Metal music fits into a lot of boxes. It is hard to fully quantify with no shortage of gatekeepers and Netflix’s newest teenage comedy, Metal Lords, opens the door on the obsession with heavy metal coupled with mental health struggles, young love and classroom bullying.
Hunter and Kevin are struggling to get along in high school as they are attempting to get their band, Skull F****r, off the ground, Hunter sees metal music as his escape and solace as he is floundering while trying to maintain a badass façade following his parent’s divorce and the bullying his school’s jock although Hunter does play his part in antagonizing anyone who could potentially be a friend and goading said bullies into attacking him. Kevin on the other hand finds it difficult to assert himself against Hunter’s domineering personality as he continuously tells Kevin what music to play, how to play and even pressures him into getting in a high-speed chase with the school bullies. Kevin at first feels an obligation to Hunter as he has been his best friend for years and has previously defended him but the relationship has come under strain.
It’s during this intense period of practicing and preparing for their school’s Battle of the Bands that Kevin meets Emily, a young cello savant who Kevin desperately wants to join the band after witnessing her provide a killer rendition of Black Sabbath’s iconic heavy metal track “War Pigs”. Emily has her own struggles as she is prescribed anti-depressants and mood stabilizers. The film has several tender moments where Kevin reassures Emily that there is nothing wrong with her and is a talented person worthy of love and acceptance. Emily is also the main source of humor in the film as a confrontation with a marching band teacher sets the tone for her character for the course of the entire film. She’s literally marching to the beat of her own song as she refuses to play the marching tune assigned to her.
Due to Hunter’s confrontational attitude, he and Kevin routinely find themselves on the outside of the high school social circles thereby preventing them from rounding out their band with a bass player. This confrontational style comes to a head when Hunter verbally assaults Emily during a classroom presentation resulting in emotions boiling over and a chair being thrown at the young metal head. This is the breaking point for Kevin as he leaves Hunter to briefly join another more popular pop band that also performs at their school prior to the Battle of the Bands. Hunter proceeds to go into a spiral by donning KISS style makeup and attempting to crash a performance, causing him to be arrested and placed in a wellness center by his father. Kevin feels the pull of this pop band and even contemplates cheating on Emily as the two have sparked up a strong, emotional connection
Kevin then realizes that metal and Hunter have been a positive force in his life and proceeds to comically bust the long haired rocker out of his posh rehab facility. Hunter understands that metal is best enjoyed with friends and apologizes to Emily for his gatekeeping and they put on an incredible performance featuring Hunter’s original song until it is grotesquely ended when an amplifier crushes his leg. The film closes with the trio more resolved than ever to make their band.
Metal Lords manages to be more light hearted than heavy thrashing and offers a heartwarming look at friendship amid mental health struggles and bonding over music. There is an oscillation between friendship and bully antagonism that could have been avoided along with Kevin’s flirtation with mainstream popularity that seems unnecessary. The film’s soundtrack is appealing for all music fans and the cameos from metal legends Ian Scott, Kirk Hammett, Rob Halford and Tom Morello offer even more levity to this teenage comedy.
VERDICT: 3.5 heavy picks out of 5
Featured Image Credit: Netflix