aka… Shedding the Blood of the Saxon Men!
Like all good drama nerds and RPG freaks, I have a mad love for European Prod Metal. Give me an album that only has one or two tracks, but tells metallic tales of storming Asgard or battles upon the fields of Ireland, I’m in! Fans of this type of music fall into one of a few camps. The frustrated musician with three separate music theory degrees, is huge in Belgium, but has to deliver pizza back in the states. There is the dill hole that finds this kind of music simply amusing, something to play for their friends in their iPod while waiting in line for Modest Mouse. Then, there are people like me. We don’t know music theory. We don’t get listening for ironies sake. What we do get it epic. We love it. We simply know epic when we hear it, we want to share it with all our RPG friends!
Sir Christopher Lee’s newest endeavour with composer and musical producer Marco Sabiu, is a metal concept album of the highest caliber.
The title says exactly what you will find within this most glorious of releases – This is a symphonic metal re-telling of Charlemagne’s rise to power and why history recounts his rule as the one that united Europe.
Sabiu does pull off a rather daunting task. He is able to meld a 200 person orchestra with traditional Metal trappings, narration, and honest to God medieval battle sound effects.
Truly, history has never sounded for damn epic. Seriously – I’m pretty certain you earn 200 Experience Points with each listening.
What did shock me was Sir Christopher Lee. We all know he has that stunning voice and presence. I mean, how many actors can claim to have personified Saruman, Dracula, the Man with Golden Gun, and a Sith Lord with such power? What I didn’t expect was that at 87 years-old, his Lordship can hold one hell of a note. Indeed, an album such as Charlemagne will succeed or fail on Lee’s performance. It really shouldn’t have surprised me after all these years that Lee brings a skill and dignity that requires all involved to rise.
This is an album you wish one would stage as a full theatrical performance, but for that to occur, Sir Lee will need to live forever – Something that just might happen considering his work ethic. The man simply doesn’t want to stop working.
Like all historical performances, we witness the rise and fall of King Charlemagne. By the Sword and the Cross takes an interesting approach of starting at Charlemagne’s death bed to tell his epic tale. If the album had one flaw, it is the female narration. It is not her voice that distracts, but Sabiu’s choice to have her simply speak the connecting narrations; rather than an operatic bridge. As a listener, I know these moments are required to move the story along, but they pull the listener from the musical world of Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross.
Thankfully, the symphonic metal kicks in rather quickly. Soon followed by Christopher Lee’s booming voice. (I know I keep going on about this, but he truly does sound epic). Yes, I will be honest, there will be times when you hear “You will not know pain, you will not know fear. You will taste man-flesh!” Still, those moments are fleeting and in a strange way only enhance the overall impact of the album.
Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross is not background listening. Charlemagne, the King of the Franks, demands your full attention.
The album is available now for download or you can buy a physical copy on April 20 – In the Year of Our Lord 2010.