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When you think of Iron Maiden, acoustic guitar probably doesn’t come to mind. Throughout their hard-hitting run of classic heavy metal albums in the 1980s, Maiden used the instrument incredibly sparingly, often only to add flavor to a track or to give it room to get louder when the electric guitars finally kicked in. At least until some of their more experimental work in the 2000s, the term “unplugged” really had no meaning for this genre-defining sextet. Yet a die-hard Scottish Maiden fan known to the Internet as “Thingfishy” (real name: Gavin Anderson) has decided that, for almost the band’s entire catalog, the acoustic sound is where it’s at.
Over at Thingfishy’s website, you can scope out a massive, though not quite finished, project: “Maiden Acoustic,” solo classical guitar covers of almost every Iron Maiden song. Though the undertaking seems to have been abandoned several years ago (no songs from 2010’s The Final Frontier appear), an impressive number of tracks from the band’s 1980 self-titled debut through 2006’s A Matter of Life and Death are featured. Unfortunately, many of the mainstays from Maiden’s catalog are missing (there’s no “Trooper,” no “Run to the Hills,” no “Wasted Years”), but Thingfishy has recorded for us, in total, 113 Iron Maiden covers using only a nylon-stringed acoustic guitar and his voice.
Clearly Thingfishy’s a gigantic fan of these heavy metal icons, and Maiden devotees are sure to delight in the sheer scope and inventiveness of the project. Anderson’s a very good guitar player, managing to capture both the intricate dual-lead harmonies and the blazing solos so essential to Iron Maiden’s sound. His decision to use only a nylon-string guitar lends the songs a more naturally bass-y tone than they’d have had with a steel-stringed instrument. It also makes them sound kind of classy, which works well — Maiden’s always had a bit of a baroque flavor to begin with. Further, Thingfishy’s clearly got an ear for detail when it comes to these tunes; he’s always sure to include little ornamentations and background parts from Maiden’s original recordings that casual listeners might not pick up on.
It may go without saying, but not all of these tunes are perfect. On a few of the songs, solo classical guitar alone can’t provide the percussive driving force necessary and the results end up sounding more like mariachi than Maiden. Additionally, Anderson’s vocals aren’t as strong as his guitar playing, although the odds are already a bit stacked against him in that department – Maiden’s own Bruce Dickinson surely possesses one of rock’s marquee voices. Still, the care and attention to detail sunk into this project make up for any technical shortcomings.
Weirdly, in addition to the standard acoustic renditions of each song, Thingfishy has also posted “Chipmunk Versions” of every track, so-called because they’ve been sped up to sound like they came from Alvin & the Chipmunks. Their presence almost leads one to think this project started off as a joke – “wouldn’t it be funny to make this super-serious metal band sound like cute little animals?” — and then became more genuine when its caretaker realized unplugged Maiden could truly be cool. Ultimately they’re a strange side note to the real music, but they’re pretty funny if that’s your bag.
No one can doubt Thingfishy’s cred as an Iron Maiden fan; if nothing else, his “Maiden Acoustic” project ought to have earned him a lifetime of respect in fan circles. While not every song on his site’s a must-listen, he’s done some really cool work interpreting heavy metal classics in a novel way. Any fans of Maiden or classical guitar probably have something to gain from checking out his labors. If you don’t like either of those things, well, how do you feel about Alvin & the Chipmunks?
Check out some of our favorite tracks below, then download many, many more here.