Tuesday 26 July 2022

Movie Review: Metal Lords (2022)

A coming of age high school comedy with a chord of romance, Metal Lords finds excellent humour within the story of a student heavy metal band-in-the-making.

High school student Kevin (Jaeden Martell) is the sort-of drummer for the fledgling heavy metal band Skullf*cker. Kevin's best friend Hunter (Adrian Greensmith) is the band leader, guitarist, vocalist, and only other member. Hunter is all into the metal lifestyle, but although Kevin is much less invested in the concept, he starts practicing on the mammoth drum kit that Hunter purchases using his father's credit card.

Looking for a bass player, Kevin spots schoolmate Emily (Isis Hainsworth), who has anger management issues but is also a talented cello player. Kevin and Emily bond, and Kevin tries to convince Hunter to add Emily to the band. But the idea of a girl cello player does not fit into Hunter's vision of a metal trio. With a high school Battle of the Bands competition drawing near, a rift emerges between Kevin and Hunter, threatening their friendship and plans for glory.

Plenty of fun can be found in the heavy metal subculture at the high school level, and Metal Lords angles for a lighthearted but perfectly executed story of dreams, friendships, and first romance. Written with a sly edge by D.B. Weiss and directed by Peter Sollett, the outcome is a ridiculously successful mashing of School Of Rock and This Is Spinal Tap. The film features an ace soundtrack of metal classics, plenty of album and poster artwork, and the bonus of cameo appearances by none other than Scott Ian, Tom Morello, Kirk Hammett, and Rob Halford. Morello also served as executive music producer.

While saluting the music, Weiss is also happy to expose the culture's silliness with good natured ribbing, and Kevin's narration quizzically casts dry doubt on everything metal presumes to stand for. But the genre is simultaneously treated with affection, as a refuge and aspirational artistic vessel for young minds dreaming of fame and fortune.

The film is effectively an adult-free zone, and uses the band context to introduce themes of fitting in, alienation from parents, and dependency on medication. The young and relatively unknown cast members are immediately amiable. Jaeden Martell exudes awkward but calm curiosity en route to adulthood, Adrian Greensmith is funniest with his uncompromising embrace of metaldom, and Isis Hainsworth is a revelation, mixing self-doubt with Tasmanian Devil tendencies. They are joined by the usual assortment of bullies and beauties, as well as a rival band (with the most anti-metal name of Mollycoddle) fronted by the exceptionally enlightened Clay (Noah Urrea).

With an escape from a medical institution thrown in for a quick thrill on the way to the traditional talent show climax, Metal Lords does not seek a cinematic revolution. Rather, the likably quirky characters generate crackling energy and the occasional poignant moment by being just a little bit different at every crucial opportunity. Metal fans proudly stand outside any trends of the day, and Metal Lords celebrates all those who look for 11 on the volume dial.

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