If you ever watched an episode of Game of Thrones and thought “that’s pretty goddamn metal,” you were right on the money. GoT co-creator D.B. Weiss, a longtime fan of the genre, has teamed up with Tom Morello for a scripted movie titled Metal Lords, which hits Netflix on April 8. With Weiss as writer-producer and the Rage Against the Machine guitarist serving as executive music producer, the series tells the story of two teenage metalheads (Adrian Greensmith, Jaeden Martell) desperate to form a band at a high school where everyone else seems “more interested in Bieber than Black Sabbath,” per the synopsis. Their dream to dominate at an upcoming Battle of the Bands becomes closer to reality when they rope in a cellist named Emily (Isis Hainsworth) to augment their sound on bass, but that comes with a whole new set of troubles.
Weiss wrote a much different version of the script for Metal Lords before Games of Thrones in the early ’00s. It was around then that he met Greg Shapiro (who serves as producer on Metal Lords alongside Weiss) through GoT series co-creator David Benioff.
“When David and I started working on the Thrones process around 2006, I figured the plan was, if and when Thrones fell apart— which seemed likely— I’ll go and do my metal movie with Greg,” Weiss shares. “Thirteen years later, I was talking to Greg and he said, ‘Let’s do Metal Lords.’ In the interim, he had won an Academy Award for The Hurt Locker and had produced Zero Dark Thirty and all the Harold and Kumar movies. He had done everything from art house stuff to action to comedy, and I was like, ‘You have an Academy Award, dude. You don’t have to produce movies about metal kids.’ But he wanted to make it anyway, so we took it to Netflix’s [vice president of independent film] Lisa Nishimura. Lisa worked for Island Records for years and is a serious music person, so she got it right out of the gate.”
Metal Lords executive music producer Morello, who bonded with Weiss over metal while waiting in the “pickup and drop off line at our kids’ school” well before he knew Weiss’ credentials, sees something of himself in this story.
“I grew up in a small, cloistered, conservative suburb where my musical tastes ran against the grain of almost everybody else in school and certainly all of the teachers, so this is something I can very much relate to,” Morello says. “It’s a story of kids trying to get their first band together and having a dream, but perhaps not having the technical ability or the artistic vision to make that dream real. Or do they? For me, it harmonizes in a lot of ways with the real story of so many kids who are locked in these suburban hells and the key to get out is an electric guitar or drums or rock and roll music. The music shows a way to transcend this stifled daily existence, to try to be something better, be something more authentic and true than what’s handed to you by your surroundings.”
Weiss – whose essential metal albums are Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality, Metallica’s Ride the Lightning and Judas Priest’s Screaming for Vengeance – sees the movie’s appeal in a similar vein. “I’m hoping that people can see something of themselves in the characters, and come away from the movie feeling a little bit better than they felt going into it,” says Weiss. “On the surface, the music can be dark and aggressive. It’s often meant to freak people out. But the uses to which the music is put are often the opposite of that. It’s music for people who don’t feel like they have a place in the world they see around them. Music for people who are looking for a way to express that feeling of being on the outside.”
For a hard rock lifer like Morello, he says his most vital input on Metal Lords may have been advising the actors during a rehearsal for their climactic Battle of the Bands. “It doesn’t matter the accuracy of your cymbal hits. You just have to go fucking berserk the entire time,” Morello explains. “That’s metal! Don’t worry about the rest. Kick my ass with your facial expressions, which should be, at a minimum, Neanderthal-like and at a maximum, like you’re just in some sort of roiling pain and never stop doing that. Your face should always look like you’re an enraged barbarian.”