form a metal band of their own, Skullf*cker. Also recruiting cello player Emily, who loses her temper when she skips her medication, the three set their sights on winning the Battle of the Bands at their high school, finally getting the chance to show the popular kids how cool Metal can be.
Metal Lords is relatively straightforward and offers few surprises. Nearly every teen-comedy cliché in the book can be found throughout the movie. There are the aggressive high school jocks who bully Hunter and Kevin for being ’losers’ and the hackneyed love story between Kevin and Emily, just to name a few. But despite this, the movie manages to be entertaining at times. There is a certain charm to the movie, in large part because of the Heavy Metal theme.
At its core, Metal Lords is about rebelling and going your own way, and so is the Heavy Metal music that has continued to draw in young people of all backgrounds for decades. Metal can be empowering and a great outlet to ”let the metal inside of you rise up” as Hunter puts it. Seeing Hunter and Kevin pull through, going their own way and turning nearly the entire school into metalheads at the Battle of the Bands is satisfying.
But for a movie that aims to be heavy and metal, Metal Lords is surprisingly low-wattage. There are no new, refreshing takes on classroom bullying or mental illness, themes that are prevalent in the movie. There is a somewhat predictable falling out between Kevin and Hunter, allowing Kevin to develop his relationship with Emily, while Hunter is sent off to a ”Wellness Centre” by his mean father. Emily’s ”Happy Pills” and Hunter’s hospitalisation and later escape are simply used to propel the plot forward in a rather uninspired way, missing the opportunity to look at what problems might have driven these teenagers to Black Sabbath or Megadeth in the first place.
Metal Lords has its moments, but in the end feels more like an unrehearsed concert, or a guitar solo that the guitarist never mastered, rather than the full-speed metal attack it set out to be.