R.I.P., Christopher Lee, actor and heavy metal hero

Christopher Lee's foreboding baritone lent itself perfectly to a heavy metal setting

Any actor who played a definitive Dracula and Saruman in "Lord of the Rings" would surely be welcomed in the realm of heavy metal fans. But Sir Christopher Lee, the estimable British actor who died Monday, is a particular hero to fans of heavy rock. 

Lee, a lifelong musician, had dabbled in vocal performance and recorded a track for the score of his 1973 film "The Wicker Man." But Lee's foreboding baritone and arch screen presence turned out to lend itself perfectly to a heavy metal setting.

The actor, beloved for his turns in both classic and B-movie horror, cut his first metal album at the age of 90: "Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross." 

The album, an operatic concept piece recounting the life of the first Holy Roman Emperor, remains a cult favorite in metal, and earned him a "Spirit of Metal" award at the 2010 Metal Hammer Golden Gods award ceremony (presented by no less a figure than Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath).

Judas Priest guitarist Richie Faulkner, a fellow legend of British metal, told the site Loudwire that Lee was "a very metal guy, he embodies the whole spirit of metal.”

Lee followed it up with a 2013 sequel, "Charlemagne: The Omens of Death." But Lee is perhaps most adored in metal for his exquisitely droll "A Heavy Metal Christmas" recordings, where he lent his gravitas to some magnificently silly holiday originals.

The EPs even yielded a notable Billboard-charting single: 2013's "Jingle Hell" debuted on the Hot 100 chart at 22, good enough to make him the oldest living artist to break onto that chart.

Lee's delightful, flame-spattered video for "The Bloody Verdict of Verden" might not rank in the cinematic pantheon with his more serious films, but it will warm the hearts of any metal fan saddened by his passing.

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