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3.89 | 5 ratings | 1 review
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Album · 2010


1. Overture (2:53)
2. Act I: Intro (1:34)
3. Act I: King Of The Franks (7:14)
4. Act II: Intro (1:46)
5. Act II: The Iron Crown Of Lombardy (8:12)
6. Act III: Intro (3:26)
7. Act III: The Bloody Verdict Of Verden (6:16)
8. Act IV: Intro (2:31)
9. Act IV: The Age Of Oneness Out Of Diversity (6:07)
10. Act V: Intro (2:09)
11. Act V: Starlight (4:40)
12. Finale (3:57)
13. Iberia (5:10)
14. The Bloody Verdict Of Verden (Instrumental) (6:20)

Total Time 62:21


- Christopher Lee / vocals (Charlemagne's Ghost)
- Vincent Ricciardi / vocals (Young Charlemagne)
- Christina Lee / vocals (Narrator)
- Phil SP / vocals (Pippin the Short)
- Mauro Conti / vocals (Pope Hadrian)
- Lydia Salnikova / vocals (Hildegard)
- Christi Ebenhoch / vocals (storyteller singer)
- Marco Sabiu / composer
- John Wistow / composer, lyrics
- Marie-Claire Calvet / lyrics

About this release

Released by Charlemagne Productions Ltd.

Thanks to adg211288 for the addition


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Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross is a Symphonic Metal release by legendary knighted actor Christopher Lee, an epic concept piece about the life of Lee’s ancestor, The First Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne. The concept of an 87 year old man suddenly bringing out a metal album is bound to attract attention from many sources, but ultimately will he or won’t he be criticised for taking on a genre such as metal? Well I for one think he should be praised for this work, even if he didn’t write the music or the lyrics, because the guy has an epic voice (just watch his performance in The Lord of the Rings), and he should be praised for his vocals no matter what you might feel about the compositions.

So let’s talk about those, well first as far as first impressions of the album go, you could call it SYMPHONIC metal. So yeah, it’s heavily symphonic, and the metal elements don’t always come across as that overly heavy, though they are present and this is definitely an album with metal in it. Is it enough to actually class it as metal? Personally I’d say yes, when the metal comes it is metal, but what bothers me with that claim is that after track 1, Overture, you don’t really hear a trace of metal again to track 5, Act II: The Iron Crown Of Lombardy. This is quite a big time gap for a metal album not to have metal sounds, but one thing that should be taken into consideration is that each of the many songs, or Acts as they call them have an intro track, effectively doubling the number of tracks, so there’s actually only one proper song in there (Act I: King Of The Franks), and to be honest it’s not uncommon for established symphonic metal bands to have a completely symphonic track on their albums, I can name several by Nightwish or Within Temptation, and Epica even did a whole album like that. The other main tracks (or Acts, whatever you want to call them), all have metal in them, though there are many sections in the songs that don’t. Take Act III: The Bloody Verdict Of Verden for example. Intro and verses have no metal, but the chorus and outro does so it’s about 50/50. Otherwise this is best considered as film score music, and pretty good film score music at that.

Enough on whether the album is metal or not. To me, it’s metal enough, but since I increasingly find myself not caring if what I listen to appears on Encyclopaedia Metallum (note – this album doesn’t), maybe I am not the best of judges. Let’s talk about if the album is any good or not.

Short answer: yes.

Long answer: Charlemagne is actually a very epic piece of music. The tracks effortlessly run into each other and Lee is perfect in the lead role. The album could actually be liked to what artists such as Ayreon and Avantasia do; it is a concept album with a vocal cast, a metal opera if you will. Lee of course takes the lead role as Charlemagne's ghost, which many other singers taking others roles, included a younger version of the title character. I don’t know any of the names and perhaps this is where the album falls short, it’s metal but made by people who don’t appear to be associated with metal aside from Lee himself (who has worked with the likes of Manowar and Rhapsody of Fire). The composer, Marco Sabiu, for one, is credited for being known for working with the likes of Take That and Kylie Minogue. So, maybe not the best of references when trying to sell an album aimed at metal fans. For what’s it’s worth he did a good enough job, since I do really like this album, however I wouldn’t be doing my job as a reviewer if I didn’t point out from a metal perspective that if this had been composed by a metal composer, the result would have been much different. However as it stands the album is pretty solid, not a masterpiece for sure but overall it's pretty impressive.

My personal favourite track from Charlemagne is Act III: The Bloody Verdict Of Verden. That “I shed the blood of Saxon men” line is rather memorable I must admit. Act IV: The Age Of Oneness Out Of Diversity is a pretty strong second place.

The only thing that is really irksome about this album is that it has so many intro tracks. There are five even if you discount the actual track 1, Overture. Each features narration to tell the story. This suits for this kind of album, but really I feel they would have better fitted as part of the main tracks, especially since they don’t seem to have a probably having the narration is these as well.

Overall though I've found Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross to be quite a nice surprise. I would have liked perhaps a bit more balance between the symphonic metal and film score influences though.

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven, scoring 7.5/10)

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