What do you get when you combine a former porn starlet with some of the most noteworthy names in extreme metal? The quick answer: a pretty damned underwhelming product. That said, while it’s awfully easy to heap scorn on this pair of amateurish DVD-zines hosted by Jasmin St. Claire, her enthusiasm, her love for the genre, and her willingness to showcase artists that never get any exposure on American television is admirable. If only she’d make the series more about the artists and their music, and less about her, because if you don’t know already, this extremely extroverted, opinionated lady loves to spout off about anything and everything.
Metal’s Darkside is actually a good idea. St. Claire, who has since retired from the adult entertainment biz and is a well-known spokesmodel for BC Rich guitars, has wisely used her own notoriety to help promote the series, and her guests on both volumes are all good ones. However, shot on extremely low-budget home video, and featuring introductions by St. Clair in front of painfully tacky bluescreen images, we can’t help but wish that the whole product had a more professional touch.
The first installment in the series, dubbed The Hard and the Furious, has its moments. George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher, vocalist for death metal greats Cannibal Corpse is candid and forthright, offering intelligent, thoughtful answers in spite of some rather inane questions posed by St. Claire (do we really need more questions about how wrong censorship is?). The boys from Death Angel and the members of Nevermore are all good sports, and provide a few good laughs, but St. Claire has a habit of interrupting answers with her own opinionated, and often loud interjections.
A 2004 interview with Damageplan is included, and while we can’t help but be reminded of the horrible fate of “Dimebag” Darrell Abbot in the weeks that followed the interview, Dime’s brother Vinnie Paul projects his usual likeable presence throughout the conversation, humorously telling the tale of how the Stanley Cup was dented at his house in 1999 (“The worst part was, the USA Today headline read, “Stanley Cup damaged at drummer’s house!”). The one interview that does come out decently is her conversation with Satyr from Norwegian black metalers Satyricon, as she sits back and allows the surprisingly polite musician to answer the questions. The extras on the DVD are skimpy, the most cringe-inducing of which being a lengthy, tiresome diatribe by a bubble-bathing St. Claire (sorry guys, no nudity) who either declares that certain bands “fucking sucks” or certain public figures should “fucking die”.
Volume Two, The Deeply Disturbed, is a mild improvement. The interview with Terrance Hobbs and Frank Mullen from veteran death metal band Suffocation works rather well (especially Mullen’s hilarious explanation of how practical a serial killer Ed Gein was), as does the piece with Shadows Fall, but St. Clair’s questions become more and more redundant the more interviews she conducts (how many times must we endure the same “gun to the head” question?). There is one hilarious moment during the Exodus interview; when St. Clair asks guitarist Gary Holt what band from his era does he wish deserved to be more popular, his quick reply is, “Uh, us?”
It’s nice to see a lesser-known band get some attention, as LA nu-metal outfit Deconstruct is given some time, while more well-known American upstarts the Black Dahlia Murder make their usual public plea for weed money. Again, the extra features don’t exactly deliver, as videos by Fight Paris and Firewind are tossed in as filler, while a “tribute” to festival fans is nothing more of several minutes of various chuckleheads going “Whoo!” to the camera.
If it had a slicker look, Metal’s Darkside would be much easier to digest, but even if it did have a bigger budget, the interviews, while mildly engaging, don’t exactly tell the fans of the bands anything they don’t already know. The bottom line is, Ms. St. Claire obviously puts her metallic heart into this project, and she does have good taste in music and movies (anyone who digs River’s Edge is pretty cool), but it’s hard to justify paying 15 bucks for either DVD. It’s an earnest project, but in the end, while it would make for an above average public access cable program, as a DVD, the series sadly falls flat.
Metal's Darkside - Vol. 1: The Hard and the Furious
Metal's Darkside - Vol. 2: The Deeply Disturbed