Christopher Lee isn't actually a wizard, he just plays one in the movies (and sort of looks like one in real life, now that we think of it). But still, that hasn't stopped him from diving headlong into the mystical, magickal world of Wizard Rock, with a full-blown symphonic concept album he's calling Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross.
And, yes, we know the real Charlemagne wasn't technically a wizard (just the subject of an awesome Steely Dan song and most of the Hold Steady's Separation Sunday) but Lee's album is still a prime example of bearded, bong-glazed Wizard Rock, full of trilling strings and rolling timpani drums, songs with titles like "The Iron Crown of Lombardy" and "The Bloody Verdict of Verden," and Lee's booming voice, which, much like the legendary Sword of Erdrick, is strong enough to cleave even the heartiest of steel. Not to mention, you know, the dude played Saruman in the "Lord of the Rings" movies.
All of which is our way of saying that the By the Sword and the Cross kicks serious ass. And it's a welcome edition to the Wizard Rock canon (even if Lee himself describes the album as "symphonic metal"). So in celebration of this momentous achievement in sorcery (and rocking), we've donned our mystical robes and created a list of some other really great Wizard Rock albums. Grab your magic staff and read on.
Uriah Heep, Demons and Wizards
Featuring "The Wizard," a truly awesome song about a titular "Wizard of a thousand kings …[with] a cloak of gold and eyes of fire." Truly Heep's most beardy album — which is saying something, considering they'd also release albums called The Magician's Birthday and Return to Fantasy.
Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin IV
It's got a mysterious — decidedly wizardly — old man on the front cover, the infamous "Hermit" illustration on the inside, plus songs like "The Battle of Evermore" and "Misty Mountain Hop," which reference J.R.R. Tolkien's work. Also, it totally kicks ass. Oh, and this is the one where the guys in Zeppelin decided to replace their names with mystical, rune-y symbols, too.
Wizzard, Wizzard Brew
The debut from a group of glam oddballs who very nearly had the Christmas #1 in England with 1973's "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day" (they lost out to Slade's "Merry Xmas Everybody"), Brew is magical stuff, and Wizzard — headed up by former ELO member Roy Wood (who donned a long white wig and sort of looked like Edgar Winter wearing face paint) and featuring a veritable army of musicians on stage — were a delightfully odd, epically hairy band. For proof of this, check out a video of them performing "Christmas" from some British show in the '70s.
Sorcery, Stunt Rock
Okay, so basically all you need to know about these guys is that they named their band Sorcery, and that they employed two members to play "Merlin, the King of Wizards" and "The Prince of Darkness." Their finest moment was the 1978 film "Stunt Rock," which features Australian stuntman Grant Page aiding the band in their live shows. It's readily available on DVD, and chance are, if you're reading this, you've gotten high and watched it.
Manowar, Battle Hymns
The debut album from Auburn, New York's finest (and probably only) progenitors of proggy, truly epic Wizard Rock, Battle Hymns features narration by Orson-freaking-Wells on one track and set the standard for everything Manowar continues to do to this day (including setting Guinness World Records for "the loudest performance of all time"). On later albums, they'd start filling their album with 30-minute suites about Achilles, but their Immortal revolution starts here.
Harry and the Potters, Harry and the Potters
Proof that not all Wizard Rockers have to be hirsute, Harry and the Potters are the self-proclaimed "founders of the wizard-rock genre," though in their case they're talking about wizards of the J.K. Rowling variety. On their debut album — which is inspired by the first four "Potter" books — these squeaky-clean Massachusetts kids sing songs like "I am a Wizard," "Wizard Chess" and "The Fourth Triwizard Champion," which is good enough for us.