Christopher Lee: Charlemagne – By the Sword and the Cross

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Christopher Lee: Charlemagne – By the Sword and the Cross
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Christopher Lee: Charlemagne - By the Sword and the Cross
Operatic Power Metal
Cadiz Music
April 20th, 2010
Release length: 1:02:20
Myspace
At first, it seemed more like my eyes were playing tricks on me, but sadly, it was not, and neither was a dream or nightmare, or the heat playing tricks with me. It appears that Rhapsody (or Rhapsody of Fire to the new fans of the group) has created a monster, but given the knighted Sir Christopher Lee’s signature voice, it didn’t really come as a shock when you really think about it. What could this release be? The ads on the group’s Myspace account had music from a Power Metal effort playing in the background with clips of a cheesy and, yet, quite hysterical music video for one of the songs on the album made comical by Christopher Lee’s facial expressions, and even members of this group messing around on the camera, such as pretending to play a medievil sword like a guitar while head banging, but sadly this proved to be a bit of a lie. Infact, Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross is the furthest thing from Power Metal, as much of the album is a straight forward traditional opera, and one that really isn’t all that impressive too, leaving this CD with much to be desired, but really, is still better then you would expect.

Much of the album is comprised of tradition classical music composed together to create an opera, with a musical aspect that only comes in the form of narration, but the narrator is, shockingly, not Christopher Lee. Given his appearances with Rhapsody, one would imagine that would be his approach for this release, but sadly it’s not. Instead, he chimes in as one of the operatic singers, taking the role of King Charlemagne himself in this historical depiction of his last days, and a cast of individuals that not many seem to know, or even appear to have been part of a metal project at all in the past. Each chapter of this tale, with exception to “Overture”, which is simply an instrumental that honestly doesn’t do much for the album, as well as “Finale”, is essentially set up the same way. Each act has an introduction, narrated by Christina Lee, who winds up not really being that fantastic a narrator due to a boring approach to the narrations themselves, as well as placing emphasis on the wrong parts of the story being described, such as during “Act III: Intro”. These introductory sections progress the album, typically quite dramatically in time towards the more interesting aspects of the story, and the actual songs are typically nothing more then a conversation between Charlemagne and another individual or individuals.

So, clearly this album is rather boring story-wise, unless this type of lyrical content and structuring is your thing, such as if you enjoy documentaries, but in this case in operatic musical form. One would imagine that if the opera was set up in such a generic manner that there would be better performances on this album. Unfortunately, there really isn’t anything all too impressive. Christopher Lee does a decent job vocally through most of the album, but it honestly becomes laughable during “Act III: The Bloody Verdict of Verden” when you actually get a small amount of Metal into the mix and he puts more effort into some singing, but sounds horrible, while the man singing the part of Young Charlemagne comes in and really belts out a fantastic performance that greatly dwarfs Lee’s performance, as well as everyone else’s involved with the project.

If you happen to pick up this album for the metal aspect, you will be greatly let down. Outside of “Act III: The Bloody Verdict of Verden”, which features a decent amount of traditional metal that really isn’t all that jaw dropping, there’s a very, very brief introduction to anything metal on this release on “Act II: The Iron Crown of Lombar”, but it was simply a few extremely simple guitar riffs that hit all at once and never show again in the song. Other then that it’s most traditional classical instruments that would appear in a musical, and much of it never really seems to go anywhere. Many of the acts also bleed into one another with that music, as the introductory act’s typically have a very bland backing music wise, which carries in a little stronger to the next part of the act. Sometimes, however, these acts will carry into the next, as is the case with “Act I: King of the Franks”, which carries into “Act II: Intro”, and onward further into “Act II: The Iron Crown of Lombar”. This is one of the very few interest aspects of the album, as it really does work to progress this questionable musical documentary. Howevewr, nothing on this release hurts harder then when “Act V: Starlight” breaks out in a song that sounds very similar to material off the Lion King Movie Soundtrack about half way through the song.

On this release, the listener is also “blessed” with two bonus tracks that only seem to only continue the boredom that this album almost permeates. While the classical element of the release seems solid, the songs never really seem to go anywhere musically, and the metal illuded to in this album is very scarce as well, and when it appears it fuels the music moreso then the traditional opera singing by everyone on board for this project, aside the individual mentioned of earlier who performs as “Young Charlemagne”. So why not throw two additional tracks on here? THe first is “Iberia”, which is basically just an extended song in the lines of the traditional act introductions, except with narration that is slightly harmonized by Christopher Lee, which clearly was meant to be a whole other interpretation of one of the acts on this album and only greatly bores the listener, as this time it doesn’t really even do anything that the listener is already accustomed to with the album and violates the flow it has, repetitive as it may be. The latter is “The Bloody Verdict Of Verden” but in instrumental form. While this is one of the better tracks on the album, without any vocal presentation it really doesn’t do much, ultimately just sounds like the introduction to a children’s fantasy film with a section of metal thrown in for good measure that is simply coma inucing.

The only real reason to own Charlemayne: By the Sword and the Cross by Christopher Lee would be the sense of owning a piece of his material. Other then that, the album has very few actually enjoyable moments, and doesn’t posess nearly enough metal to have the band calling it a Metal Musical. There’s a great deal wrong with this release that pretty much ruins another hopeful CD purchase. If you’re planning to buy this, saying you’ll like it, think again, as this is very bland and will only serve to put you asleep with it’s traditional music and majority of generic operatic vocals throughout, making this odd release one to not waste hard early money on.

01. Overture – 2:55
02. Act I: Intro – 1:34
03. Act I: King of the Franks – 7:14
04. Act II: Intro – 1:47
05. Act II: The Iron Crown of Lobardy – 8:11
06. Act III: Intro – 3:25
07. Act III: The Bloody Verdict of Verden – 6:15
08. Act IV: Intro – 2:32
09. Act IV: The Age of Oneness Out of Diversity – 6:08
10. Act V: Intro – 2:09
11. Act V: Starlight – 4:42
12. Finale – 3:55
13. Iberia (Bonus Track) – 5:07
14. The Bloody Verdict of Verden (Instrumental) – 6:20
Overall Score: 1.5/10
Physical review copy of this release provided by personal funds.