A Heavy Metal Christmas Gift From Sir Christopher Lee - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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A Heavy Metal Christmas Gift From Sir Christopher Lee

Christopher Morley explores the Christmas jams of Christopher Lee...

While Sir Christopher Lee (the man behind the likes of The Wicker Man's Lord Summerisle, three-nippled assassin Scaramanga of The Man With The Golden Gun villainy, Hammer Horror monster roles of the calibre of both Dracula & Frankenstein, a bit of dark wizardry as Saruman in Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings & even a turn as the Sith Lord Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus for another of the directors who grew up watching him, George Lucas, across Attack Of The Clones & then Revenge Of The Sith at least before realising Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious has stitched him up like a kipper all along) may no longer be with us, a search through Spotify for Christmas tunes, or an old fashioned trip to your nearest record shop & a look in the heavy metal section, reveals he left us a gift of a different kind, spoiling us in a whole new way!

And of course it's entirely suited to a voice like his. Two EP's from 2012 & '13 respectively should stick out - A Heavy Metal Christmas first up, featuring his distinctive take on The Little Drummer Boy among other festive classics. Silent Night is there too

Suitably festive follow ups to two albums inspired by Charlemagne, the first of the Holy Roman Emperors - 2010's By The Sword And The Cross & '13's The Omens Of Death. The first of his dabbles with symphonic metal got him the Spirit Of Metal award from Metal Hammer magazine, presented by no less than Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi. Amazingly he was just into his nineties at the time of his first go!

And we have Sabbath to thank for the fact he did so in the first place, Lee having become a metal fan after first hearing them in the Seventies - February 1970 seeing the release of their own self titled debut, which although poorly received at the time has gone on to be regarded as the first true heavy metal record. And in a tenous link, there's a song about Gandalf on it, The Wizard referencing Saruman's old friend & later foe.

Misty morning, clouds in the sky
Without warning, the wizard walks by
Casting his shadow, weaving his spell
Funny clothes, tinkling bell
Never talking
Just keeps walking
spreading his magic......
Far from Rolling Stone man Lester Bangs's initial withering critique.....
"Just like Cream! But worse"
...is just part of his withering attack...
“Despite the murky song titles and some inane lyrics that sound like Vanilla Fudge paying doggerel tribute to Aleister Crowley, the album has nothing to do with spiritualism, the occult, or anything much except stiff recitations of Cream clichés".

“Vocals are sparse, most of the album being filled with plodding bass lines over which the lead guitar dribbles wooden Claptonisms from the master’s tiredest Cream days. They even have discordant jams with bass and guitar reeling like velocitized speedfreaks all over each other’s musical perimeters yet never quite finding synch.”
The early part of the decade at least was similarly fertile for the Sab Four of Ozzy Osbourne, Iommi, Terence “Geezer” Butler & Bill Ward - September '70 bringing with it Paranoid. By the next year they'd practically invented doom, stoner & sludge metal with Master Of Reality, taking the stoner bit quite literally with an opening tape-looped sample of Iommi coughing in the process of sharing a joint with Ozzy!

While they claimed Sweet Leaf's title referred to an advertising slogan for cigarettes, it was in fact all about the supposed benefits of marijuana. Drugs would go on to inform much of the recording process - Volume 4 dedicated to the great COKE-aCola Company & featuring the not exactly Christmassy Snowblind, which paints an all too vivid picture of what was in the tissue boxes they were having delivered during the album's recording. Certainly not Kleenex!

What you get, and what you see.
Things that don't come easily.
Feeling happy in my pain.
Icicles within my brain.
Insert also Ozzy's whisper of “cocaine” here.
Something blowin' in my head.
Winds of ice that soon will spread.
Down to freeze my very soul.
Makes me happy, makes me cold...
Amazingly they soldiered on to round things off with 1973's Sabbath Bloody Sabbath & ' 75's Sabotage before the rot set in.

Long after all that Iommi would sit down for a chat with the late great Lee as a guest interviewer for Metal Hammer - as well as the obligatory heavy stuff there was time for a discussion of the meaning of Christmas itself.
“I have a great belief that things – no matter what they are: music, literature, anything in life – should from time to time surprise people and that’s what I believe in: surprising people. Heavy metal has, since its very beginning, surprised in the best sense of the word, and people all over the world. To be involved in that, and to show people that even now I can still surprise my audience, it’s very important. I’ve spent my entire career taking risks. “
Then, a quick bit of Christian theology/ history.
“Jesus Christ, well, he wouldn’t have been called that at all. In Greek, Christos means, ‘the anointed one,’ so it would have been the Christ. As for the day? Well… it’s more to do with ancient feasts like Beltane. Christmas should be a source of joy and happiness for everyone.”
Amen to that!

His last contribution was Darkest Carols, Faithful Sing from A Heavy Metal Christmas Too, which rather poignantly given his passing also contained a take on My Way.

And so he faced the final curtain, death from heart failure at the age of 93 the last post for this oldest of drummer boys in June 2015.

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