Sir Christopher Lee has got to be the world’s oldest headbanger. This guy is over ninety years old and he’s known more for being Saruman (The Lord of the Rings) and Count Dooku (Star Wars) than as a Metal icon. Still, he’s quietly very accomplished. He’s done songs with Rhapsody of Fire and Manowar, and has several releases of his own, including four full-length albums, and a Christmas single of him doing a couple traditional carols set to Heavy Metal music! This LP, the second one in his concept album series based on the life of Charlemagne, is as campy and as absurd as it seems like it would be. The music is pretty solidly embedded in the Traditional Metal genre with nods to Power Metal and occasionally to Hard Rock, as well. Even with the intermittent Power Metal injections, this is musically very unadventurous. Charlemagne: The Omens of Death is content to meander about in well-explored areas of the Metal sound. The draw here is Sir Christopher Lee’s vocals. His narration and singing are fairly good. He has a strong baritone, and while he is perfectly capable of doing something operatic, this album doesn’t really showcase his actual ability. His main problem is that the lyrics are fairly complicated and don’t lend themselves very well to singing. Remember the song “Alexander the Great” by Iron Maiden (from Somewhere in Time)? Remember how the singing was choppy and the vocals didn’t flow well? It happened to a lesser degree on “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” too. Imagine that problem stretching out through a whole album. Even though the content is fairly interesting (and, from what I understand, it is historically accurate), the record falls flat because the delivery really can’t maximize Christopher Lee’s vocal talent. At times, it sounds like he’s trying desperately to carry a melody with lyrics that are actively fighting against him. It’s like trying to stick a cat into a pet carrier when it knows it’s going to the vet. It’s painful to watch and even worse if you’re involved in the process. If you really want to hear him deliver the goods, check out his performance on “The Magic of the Wizard’s Dream” by Rhapsody of Fire. Charlemagne: The Omens of Death is an interesting concept, but as an LP, it doesn’t really work. This is one to buy for the novelty value alone.
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