Arts, Culture & Media

A heavy metal-singing Italian Monk

Yes, there really was a singing nun. She was from Belgium -- and she had a global hit of her own 45 years ago. The times have changed. That was the Singing Nun in 1963. This is the singing monk in 2008.

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Friar Cesare Bonizzi is a 62-year-old Capuchin monk from northern Italy. His fans know him as "Fratello Metallo". That's "Brother Metal," as in heavy metal. "The World's" William Troop profiles "Fratello Metallo" on Global Hit.

Fratello Metallo has been making heavy metal music for more than a decade. He says he was inspired to embark on this unusual career path after attending a Metallica concert in Italy several years ago.

The friar's songs cover a lot of topics. But -- yes -- religion is a constant theme. Here, he sings about the mysteries of life, God and Mary, Mother of Jesus.

His religious lyrics have upset some metal heads in Italy -- they say Fratello Metallo should keep his Catholicism inside the monastery.

But the scratchy-voiced monk also has plenty of fans. That's Brother Cesare on stage at a "Gods of Metal" mega-concert held this summer in Bologna. He's telling the audience that he's not there as a priest -- but as a fellow metal-head.

Fratello Metallo was given the honor of opening the concert -- ahead of much more famous acts like Judas Priest. That put Fratello Metallo firmly in the national spotlight. Time and again, he appeared on Italian TV, answering questions like ... what does it feel like to sing heavy metal songs?

“I feel the same thing I feel when I'm at the altar or at the pulpit, he said.”

And that is -- I feel the urge to communicate something meaningful to the people I have in front of me... in this case through high-energy music. One of the things Fratello Metallo tries to communicate to his audience is to stay away from drugs and alcohol.

This song is called Bacco -- after the Greek god of wine. The lyrics are straightforward. Wine makes you happy -- he sings -- but alcohol is just a drug that messes up your liver and your life. And in the end -- he concludes -- alcohol is death.

That song is on Fratello Metallo's latest CD -- Misteri -- which came out in Italy this summer. So far the singing monk hasn't taken his act to any other countries. Perhaps Fratello Metallo's appeal is unique to Italy.

PRI's "The World" is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. "The World" is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston.

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