Last week it was announced that leading atheist Professor Richard Dawkins is one of the guests on the upcoming Nightwish album – which is a bit left-field to say the least. But it got us thinking about other spoken word appearances in the metal world – from Brian Blessed to Henry Rollins.
Manowar – Dark Avenger (Battle Hymns, 1982) Narrator: Orson Welles
“We get hold of his manager, sent Orson the lyrics, and Orson read them and blew his mind!” boasted Ross The Boss in a 1982 interview, explaining how Hollywood’s most celebrated auteur came to be recording lines like “Let thee not pass, Abaddon!” for the New Yorkers’ debut. “His voice is so visual, especially the words he said, it just takes you to another planet.”
Iron Maiden – Number Of The Beast (Number Of The Beast, 1982) Narrator: Barry Clayton
The boys wanted Vincent Price to intone the familiar Book Of Revelations intro, but after the horror movie legend reportedly demanded £25,000 they gave the job to little-known voice actor Barry Clayton (who promptly dubbed himself ‘Vincent Cut-Price’), whose pitch-perfect reading could scarcely be bettered. A pioneering figure in black radio, Barry’s biggest subsequent role was the narrator in Count Duckula!
**Motörhead – Stone Deaf In The USA (Rock ‘N’ Roll, 1987) Narrator: **Michael Palin
Monty Python star Palin co-owned one of the studios used by Lemmy and his new-look four-piece on their eighth studio album. As Motörhead were big fans of the seminally silly comedy troupe, they asked if the nicest Python could pop down and improvise a quick mock-sermon (entitled Blessing on certain reissues) for the end of side one. “He showed up dressed in this perfect 1940s cricketer outfit,” remembers Lemmy in his autobiography.
**Tool – Bottom (Undertow, 1993) Narrator: **Henry Rollins
In gratitude for Rollins Band lending Tool crucial early tour support, the LA prog-metal heavyweights offered Hank this “heavy rock poetry” section written and spoken live by Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan but extensively rewritten by Rollins, who replaced Keenan’s wounded vulnerability with his own brand of confrontational intensity. “It’s nice to see a band aggressively going for musical excellence and really delivering,” Rollins said of Tool in 1994.
**Cradle Of Filth – Haunted Shores (Dusk…And Her Embrace, 1996) Narrator: **Cronos
Cradle have secured the talents of many great voice artists over the years, including Hammer horror scream queen Ingrid Pitt and Hellraiser’s Pinhead, Doug Bradley. But surely the most rousing and effective is this ‘rallying war speech’ by Cronos, frontman with Geordie thrash inventors Venom, whose portentous valediction plays out over clashing swords and peals of thunder.
**The Gathering – Analog Park/Herbal Movement (if then else, 2001) Narrator: **Willie Rushton
Although the eccentric English humorist and raconteur Rushton died in 1996, his talking-book rendition of Alice In Wonderland warmly impressed itself between tunes on the Dutch quintet’s sixth album in 2001. Willie’s fruity, mellow tones were double-tracked to appropriately disorientating effect as he narrates the sequence of a caterpillar smoking a hookah, a perfect intro to the self-explanatory Herbal Movement.
Rhapsody – Unholy Warcry (Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II – The Dark Secret, 2004) Narrator: Sir Christopher Lee
The esteemed knight of the screen – immortal portrayer of Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Mummy, the Dark Lord Sauron, Count Dooku, Scaramanga, Sherlock Holmes, Lord Summerisle and hundreds of others over a near-70-year career – so enjoyed his experience narrating the Italian power metallers’ Dark Secret saga that he formed his own symphonic metal concept about his ancestor, Emperor Charlemagne.
Pythia – Army Of The Damned (Beneath The Veiled Embrace, 2009) Narrator: Brian Blessed
This London-based Nightwish-esque gothic power metal sextet (featuring a vocalist from glamorous plainsong collective Mediaeval Babes) managed to secure the highly coveted voice of ace actor-adventurer Brian Blessed to read Siegfried Sassoon’s bleak First World War poem Suicide In The Trenches, with a measured blend of sympathetic delicacy and the rambunctious volume of his trademark Prince Voltan roar.
**Winds Of Plague – The Warrior Code (Against The World, 2011) Narrator: **The Ultimate Warrior
The former WWF Heavyweight Champion’s post-wrestling career in motivational speaking ensured maximum impact for his snarling, slavering proclamations about “the heart of a warrior that will one day speak through the tombstones atop my grave” on the Californian symphonic deathcore crew’s fourth album. Sadly the Ultimate Warrior died three years later, but as he says, “I will do in my life, what will live forever.”
**Theory Of A Deadman – Savages (Savages, 2014) Narrator: **Alice Cooper
“Alice was great; he’s a pro,” gushes TOAD frontman Tyler Connelly of the Coop’s sardonically sneered rant over the title track of the band’s fifth album, which premiered this week. “He’d never even seen the lyrics before. He’s like, ‘I got this.’ It’s like a one-take wonder with this guy, he’s great.” Alice recorded the piece at his radio studio, producer Howard Benson overseeing the session via Skype.