Iconic film actor Christopher Lee has a new starring role - singer on the metal album Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross.
Originally finding fame with the Hammer Horror movies, Lee has featured in more than 280 films including Dracula, The Mummy, The Wicker Man, and more recently The Lord of the Rings, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland.
The 87-year old has previously guested with Italian metal band Rhapsody, and even released his own album, Christopher Lee: Revelation in 2006.
But this is the first time he has taken the lead on a metal album.
"It's very poetic, it can be, it's enormously powerful," says Lee of the genre, "and of course it's fantasy, a great deal of it, if you can understand the words and certainly in this album you will understand every word because we're very careful about things like that. It's a unique form of music and I suddenly found that in terms of 'symphonic metal' I could do it."
Set in the Dark Ages, the symphonic concept album tells the story of the King Charlemagne, King of the Franks from 768, and First Holy Roman Emperor.
Lee explains he was asked to sing Charlemagne as an old man, joining forces with a 100-piece orchestra, a choir, two metal bands and several guest vocalists to bring Marco Sabiu's score to life.
"We had this proposition, we're going to do this album with you as Charlemagne and all the other singers: the young Charlemagne as opposed to the old Charlemagne, and women and other people like the Pope and so on, my brother," Lee explains.
"It's interesting because it starts really with me on my death bed and then in a way I'm in limbo looking back over my life. And he was a very remarkable man, I think he was 72 when he died and he was very tall like me and very strong, very firm ruler, and a tremendous believer in Christianity and he also, like any ruler in battle did some horrifying things - at the famous Battle of Verden he decapitated 4,500 of the Saxon chiefs, not personally, but it boggles the mind when you think about it."
It seems Lee may have a personal link to the Emperor - he has been told he is a direct descendant of Charlemagne.
"The Heraldic Colleges and the archaeologists say they have indubitable proof that my family goes back to the 1st Century on my mother's side which is Italian - which means Romans - and also that we are descended from Charlemagne. Well, a lot of people claim to be descended from Charlemagne, he must have been very busy. But that may or may not be true I don't know but I believe it probably is, because the Emperor Barbarossa who came afterwards, quite a bit afterwards, gave my family, the Carandini family, they probably had a slightly different name then in Latin, the right to bear the coat of arms of the Holy Roman Empire, and that's on this ring which belonged to my great-grandfather."
Interest in Lee's new direction has been high - the actor is thrilled.
"The impact according to what I've been told is phenomenal, apparently number 1 in the metal charts in this country and number 5 in the world in the metal charts and they haven't even heard it. I was told that when the information first came out the first clips came out 17,000 newspapers and magazines and periodicals and things all over the world wanted more information - literally all over the world, China, Japan, everywhere. Also the other day there were 10 million hits from people. Well that's a figure I simply can't associate with, I don't imagine you can either. 10 million, heavens. On the other hand it's a bit difficult to believe that 4,500 men lost their heads as prisoners, I mean how long do you suppose that took? But it's there: 'I shed the blood of the Saxon men.'"
Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross was released in the UK on Monday, 15 March.
source: newshub archive