Netflix’s new music dramedy, Metal Lords, feels like a modern answer to Jack Black’s School of Rock. Centering around a Battle of the Bands, the film from director Peter Sollett is a wondrous coming-of-age delight that revels in the bold excess of the heavy metal genre. With young and extremely talented Jaeden Martell (Stephen King’s It, Knives Out, The Lodge) and exciting newcomer Adrian Greensmith as the two besties at the center of the action, one will easily fall in love. Metal Lords makes sure the music sequences are worthy of such a potent title, and does so with an assured hand.
Kevin (Martell) has been playing in the marching band for two years now, but his best friend since third grade, Hunter (Greensmith), is convinced Kevin is destined for greatness. Hunter is in desperate need of a drummer for new band Skullfucker, which is described as “post-death doom metal.” Kevin makes for a surprising talent, despite being less than confident about his skills. Devoting themselves to metal may be the road to success and glory that both young teens desperately seek. With the school’s Battle of the Bands contest in full swing, Kevin and Hunter hunt for a bass player to flesh out their metal-duo into a full-blown musical group.
Kevin is dead-set on cello player and potential love interest Emily (Isis Hainsworth) being a wonderful addition to their group. However, Hunter has a strict rule about “no Yokos,” and is under the belief that to have a cello player in the band instead of a bass player “is gay.” The kids at school are particularly cruel and bullying of Hunter, fueling his turmoil and obsession with making Skullfucker thrive. Kevin begins gaining recognition for his excellent drumming skills, invited by a rival pop cover band to perform at a wedding. The closer the Battle of the Bands gets, the greater the tension grows between Kevin and Hunter. Can they win it all, or will the pressures of competing cause their relationship to shatter?
Narratively speaking, Metal Lords is relatively straightforward with little in the way of surprises, and yet it totally won me over. Several cameos will surprise and thrill fans of the genre. The film’s biggest selling point is the friendship at its core. What does it mean to be “metal?” Metal Lords has a thesis, as told by the back and forth between the central duo. Martell and Greensmith have undeniable chemistry with one another, and an electricity to their performances. Whilst Kevin is the lead, Hunter has arguably richer complexity. His father wants to send him to a wellness center and be rid of him, and the constant presence of bullies puts him on edge. One of the best scenes involving a car pursuit with Kevin and Hunter ends in a hilarious narrow escape to avoid the bullies. The bonds of best friends run deep, and Kevin and Hunter are the beating heart of Metal Lords.
Rippling with rousing musicality, the movie culminates in the absolutely epic Battle of the Bands. Taking a page from the Disney Channel Original Movies and Nickelodeon films of yesteryear, Metal Lords makes sure this final set piece leaves the audience on a high that carries into the end credits. I’m not even into heavy metal music enough to have it on a regular rotation, and yet “Machinery of Torment” was nearly enough to make me suit up, and join a mosh pit. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist director Peter Sollett and Game of Thrones showrunner David Benioff know exactly how to channel the right type of vibe for an R-rated heavy metal dramedy. Come for the friendship, stay for the contagious energy of live music.
Metal Lords brings a vibrant new music duo to audiences everywhere when it debuts exclusively to Netflix on Friday, April 8th.