‘Saruman has a mind of metal’ – Treebeard, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
In 2010 Sir Christopher Lee, at the grand old age of 88, released his first ‘heavy metal’ album, Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross. 2013 brings us his second outing into the heavy metal genre, Charlemagne: The Omens of Death, which is described as being Sir Christopher’s first proper heavy metal album, shying away from the symphonic metal that defined his first.
Omens of Death is something of an interquel to By the Sword and the Cross. The story set in the first album is played out between track two and track seven of this album. This is possible due to the fact that each song on the previous album had its own spoken intro. Omens has none of that here, and the album flows very well as one continuous piece of music.
Sir Lee brings his entire heavy metal repertoire to the field, and Omens contains all the necessary ingredients for a decent heavy metal record. He has a brilliant guitarist who is on the rise, an excellent bassist and enough vocalists to make Ayeron jealous. The only weak link is the drummer, who does his job well but never seems to stand out.
For a man who was alive for fifty years before heavy metal existed, he has a remarkably good grasp of the genre and fits quite well in it, no doubt helped by the addition of Richie Faulker the current guitarist of Judas Priest as the arranger. His famous, deep, bass filled voice still sounds intimidating as the nine hells despite his advanced age, and he manages to sound better on this album than he did on the previous one. However, one downside is that he occasionally appears to be speaking too slow for the music, meaning that it sounds as if the music and vocals are not entirely in sync.
Christopher Lee’s duet with tenor Vincent Ricciardi goes extremely well due to the vast difference in their voices, with Sir Lee’s deep voice slamming into Ricciardi’s tenor sound brilliantly. Vincent is perhaps the single remaining symphonic feature on this album, which isn’t so much of a bad thing. In addition the album also contains several other singers, and for the most part they work like a charm. Apart from one example on the song ‘The Devil’s Advocate’, were the other singers sound like a mixture of bad 80s glam metal and poor quality death metal.
Omens of Death is packed full of guitar riffs that sound well done and coherent. If you listened to the previous album, you will be able to hear some similarities in the sound, ‘Charles the Great’ has the same overall melody as ‘King of the Franks’ and the lyrics are almost identical. What Christopher Lee gives you is an album that is entertaining and historically accurate to a degree.
The guitars are handled by Hedras Ramos Jr. and are exceptionally well done considering the fact that he is only 21 years old. He sounds excellent on this record, especially on the last few tracks which give him more room to maneuver as they are not connected to the original album in any way. Instead they are about Charlemagne’s campaign in Spain and what happens after this. The bass is handled by Hendras Sn. and the father and son team work with such grace that can only be achieved with a lifetime of working together.
Omens of Death is a reasonably good album, but is let down by the occasional hiccup. The song ‘The Devil’s Advocate’ sounds like something a poor metal-core band would produce, with its terrible lyrics, poor death growls and clean vocals by the supporting artists. The song really does knock the whole album down a level, and is a terrible let down.
What Christopher Lee has provided us with is a vast improvement over his first album. Ditching the symphonic overtones and the interludes was a brilliant idea, and this album flows much better. Omens of Death is an enjoyable record by the oldest man in metal despite its few flaws. Treebeard’s statement was correct, Saruman does indeed have a mind of metal.
1. The Portent
2. Charles the Great
3. The Siege
4. Massacre of the Saxons
5. Drawing of a New Age
6. Let Legend Mark Me As the King
7. The Betrayal
8. The Devil’s Advocate
9. The Ultimate Sacrifice
10. Judgement Day
Edit: If you would like to read an interview with the guitarist and bassist of the band, please visit this internal link here.