Metal Lords Review: A Game of Thrones showrunner gets personal about music

In August 2019, just a few months after the polarizing end of Game of Thrones aired on HBO, showrunners DB Weiss and David Benioff have a $ 200 million deal with streaming giant Netflix. Their desire to move on to other projects was evident by the end of the year thrones‘, he ran, but the flow of new material has so far reached a drip. The two were executive producers in the 2021 Sandra Oh-led miniseries seatbut the new teen movie Lords of Metal is the first taste ofthrones writing from any of them since they closed the deal with Netflix. The co-executive of the duo produced the film, but the screenplay is a solo project by Weiss, vaguely based on his own adolescence spent singing in high school bands. It is a light film and an almost conscious continuation of the light of the massif Game of Thronesbut Weiss has the personal experience to make his humble ambitions work.

Lords of Metal focuses on a pair of best friends from childhood, with a gap that widens between them in adolescence. Hunter (Adrian Greensmith) is constantly moving against the contours of a world he has come to hate – a prosperous, overwhelmingly white suburb. His slender, angular frame is a physical echo of his sharp temperament. Kevin (THIS ONE and Knives outHis Jaeden Martell, stylized to look awfully like a young Steven Wilson from Porcupine Tree) is a gentler presence. He has gentle and nervous manners and is often swallowed up by Hunter’s older personality. But he is also curious about girls, parties and anything else that his more popular colleagues enjoy.

Hunter is a wool-painted metalhead and a serious guitarist. Kevin doesn’t know much about music, but he agrees to play drums in Skullfucker, the high school band Hunter thinks will conquer the world. The metal eventually deepens the connection between the two, but the tension they go through drives the film and allows for some perceptive remarks on what it means to dedicate yourself to a niche art form.

Photo: Scott Patrick Green / Netflix

A lot of movies have explored the seemingly intrinsic link between social alienation and heavy metal. A base film for pseudo-subgenre was Jim VanBebber’s 1994 short film My sweet Satanwhich dramatizes the true crime story of metal teenager and killer Ricky Kasso. Jonas Åkerlund also looked for real-life inspiration for 2018 Lords of Chaosdocumenting the rise of the Norwegian black metal scene in the early 1990s and the black cloud of church fires, suicides and murders that followed its young anti-heroes.

The atmospheric film of 2013 Metalhead he offered something like a negative photo of those movies, depicting a grieving young Icelandic woman whose only consolation comes from the lightless vacuum of black metal. The 2013 anarchic function of Lukas Moodysson We are the best! – a clear influence on Lords of Metal – is full of punk, not metal, but also offers loud music to its dissatisfied teenage protagonists like an amulet against the conformity of their Swedish hometown. In all these movies, the heavy guitar riffs and flying drums become a lifeline for children who can’t stand the world. Something almost supernatural seems to draw them into this cacophonous, confusing music that square society can’t stand. That describes Lords of MetalHunter – but obviously not for Kevin or for the possible third member of Skullfucker, the classic cellist Emily (Isis Hainsworth). Lords of Metal it carries out its most interesting activity in the gaps between the relations of its actors with the genre.

At the beginning Lords of Metal, Hunter has already sold his soul to metal. His wardrobe, which is no longer black, the posters on the walls of his rehearsal room and his sudden rejection of non-metal music leave no doubt. It is an archetypal film metal, a child in a destroyed house with behavior problems and an inability to relate to his peers. He devotes all his energy to cultivating encyclopedic knowledge of metal and practicing the guitar. Every headbanger in the audience has had a hunter in their life.

Kevin (Jaeden Martell) and Hunter (Adrian Greensmith) look at Metal Lords drum kits

Photo: Scott Patrick Green / Netflix

Kevin, on the other hand, is a less documented demographic of metal fans: a delighted and engaged newcomer. Forget the bullet-ridden message board people who say the opposite: No one was born knowing the difference between the Morbid Angel at the beginning and the middle of the period. Every metalhead has spent a few months or years dizzy discovering what they like about this music and Kevin’s journey into Lords of Metal may be the best on-screen representation of that process so far. The smile that creeps over her lips when she first listens to “War Pigs” from Black Sabbath – the opening song from a playlist that Hunter assigns as a theme – captures a magical, indescribable feeling of discovery. The day a metalhead first hears “War Pigs” (or “Master of Puppets” or “The Number of the Beast”) they often feel like the first day of the rest of their lives. Martell’s performance beautifully animates that revealing moment.

Less convincing is the portrayal of Emily in the film, a kind of Metal Pixie Dream Girl, which serves as her love interest for Kevin, as well as what Hunter terribly calls a “Yoko” for Skullfucker. She is depicted in a scene in which she shouts at the school’s fanfare director (author Chuck Klosterman) and throws her clarinet on the lawn. When Emily later reveals that she played just because she didn’t take her “happy pills”, it’s clear that it’s a little more than a bunch of girl-shaped clichés. The script doesn’t let the public understand the exact state of Emily’s mental health, but the way she throws away about her medications reveals how little she actually cares. Everything she does in the film can be excused or explained by the presence or absence of drugs that stabilize the mood. She rarely looks like a real person.

This is not a discredit to Hainsworth, who offer a strong quiet performance, despite the shortcomings of the script. Emily eventually joins Skullfucker as a cellist, usefully renaming the band Skullflower so that she can play at their Battle of the Bands High School. But her interest in metal is both passive and clearly linked to her passion for Kevin. Their romance is Netflix-cute, in a To all the boys I’ve loved before In a way, Emily’s poorly cooked characterization pays little attention to metal women, most of whom didn’t need to fall in love with a boy to understand Judas Priest’s power.

Emily (Isis Hainsworth), fully dressed in green, white and gold, leaves the field and leaves Chuck Klosterman behind in Metal Lords

Photo: Scott Patrick Green / Netflix

Lords of Metal‘climax he comes to that high school concert, where Skullflower heats up to the boos of his classmates and performs “Machinery of Torment,” written by executive producer and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello. Into the Rock schoolanother spiritual predecessor al Lords of MetalJack Black’s Dewey Finn says, “A great rock show can change the world.” Weiss clearly internalized this principle. No matter what happened in the first 90 minutes of Lords of Metal, was supposed to culminate in a great musical moment. Skullflower fulfills its promise: the performance of the young stars is legitimately wonderful, all the noisy energy and grin from ear to ear. The film encodes Hunter, Kevin and Emily as three distinct types of metal fans (and musicians), but the power it evokes when they come together is far greater than the sum of its parts.

There’s a little “Who’s this for?” baked in Lords of Metal. Game of Thrones Obsessives who check it out to see what Weiss is doing will have to squint to find similarities between the two projects, and obsessed metalheads will surely find things to blame on their sometimes poseurish description of their beloved genre. (Counterpoints: Game of Thrones it’s metal like hell, and the elitists of metal should be outdone already.)

It is also a film for teenagers, but the specifics of its subject are not exactly set to a Gen Z frequency. In 2022, classical heavy metal is not the music of the parents of a 16-year-old, but the music of their grandparents. The central thesis of Lords of Metal is that for the lucky few who respond to the siren song of metal, the experience of falling in love with gender is a universal, ageless rite. There is no social coin to be found in metal, especially in a high school where the only other band plays hot covers by Ed Sheeran, to loud applause. Hunter, Kevin and Emily hug him anyway, dedicating themselves to him as fans and musicians. It’s a strong argument for any teenager who is interested in pursuing something that no one they know cares about: do it anyway.

Lords of Metal is now streaming on Netflix.