Christopher Lee – Charlemagne: The Omens of Death Review
Acting legend releases second Charlemagne album
Sir Christopher Lee turned 91 on May 27, 2013. That day also saw the release of what Charlemagne Records declared to be Lee’s “first 100% heavy metal album.” Last year, Lee released “A Heavy Metal Christmas” EP which featured metal covers of “The Little Drummer Boy” and “Silent Night.” Needless to say, many Christopher Lee and heavy metal fans couldn’t wait to see what he cooked up next. The album, “Charlemagne: The Omens of Death” is a sequel to the artist’s 2010 album “Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross,” which won the “Spirit of Metal” award at the 2010 Metal Hammer Golden God ceremony held by Metal Hammer magazine.
The prolific actor has led an extraordinary and fulfilling life no matter how you slice it. He served in World War II: stationed in Finland, joined the Royal Air Force (which included stints in Northern Africa, South Africa, Italy and Sicily), he even carried out operations as a member of Special Air Service. Following the war, he began his illustrious acting career. In the course of his acting career, Lee has played Dracula, a villain in his cousin Ian Fleming’s James Bond films, a Sith Lord, a white wizard of Middle Earth, the Jabberwocky and Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes. Director Tim Burton frequently casts the prolific actor for supporting roles in both his live-action and animated films. He’s also managed to stay married to one woman (his wife, Gitte) since 1961.
So why would an accomplished, successful movie star and possible secret agent begin a heavy metal endeavor? The only answer I can think of is because he simply loves what he does. With such specific material (a rock opera about the exploits of the legendary French king), Lee clearly isn’t making music for the money. Speaking of the music, Lee’s deep, iconic voice lends itself perfectly to the tone of the album. Lee voiced Scaramanga in the video game GoldenEye: Rogue Agent thirty years after playing him in The Man with the Golden Gun. He also still provides the voice of Saruman for The Lord of the Rings-related games.
However, Lee isn’t the only voice you’ll hear on his new album. “Charlemagne: The Omens of Death” features an entire voice cast with Lee at the top as Charlemagne. He doesn’t scream or growl like many metal front men, instead he projects his voice with the epic grandeur of the opera. His voice reaches the height of “epicness” at record’s end on “The Ultimate Sacrifice” and “Judgment Day.” Judas Priest guitarist Richie Faulkner arranged seven of the ten album tracks. Hedras Ramos plays guitars for the album as his father (Hedras Ramos Sr) plays bass. Ollie Usiskin drums.
It’s difficult to quantify Lee’s new album. The influence of 80s/ early-90s metal is undeniable especially in the guitar parts. However, no one particular band or two can be singled out as direct influences. The progressive melody of “The Devil’s Advocate” is reminiscent of a newer, more hardcore sound. It appears Lee also remains to stay unique and relevant in a genre that has fallen by the wayside in public favor of Top 40, run-of-the-mill pop music. That doesn’t mean Lee’s music isn’t relevant. Far from it, in fact, as the hit video game “Rock Band” added two of Lee’s tracks to its network for available download and play.
While the entire album is filled with skillful guitar and catchy drums, it’s Lee’s voice telling the story of Charlemagne from the first person point of view that makes it a worthwhile experience. The lyrics are so perfectly written and flawlessly sung that it feels like blistering guitars and pounding drums could have present on the battlefields where the legendary king fought. The historical tale told with sound effects, heavy metal and Lee’s unmistakably recognizable voice are well-worth listening to over and over again. Key tracks for listening are: “The Siege,” “Let Legend Mark Me as the King,” “The Betrayal,” “The Devil’s Advocate,” and “The Ultimate Sacrifice.”