Peter Sollett’s coming-of-age drama film “Metal Lords” is a lot about heavy metal music while at the same time not being too much about it. Showing two outcast friends in high school who intend to gain popularity and “own the school” with their heavy metal band, it ultimately becomes more about the young teenagers and what they learn through their endeavors. Despite not being spectacular in any specific way, “Metal Lords” can be a fun and light-hearted watch.
‘Metal Lords’ Plot Summary
High school friends Kevin and Hunter have formed a heavy metal band and have been looking to extend the membership. Vocalist-lead guitarist Hunter believes himself to be an out-and-out metalhead, while drummer Kevin is in the band only because his best friend insists him to do so and he admits that he does not really understand metal music. What the two have most in common is how they are unable to fit in with most of the other kids at school, and this does become a hindrance when they want to get hold of a bass guitarist for their band. Kevin plays the drum in the school’s marching band, which he does only to avoid PE classes, and on one occasion, he sees a girl lose her temper and terribly shout at the instructor for having noted her inability to coordinate with the band.
Later, at a party, Hunter gets involved in a fight with Skip Moss, the school’s popular football player, while Kevin gets drunk and sweet talks with a girl. In an attempt to get over the embarrassment of being pushed around by Skip, Hunter insults the band that was playing and their music (mostly pop) despite their lead singer, Clay, being nice and helpful to him. Clay continues to keep up the friendliness and informs him about the Battle of Bands competition in which they can compete to see who’s better.
The next day, Hunter signs up for the competition despite not having a much-needed bass guitarist, and his efforts at recruiting one do not go well either. One evening, while practicing on his drums at school, Kevin meets the girl he had seen earlier at the marching band and sees her playing a cello quite passionately. He shows her the notes he had been trying to play, of metal songs, and the girl, Emily, shows interest in them, even briefly playing a few chords.
Shortly afterward, Hunter decides to give Kevin a lesson on what metal actually means and the thrill of it by making him drive a car being chased by Skip, and he admits he understands the high-speed excitement and commitment of expression as they manage to get Skip to wreck his car. He starts listening to and practicing a list of metal songs that Hunter gives him, and then also shares it with Emily. The two gradually grow more interested in the genre, researching and practicing more songs, and then Emily jams on her cello with Kevin on the drums to Black Sabbath’s War Pigs. Realizing that she could be a very good fit for the band, Kevin takes Emily to Hunter and pitches the idea of taking her in as the bassist, but Hunter outright rejects the proposal, as to him, a girl on the cello does not in any way fit with the image he is trying to build up of his band.
Hunter, Kevin & Emily: The Story of the Outcasts
Kevin is quick to apologize to Emily for Hunter’s obnoxious behavior, and she now feels an attraction towards the boy. They soon meet and make love in Emily’s family van. Hunter, who has by now pushed his appearance even more towards metal by shaving a side of his long-haired head, also disrespects Kevin, out of a growing insecurity over losing his best friend to a girl. Kevin now really finds his expression in playing the drums, and he is approached by Clay to play for their band, first at his sister’s wedding and then possibly at the Battle of Bands. He gradually grows closer to Emily, who admits that she finds true happiness in his presence and can stay off her pills in his company.
Hunter decides to act before it is too late, and in a class presentation, he knowingly instigates and triggers Emily’s severe anger issues by telling her to stay away from Kevin in the form of a heavy metal recital. Kevin is furious with his friend when he finds out, and the two have a terrible fallout. Hunter’s father is informed by the school authorities about his actions, but he is not ready to stop or change himself yet. Almost in a manner of ultimate metamorphosis, Hunter gears himself up in a death metal spiked jacket and bracelets, and applies corpse paint on his face (guided by a makeup tutorial on the internet), and heads out to Clay’s sister’s wedding to bring back his drummer friend. He is, of course, stopped at the entrance and held by the police till his father arrives and frees him.
The father, who has had enough, decides to send his son to a detox/wellness center as a sort of rehab for his unusual actions. On the other hand, Kevin has a great show and impresses everyone at the wedding, including the girl he had earlier met at the party. He is about to get intimate with her when his heavy metal idols appear in his conscience and stop him from cheating on Emily, who loves him. As the band competition draws closer, he tries to contact Hunter, not knowing that his friend is in rehab. He then calls up his father and gets to know about his ordeal, and immediately wants to go help him.
Kevin asks for the help of Emily as well, who questions her boyfriend’s swinging feelings towards Hunter, and Kevin says that he has realized that he would not have met her if Hunter had not been in his life. In the wellness center, Hunter meets a school legend metal musician who now works as a doctor, and he explains how one must be ready to accept others when in a band. Hunter learns his lesson and regrets having questioned and belittled Kevin’s decisions. The best friend manages to break into the rehab and break out Hunter and another of their schoolmates (who was the previous drummer in Clay’s band). The two then go over to Emily’s house, where Hunter apologizes for his previous selfish actions and his silly inhibitions about letting a girl play in a metal band. He also asks her to join his band at the competition that evening, but Emily turns down the offer, saying that she is not yet ready.
At its heart, “Metal Lords” is mostly about the process of high school students trying to fit into groups at an age when it becomes increasingly easy to be outcasted by the rest. All the three central characters are such outcasts who find it extremely difficult to establish themselves as friends among the other students, for their own personal history and differences.
Kevin is extremely uncomfortable and anxious in public and at school, for he is socially awkward; the only time he can be free and lets himself lose is when drunk. For such a teenager, music and the drums become the way to express himself, and this develops Kevin as a character, as he gradually loses his awkwardness and becomes more used to company and people.
Hunter has a big hole in his life—his mother having left him and his father in his seventh grade. It is not that his obsession with heavy metal is based solely on a sad past; he has a genuine interest in it, but his personality is definitely shaped by this incident. He is very distant and always agitated with his father, for he perhaps blames his father’s lecherous affairs at his workplace for his mother having left them. The father’s constant reprimanding and questioning of his young son’s choices do not help the cause either.
Emily, who is of Scottish descent, also seems very socially awkward, maybe from initial bullying for her different sounding accent and then from the extreme anxiety and inappropriate expression of anger that she has developed and has to even take medicines to keep in control. In the end, “Metal Lords” is about how these three characters learn to live with their lives, as Emily and Kevin find each other, while Hunter discovers both of them and others at his school without his aggressive and defensive mental barrier.
‘Metal Lords’ Ending Explained: Does Kevin’s Band Win The Competition?
Arriving at the school competition, Kevin informs Clay that he cannot play for his band as he intends to play with Hunter. Clay understands him and is just pleased that he has brought their old drummer out of rehab so that they can perform in the competition. Hunter also apologizes to Clay and clears up the problems from their past, wishing him success.
Finally, the time for Hunter and Kevin’s performance arrives, and as they are tense about the absence of a bassist, Emily walks into the scene dressed appropriately for a heavy metal concert and with an equally appropriate-looking customized cello. Saying that she is now ready, the three walk out onto the stage and rock the event until it is brought to an unexpected halt when a jealous Skip pushes Hunter on stage out of balance, which results in heavy amplifiers falling on Hunter’s leg and fracturing it.
Some days later, the three are seen practicing together in Hunter’s basement, where his father walks in and shows them a newspaper article about their performance and mishap at the competition. It is revealed that they had managed to win the silver medal at the competition, and Hunter’s father is visibly more accepting and friendly towards his son now. As for Hunter, too, he has changed, as he says that he is happy with coming second behind Clay’s band, for he realizes that the process and enjoyment of making music (and, of course, the public reception that comes along with it) is what matters and not the materialistic end. The three then continue jamming and promise to take their band, now called the Skullflowers (after their teacher forced them to alter the name before getting on stage), to new heights.
There is nothing inherently new in “Metal Lords,” as it uses the theme of metal music to tell the story of three teenagers, their problems, realizations, and learnings. The plot does not have anything special either, and is rather predictable, and yet there is a sense to “Metal Lords” that does make it quite enjoyable. Fairly good performances, an adequately written script, and classic pop-culture metal songs (including Iron Maiden, Metallica, Black Sabbath, Pantera, and so on) all come together to make “Metal Lords” a watchable musical-drama without anything too noteworthy.
“Metal Lords” is a 2022 Drama Musical film directed by Peter Sollett.