451: Charlemagne

So, did you guys know that Christopher Lee, the actor who played Saruman in Lord of the Rings, and Count Dooku in Star Wars, started recording metal albums a few years ago?  Because if you didn't, I just improved your life by a hundred times.  Back in 2010, after contributing vocals to several songs by Rhapsody (of Fire) and Manowar, Christopher Lee announced that he would be recording his very first metal album.  It was a "symphonic metal concept album" about Charlemagne, called Charlemagne: By The Sword And The Cross.  The Sultan told me about it back when it was first released, but I hadn't even started the comic yet, so I never assumed I would talk about.  But then about a week ago, on his 91st birthday (seriously), he released the followup to that album, called Charlemagne: The Omens Of Death.  Which means I now have the perfect reason to talk about it!

And to sum up my feelings for you guys: Christopher Lee singing metal is by far the funniest, awesomest, most badass, and most stupidly hilarious thing that has ever happened in music.  He is the most intimidating man in the world, with the deepest bass voice you have ever heard, he was a spy during WWII in Nazi Germany, and he is known for portraying Dracula, a villainous space samurai, and an evil wizard - he is the most metal person on the fucking planet without even trying.  And at the same time, what the fuck is 91 year old knighted British actor Sir Christopher Lee doing playing metal music?!  He is so out of place it is impossibly hilarious.  Every time I hear the man talk about it, it seriously sounds like he has never heard a single metal song in his entire life, which is what inspired today's comic.

But onto the actual music.  The first album, Charlemagne: By The Sword And The Cross, is described by Sir Christopher as a symphonic metal album.  It is not.  It is a straight up opera, with full orchestra, almost no guitars, and operatic vocals from all of its singers, including Sir Christopher.  But the weirdest part about it is that, as an actual opera, it is way better than it should be.  Sir Christopher's vocals sound pretty damn good, the compositions are wonderful and engaging, and are often pretty badass.  The downside though, is that it can get kinda boring by the end, due to the excessive narration on the album.  Every song is broken up by several minutes of narration by Sir Christopher's daughter Christina Lee, which adds wonderful story elements to the album, and solidifies the work as an actual opera, but it can still get rather tedious by the end.  The second album, Charlemagne: The Omens Of Death, is described by Sir Christopher as "full on heavy metal," and this time it definitely is.  The music was written by Christopher Lee and current Judas Priest guitarist Richie Faulkner, and was played by the insanely awesome Guatemalan guitarist Hedras Ramos.  Wikipedia calls the album a "sequel," but it's really more of a "reimagining" of the first.  Many of the same songs are reused on this album, with the same lyrics, but this time it's done with fast guitar riffs and heavy metal vocals.  And it's pretty freaking sweet.  The only thing about the second album that is worse than the first is Sir Christopher's singing.  He sung pretty well on the first album, and his deep operatic bass voice matched the music perfectly.  On the second album, his singing is worse, and his vocals don't match the tone quite as well, but everything else was expertly done, and it's still really cool to hear him in the songs.  Here are a few tastes of Charlemagne to help whet your guys' appetites, and the first one is equal parts totally awesome and awesomely stupid.  This is the promotional video for the song "The Bloody Verdict Of Verden."  (This particular version does not appear on either of the albums.)  The joke that Sultan and I had about it was: "It looks like someone's high school video project, and they somehow managed to get Christopher Lee for it."  And then here's an album preview for the sequel, which is the one that you metalheads should be way more interested in.  I hope you guys enjoy this as much as I did, which was A LOT.

(BTW, if you guys are REALLY looking for a laugh, you should listen to Christopher Lee's Heavy Metal Christmas EP.  It is so hilariously awful, like I can't even handle it.  The vocals are bad, the guitars don't match the song at all, I don't even... why is it even like this, I don't understand...)

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