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Music / Charlemagne

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"Let legend mark me as the King, of whom future generations will sing."

Charlemagne refers to a set of two Concept Albums dramatizing the life of King Charlemagne and the Holy Roman Empire. It stars Christopher Lee (who was a verifiable direct descendant of Charlemagne) in the title role, and was also released through his production company called, incidentally, Charlemagne Productions.

     By the Sword and Cross 
The first album, Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross, was released in 2010 and is Heavy Mithril in the style of Symphonic Metal. Produced by Corrado Canonici, with music by Marco Sabiu, the performers included Manowar, Rhapsody of Fire, and a 100 piece orchestra. In addition to Lee, the other actors include Phil S.P. as Charlemagne's father Pippin the Short, Mauro Conti as Pope Hadrian, Vincent Ricciardi as the young Charlemagne, Lydia Salnikova as Charlemagne's wife Hildegard, and Christopher Lee's daughter Christina as the narrator.

The story begins at the end of Charlemagne's days, as he looks back on his life and the many military campaigns he fought... particularly troubling for him was the Massacre of Verden, where he ordered the public execution of 4000 Saxon Men. Tormented by memories of these and other cruelties he engineered in the name of God, he is afraid that he might be damned for his actions and remembered as a tyrant rather than as a Christian warrior king.

     Omens of Death
The second album, Charlemagne: the Omens of Death is a part sequel/part retelling of the first album, done in the style of full-blown Heavy Metal, with music by Richie Faulkner. Unfortunately, partway through the development, Faulkner was recruited by Judas Priest, which sent the album into Development Hell for a time, until guitarist Hedras Ramos Jr stepped in to finish the musical arrangements. The original cast returns, along with Gordon Tittsworth as Roland, Daniel Vasconcelos as Oliver, and Aaron Clouther as Duke Lop. A sample was released on May 27, 2012 (Christopher Lee's 90th birthday), and the full album was released on May 27, 2013. You can listen to samples here and watch a preview (complete with an interview with Christopher Lee himself) here.

The songs released in the Omens of Death sampler, "Let Legend Mark Me As the King" and "The Ultimate Sacrifice", are available for Rock Band 3 and Rock Band Blitz


By The Sword And The Cross

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

The Omens Of Death

  1. "The Portent" (4:29)
  2. "Charles the Great" (6:23)
  3. "The Siege" (7:09)
  4. "Massacre of the Saxons" (5:41)
  5. "Drawing of a New Age" (4:40)
  6. "Let Legend Mark Me As the King" (5:45)
  7. "The Betrayal" (5:02)
  8. "The Devil's Advocate" (4:54)
  9. "The Ultimate Sacrifice" (5:09)
  10. "Judgement Day" (3:41)

The Charlemagne albums contains examples of:

  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Charlemagne, obviously. Hunald also seems to be pretty remarkable.
  • The Antichrist: Charlemagne mentions Hunald as "The Devil" explicitly.
  • Artistic License History: In "The Bloody Verdict of Verden". The Carolingian dynasty's own history the Royal Frankish Annals indicate that the 4,500 men executed at Verden were surviving rebels from the preceding uprising by Widukind and executed for rebellion (or possibly treason), rather than false converts to Christianity executed for heresy as stated in the narration. It's basically a Distinction Without a Difference as far as the Saxons were concerned, however.
  • Ascended Extra: Oliver is one of the least-talked about Paladins of Charlemagne, yet here he has a song for himself. Hunald, as well, is not a very popular character in history and myth alike (just notice how short his page on Wikipedia is), yet here he is the Big Bad.
  • Badass Baritone: Charlemagne himself of course.
  • Badass Army: The Paladins are not to be triffled with.
  • Badass Boast: All songs feature at least one from The Emperor himself, but Hunald gets a pretty good one in "The Devil's Advocate":
    Hunald: Charlemagne! We will crush you both like stone! We will tear you limb from limb!
  • Band of Brothers: The Paladins of Charlemagne, his main lieutenants and most trusted friends.
  • The Berserker: Hunald, at one point, breathes like a bull about to charge when challenging Charlemagne.
  • Big Bad: Hunald, leader of the Gascon uprising, in "The Omens Of Death".
  • Big Badass Battle Sequence: The Battle Of Rocencavoux Pass.
  • Black Speech: Hunald talks like this combined with Voice of the Legion.
  • Blood Knight: Hunald is pretty vivid about slaughtering the living Hell out of the Franks.
  • Big Good: Pope Adrian fills this role to Charlemagne, guiding him to build a mighty nation of Christendom.
  • Bittersweet Ending: "The wars have ended, and people have been raised from the dark age of ignorance and chaos to a new world of enlightnement. But...what if there is no God? No...afterlife? Only dust..and darkness." Opening words of "Judgement Day", last track of "The Omens Of Death".
  • Book Ends: The first and last song have the same gregorian-like chanting ("Charlemagne! Charlemagne!").
  • Cavalry Betrayal: The Gascons do this in "The Betrayal".
  • The Chosen One: Pope Adrian calls Charlemagne The Chosen One to save Christendom.
  • The Chosen People: In By the Sword and the Cross, King Karl of Francia calls himself "The Chosen One / To lead the faithless to the Cross", and the Franks the chosen people by extension.
  • Composite Character: Hunald seems to be a mix of both Hunald himself (Leader of the Gascon Uprising and commander of the ambush on Roland), Ganelon (The Green-Eyed Monster who betrayed Roland) and Duke Lupo (who provided Hunald with the army).
  • Concept Album: Both are based on the life and mythic tales of Charlemagne and his peers.
  • The Conqueror: Hunald is here to take what is his, according to himself.
  • Cover Version: Several of the tracks of the second album are Heavy Metal versions of tracks from the first:
    • King of the Franks - The Portent
    • The Iron Crown of Lombardy - The Seige
    • The Bloody Verdict of Verden - Massacre of the Saxons
    • Starlight - Dawning of a New Age
    • Let Legend Mark Me as the King - The Age of Oneness Out of Diversity
  • Darkest Hour: The Gascon ambush.
  • Dawn of an Era: There's a track called "Dawning Of a New Age" in "Omens Of Death", about the birth of the Holy Roman Empire.
  • Demoted to Extra: Compared to The Song of Roland, Roland has a remarkably small role in this story. This is historically accurate, however.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Oliver and Roland die waging the most epic battle of Charlemagne's reign.
  • The Emperor: Charlemagne.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Oliver on his Last Stand, proudly dying for his King.
  • Face on the Cover: Christopher Lee, seated and crowned as a king.
  • Famed in Story: The central themes of both albums is this; reflecting on the legacy of Charlemagne and on whether Charlemagne's deeds are truly legendary or not when all is said and done.
  • Four-Star Badass: Leader of the Frankish army.
  • Genre Shift: The first album combines Metal and symphonic elements. The second is pure Heavy Metal.
  • Guttural Growler: Hunald once more.
  • Happily Married: Charlemagne and Hildegard.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: "The Ultimate Sacrifice" is mostly from Oliver's perspective, valiantly singing about how Charlemagne must live to lead the franks at the price of his own life. It is very heartfelt.
  • Hero Killer: Hunald, slayer [at least indirectly] of Roland and Oliver.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Played with. The songs often analyze whether he was a bloodthirsty warrior, a holy king, or both.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: We know next to nothing about the historical Hunald besides the fact he rebelled against Charlemagne, but he certaintly wasn't The Antichrist.
    • Historical Badass Upgrade: Once more, we know very little of him, but he almost certainly wasn't as fearsome as "The Devil's Advocate" portrays him (unless the historical Hunald could somehow speak in the Voice of the Legion).
  • Instrumental: "The Bloody Verdict Of Verden"
  • King on His Deathbed: Pepin The Younger has a moment of this in The Omens Of Death, passing his throne to Charlemagne and telling him to build a great Empire, while Charlemagne himself is telling the story from this position.
  • Large Ham: Christopher Lee at his finest, only mildly surpassed by Hunald, whose singing sounds like something taken straight out of a death metal album.
  • Last Stand: Roland and Oliver (Oliver, is, in the fact, the man who sings most of the song) have this in "The Ultimate Sacrifice", as per legend and history.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In "Let Legend Mark Me As The King": "Let legend mark me as the king, of whom future generations will sing!", since this is a Rock Opera about his life recorded centuries after his death.
    • Not to mention Christopher Lee himself is a direct descendant of Charlemagne.
  • Lonely at the Top: Charlemagne notes this after the death of Pepin The Short (thus becoming the King Of The Franks), as his beloved father is dead and his only brother is now firmly opposed to him.
  • Mission from God: To spread Christendom is Charlemagne's, according to himself.
  • Moral Event Horizon: In-Universe. Charlemagne ruminates over fears that the Massacre at Verden might be seen as this for him, and that the event will give him a legacy as a ruthless butcher rather than a brave warrior-king.
  • Narrator: Christina Lee in the first album.
  • The Pope: Pope Adrian serves as the Pope who crowned Charlemagne.
  • Posthumous Character: Charlemagne himself is narrating the entire (second) album from beyond the grave. The first album is framed by him being on his deathbed.
  • Rated M for Manly: It's a heavy metal album focused around the life of the greatest and most powerful warrior-king in the history of Europe and is sung by Christopher Lee.
  • Real Men Love Jesus: Charlemagne, of course.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Charlemagne again.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Charlemagne is pissed by the death of his Peers at Racencroux and immediately wages war against Hunald to bring him down (and succeeds).
  • Rock Opera: An opera about the life of Charlemagne.
  • Rousing Speech: Half of "The Siege" consists of one of these by Pope Adrian, urging Charlemagne to become a protector of all Christendom. It works marvelously.
  • The Siege: A track by the same name details Charlemagne's claim for Constantinople.
  • Title Drop: First album ("The Sword and the Cross") In "The Bloody Verdict of Verdun" ("My companions I trust: The Sword and the Cross!") and in the second album ("The Omens of Death"), first track ("These were omens...The Omens of Death.")
  • Tragic Villain: Charlemagne himself is presented as one, especially in "The Bloody Verdict of Verden." He's incredibly ruthless and brutal in its tactics, but it's through spending most of his life fighting against his enemies, grinding away with nothing to show for it, and desperately wanting to live in peace in a Christian kingdom, where the religious differences and violence have ceased, with his constant fighting even taking him away from his dearly beloved family. This pushes him to what even he considers his Moral Event Horizon.
    Weary grow I of this task which fell
    On the shoulders of a man who yearns to spend
    But one hour with wife and child
    To gaze on faces innocent and mild...
  • Undying Loyalty: The Paladins have this towards Charlemagne in spades.
  • Villain Protagonist: Charlemagne is the protagonist of the albums, but does some incredibly appalling things throughout their course, even questioning his own actions on his deathbed. He serves as protagonist despite his horrid deeds and war crimes, with the album showing in detail exactly why he does these things.
  • "The Villain Sucks" Song: Half of "The Devil's Advocate" (ironically, for the name) is this towards Hunald, with Charlemagne and his army chanting about how they'll kill this fiendish foe.
    • Villain Song: The other half is Hunald himself singing about how he'll butcher Charlemagne and his forces.
  • Voice of the Legion: Hunald.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Oliver towards the Gascons at his Last Stand.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Charlemagne considers himself this, using oftentimes brutal tactics to bring people to God, but unlike most examples of this trope he harbors genuine doubts as to whether or not he went too far.
  • Wham Line: "It is the Gascons! They are attacking our flanks!...They have betrayed us".


Video Example(s):


"The Bloody Verdict of Verden"

From Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross. Sir Christopher Lee narrates a rock opera song about Charlemagne's conflicts with the Saxons, and specifically the reprisals for Widukind's revolt.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / HorribleHistoryMetal

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