10 Iron Maiden Songs That Would Sound Awesome With an Orchestra
Drummer Nicko McBrain's recent musings on Iron Maiden performing a concert together with an orchestra got us to thinking about which of the band's epic songs would be best enhanced with string, woodwind and brass sections.
McBrain, in an October 2015 radio interview, said his inspiration came from Deep Purple's discography. “I'd like to see us do like what Jon Lord did years and years back with the London [Symphony Orchestra], when he played the [Royal] Albert Hall,” McBrain said.
Now, we’re fairly certain that McBrain's comments were made on the spur of the moment, and there's no actual evidence of such plans just yet. Still, we can’t help but feel such an enterprise would be a smashing success. So, just in case the group needs some help coming up with the set list, here's our rundown of 10 Iron Maiden Songs That Would Sound Awesome with an Orchestra.
This 18-minute behemoth from the band's most recent album is a fine place to begin our list of Iron Maiden songs that would sound awesome with an orchestra. Not only will its already abundant orchestrations be given their due in a live setting, but songwriter Bruce Dickinson could get some tips on his piano playing from a classically trained professional. (Hey, we’re just echoing Nicko McBrain’s opinion here.)
“Fear of the Dark” is the kind of Iron Maiden song that’s sort of accidentally orchestral by nature. So, it's easy to imagine capable classically trained musicians morphing this into a cathartic colossus on the scale of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” or Holst’s “Mars: the Bringer of War.” The appearance of overweight soprano opera singers wearing horned helmets is optional ... but welcome, of course, as there are bound to be several audience members sporting that same get up.
If resurrecting neglected Iron Maiden gems is indeed one of the primary goals of McBrain’s proposed symphonic liaison, then we can’t think of few more deserving candidates. Not only would the high melodic content and malleable arrangements of the criminally underestimated “Prodigal Son” be perfectly suited for the occasion, the song’s performance would surely send diehard followers into apoplectic fits of ecstasy.
This majestic capper – with its mysterious, interweaving bass and guitar build-up, head-banging bolero riffs and serpentine, vaguely Arabian melodies – is Piece of Mind’s most eligible candidate for the orchestral treatment. In fact, a symphonic reassessment may have been exactly what was needed back in 1983 in order to get science fiction author Frank Herbert’s blessing for this song based on his classic Dune series.
To Nicko McBrain’s point, it’s both a shame and rather unbelievable that Iron Maiden has never once performed “Alexander the Great” in concert, so that ambition alone should be enough to justify a first encounter between the band and a symphony orchestra. Talk about killing two birds with one stone … and we haven't even gotten to “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” yet. (Bird, Stone. Get it? )
“Paschendale” is not only one of the band’s greatest new millennium creations, it also boasts a wealth of surrounding orchestration – both on record and on stage, as the remarkable 2008 performance below will show. Just think what a conductor could do with this much musical dynamism and a full complement of classical instruments. The physical exertions needed to see it through would probably be the end of him.
If Iron Maiden were to pick just one of their albums to perform from start to finish with an orchestra, our recommendation would be this musically flowing and conceptually unified project. Still, since one song is all we can find room for at the moment, our pick is Dave Murray and Steve Harris’ moody, multi-sectioned “The Prophecy,” with its wonderful melancholy acoustic coda certain to be a highlight of such an event.
You just know that any collaboration between Iron Maiden and a bunch of instrument-wielding penguins would necessitate a mandatory rendition of the band’s super-sized magnum opus “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” in all of its bloated, eclectic glory. In fact, given the striking visions evoked by Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic poem, the band may want to consider hiring a tandem theatrical ensemble to enact its story on stage. Now, that would be a sight.
Our list of Iron Maiden Songs That Would Sound Awesome With an Orchestra wouldn't be complete without the band’s signature epic composition. “Hallowed Be Thy Name” pretty much set the benchmark for all of Iron Maiden’s future musical ambitions. Just picture in your mind when the band and orchestra achieve a finely synchronized crescendo around this song’s galloping mid-section and tell us this wouldn’t represent a historical crossover moment for the ages.
What song could be more deserving of the symphony orchestra treatment? It rates both thematically and because "Phantom of the Opera" was the first indication of Iron Maiden’s quasi-progressive songwriting ambitions, despite the sonic limitations imposed by their production-challenged 1980 debut. In fact, Steve Harris may even want to extend an olive branch to former Maiden singer Paul Di’Anno, so he could play the part of phantom. If that doesn't work out, Eddie could no doubt tackle the role with conviction and aplomb, as well.
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