The coming-of-age, teen, comedy-drama film genre has had something of a renaissance over the last decade, everything from Lady Bird to Super 8 to Booksmart giving cinema an updated twist on the formula with fresh stories chronicling those most awkward of years of your life. But, save for the odd Metallica t-shirt here or there, none of them had really featured a truly believable, authentic look at being a young metal fan. It’s this that sets Metal Lords apart from the pack.
The latest feature from the pen of Game of Thrones showrunner D.B. Weiss could have easily fallen apart or been accused of an over-reliance on the tropes of the genre were it not for the attention to detail, and obvious devotion, to heavy metal that totally props up the film.
The plot features a fairly predictable arc of outsiders triumphing against adversity, and learning important life lessons along the way, hitting many of the same beats that the majority of classic teen movies follow; metal obsessive Hunter recruits shy, quiet metal newbie Kevin to play drums in his band Skull Fucker in the hope that they will win the upcoming High School Battle Of The Bands contest. As Kevin learns more about the world of metal, he befriends enigmatic cellist Emily and tries to convince a skeptical Hunter that the three outcasts should join forces. A simple story, and you’re probably playing out the inevitable feelgood ending in your head already, but despite Metal Lords walking an incredibly well-trodden path, it’s the extra (metal) touches that raise this movie up a notch.
Let’s be honest: Hollywood hasn’t always got heavy metal right. It’s nice to see the genre treated with such reverence here, with Metal Gods going out of its way to show how inspiring metal can be when you first discover it, while also acknowledging the daunting nature of trying to keep up with our scene's many sub-genres and categorisations. The montage of Kevin first discovering, and then teaching himself to play Black Sabbath’s immortal War Pigs, interspersed with footage from key bands from metal’s history, is absolutely fantastic, and will be a familiar memory to all of us when recalling the awe we felt the first time we heard Sabbath.
It’s the capturing of our obsession with this music that makes Metal Lords worthwhile; the kids arguing over a Lamb of God guitar tab book, the mix tape Hunter makes filled with Meshuggah, Opeth and Mastodon classics, the Tom Morello-penned Celtic Frost rip-off Machinery Of Torment that Skull Fucker play at their gig. As a story it’s enjoyable rather than essential, but it’s the details that will raise this film above the ordinary for metalheads.
Metal Lords is released on Netflix on April 8