Lee, who is credited with 266 film roles since 1948, is preparing for the early spring release of Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross, a concept album about the life of The Father of Europe and First Holy Roman Emperor which he describes as “symphonic metal.”

In a Jan. 3 YouTube post, the actor details his long relationship with heavy metal, including his work with New York sword and sorcery rockers Manowar and this collaboration with Italian power metal band Rhapsody of Fire (aka Thundercross and Rhapsody), “The Magic of the Wizard’s Dream.”

During the five-and-a-half minute video message about the new album, the former Hammer horror star also outlines the plot and reveals that he is “actually descended from Charlemagne” through the Carandini branch of his family.

“It’s fascinating for me that at this stage in my life, people are beginning to look upon me as a metal singer,” Lee said. “Symphonic metal – but nonetheless metal.

“And judging, as I said earlier, from the huge number of hits on the Internet from the small number of clips that have been shown, everybody is very excited about this. I certainly am, because it’s very unexpected.”

You sure said a mouthful there, Sir Christopher. I’m a lifelong fan of horror movies and a huge fan of Lee. Yet I’ve somehow remained completely in the dark when it comes to his forays into music, including this zippy little number, “Name Your Poison,” which was written by Richard O’Brien of “Rocky Horror Show” fame for the 1983 Alan Arkin film “The Return of Captain Invincible”

All I’ve been able to dig up on Charlemagne are the few clips posted at its official MySpace page, but the folks at MTV News have apparently heard the entire thing.

MTV’s James Montgomery describes the epic work as “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.’”

It’s not clear yet whether Charlemagne will remain just an album or end up a full-blown stage musical – one clip on its MySpace page is titled “Rehearsal of Stage Musical Version” – but the CD is scheduled for release March 15 on the Cadiz Music label.

Listening to the available clips, I’m somehow reminded of “Monty Python’s Spamalot” and I swear if it weren’t Christopher Lee we’re talking about here, I’d bet good money that this was a world-class joke.

“So to my surprise, and indeed great pleasure, I’ve suddenly found that there seems to be another string to my bow,” Lee said. “And now we shall wait – we shall wait and see. But my belief is that in March, when this comes out as a complete album, it’s going to be sensational. So keep your eyes out for that – and your ears as well, of course. I think you’ll be thrilled. I know I am.”

Does anyone else suddenly have the feeling they’re trapped inside a “Spinal Tap” movie?

Watch Christopher Lee’s message to fans about Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross.