Album Review - Christopher Lee: Charlemagne - The Omens Of Death
Dawning Of A New Age
On March 15th, 2010, world renowned actor Sir Christopher Lee, known for such films as "The Wicker Man", "Dracula" and the "Lord of the Rings" films, surprised the world by releasing his first official entry into the world of heavy metal. He had been a guest before, lending narration and vocals to the bands Manowar and Rhapsody of Fire, but with the album "Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross", his Spirit of Metal award winning foray into symphonic metal, he officially confirmed his status as the oldest living performer in the genre. Then on his 90th birthday, May 27th, 2012, he announced the release of a new single of his forthcoming second album "Charlemagne: The Omens of Death", which was released a year later. It is a concept album detailing the life of Charlemagne, the first king of the Holy Roman Empire, and quite frankly, is absolutely awesome, but don't just take my word for it, let's take a look at it in detail.
Lee's first album was very symphonic in sound with a full orchestra backing the standard metal lineup, and also was very operatic in it's structure, featuring narrations from Christina Lee, a five act structure, an overture, and a finale. It also featured multiple vocalists to fill the different roles in the story being told. When he announced that he was releasing a sequel to it, he made it very clear that he wanted a much heavier sound, making a move into full on heavy metal. For the most part, it definitely succeeds. Many of the songs are reworkings from the first album and a couple of them retain their symphonic nature, but for the most part it is all heavy guitars and drums, arranged by current Judas Priest axeman Richie Faulkner and recorded by Hedras Ramos Jr and Sr on guitars and bass respectively, and Ollie Usiskin on drums. The riffs are very good, the rhythms are perfectly suited for the songs, and solos and melodies are all very memorable and catchy.
If there was one thing I was only slightly disappointed by with this album, it was the fact that I was expecting to hear a batch of entirely new songs, when really the majority of them are reworkings of songs from the first album. New vocals are provided for them, but a lot of them will be very familiar to anyone who heard the first one. Aside from that though, the lyrics are historically interesting and accurate, delving more into King Charlemagne's life and concerns during his time spent at war, detailing his military conquests and personal struggles with his Christian beliefs regarding said battles and mass slaughters conducted under his reign. It is a very interesting listen to say the least.
Pretty much the whole reason I bought the album, and they definitely do not disappoint. The majority of the vocalists on the recordings are not very well known aside from Lee himself, but they all deliver a good strong performance. As for Lee himself, his deep bass voice can only be described in one word: epic. Imagine Saurumon singing over Judas Priest backing tracks and you've got a recipe for something that will definitely stick with you. Lee's passion and love for this project comes through in full force and it is very apparent that he is giving his all on each song. As great as the music and other vocalists are, he is definitely the star and the highlight of the album.
When I first heard Christopher Lee was becoming a heavy metal singer, there was no question about it that I was going to listen to whatever he put out. I got the first album and listened to it, not really sure what to expect, and it instantly became one of my new favorite albums. Given the choice between the two, I definitely would have to go with the first one, but that in no way detracts from how much I love this album. It is an absolutely fantastic experience from start to finish, as heavy and epic as anything you will ever hear. The music could easily stand alone on it's own greatness, but adding Lee's incredible and instantly recognizable vocals make it unforgettable. I highly recommend you pick up a copy.
Final Score 9/10