Iron Maiden's Alexander the Great: A Heavy Metal Epic

Iron Maiden is one of the most influential and successful heavy metal bands of all time. Their music is known for its complex compositions, powerful vocals, and historical and literary themes. One of their most ambitious and impressive songs is Alexander the Great from their 1986 album Somewhere in Time.

Alexander the Great is an eight-minute epic that tells the story of the legendary Macedonian king and conqueror who ruled over a vast empire in the 4th century BC. The song was written by bassist and founder Steve Harris, who was fascinated by ancient history and mythology.

The song begins with a quote from Alexander's father, Philip II of Macedon, who allegedly said to his son: "My son, ask for thyself another kingdom / For that which I leave is too small for thee". This sets the tone for the song, which chronicles Alexander's rise to power and his military campaigns across Asia and Africa.

The song features a long instrumental intro that builds up tension and anticipation. The verses describe Alexander's achievements and battles in chronological order, such as his victory over the Persians at the Battle of Issus, his crossing of the Hellespont and the Indus rivers, his founding of Alexandria in Egypt, and his death at Babylon at the age of 32.

The chorus repeats the refrain:

"Alexander the Great, His name struck fear into hearts of men, Alexander the Great Became a legend amongst mortal men"

The song also highlights Alexander's ambition, courage, intelligence, and charisma, as well as his flaws, such as his arrogance, cruelty, and paranoia. The song ends with a solemn outro that reflects on Alexander's legacy and mortality.

The song is a masterpiece of musical storytelling, as it combines historical accuracy with artistic expression. The music matches the mood and pace of the lyrics, creating a dynamic and dramatic atmosphere. The song showcases Iron Maiden's musical skills and creativity, especially guitarist Adrian Smith's melodic solos and singer Bruce Dickinson's soaring vocals.

The song is also a testament to Iron Maiden's passion for history and culture, as they pay tribute to one of the most influential figures in world history. The song educates and entertains the listeners, while also inspiring them to learn more about Alexander's life and achievements.

Alexander the Great is one of Iron Maiden's most popular and memorable songs. It is a heavy metal epic that celebrates the spirit of adventure and exploration. It is also a rare example of a song that has never been performed live by the band until 2023, when they finally played it during their Future Past tour. 

Giovanni Gagliano

Passionate about music I wrote my first article for "Given To Rock" in 2012, reaching now 30K global followers. I am also a musician, gigging around London.

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