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“Number of the Beast” is one of the most iconic songs in the world of heavy metal. For many a young metal head, it is one of the first heavy metal songs they have probably heard when becoming introduced to Maiden or the genre. I’ve never been huge on the song. Whenever the song played on the full length or my Edward the Great compilation, I found myself hopping to the next song as soon as possible. But when on its own, “Number of the Beast” is a monster of a song.
The song has all the important key ingredients that make a timeless rock and roll classic. The eerie narration at the start sets a damning mood. The actual instrument starts off in flames with the timeless guitar riff we are too familiar with. Catchy lyrics from the get go, hooks throughout, a blasphemous chanty chorus and two of the most recognizable solos of any rock or metal song. There isn’t much more you can ask for.
The original single features a live recording of “Remember Tomorrow” with Bruce at the helm. I have the fortunate pleasure of owning the 2005 re-release. This version doesn’t include the live rendition of the Paul Di’Anno fronted classic, but instead, two recent live recordings. Recorded in 2002 at Brixton Academy in London, live versions of “Number of the Beast” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name” are the spiritual B-sides of this single. Both songs have been recorded numerous times over the years, so their inclusion on this release and not the original live track is perplexing. The songs were recorded at the Clive Burr MS fund raising event. A noble cause, but even so, better live recordings of these songs can be found elsewhere. “Hallowed Be Thy Name” is performed and mixed better out of the two. The snare drum in the live rendition of “Number of the Beast” is overbearing, taking away from what the other members are doing.
Overall, it's great to see the juxtaposition between the studio and live recording. It’s a feel good moment hearing the fans sing along to all the words, showcasing the legacy the song has left twenty years later from when it was originally released in 1982. “Number of the Beast” will go down as Iron Maiden’s trademark song. Undoubtedly, future metal heads will be chanting “666! The Number of the Beast!” for decades to come.
Those after a headbanging fest of metal mania need look no further than this early single from Iron Maiden. Containing two of the band’s greatest songs featuring the then-new vocalist Bruce Dickinson, it constitutes an eleven-minute heavy metal masterwork.
The main track of the single is among the best of the identically named album. From its unmistakable spoken intro to Bruce Dickinson’s awe-inspiring scream, “The Number of the Beast” screams classic Maiden. Several excellent riffs run throughout the song behind its pseudo-Satanic lyrics. A jaw-dropping solo section (the second-best of Maiden’s career) further entices the listener, as does the following bass fill. Dickinson gives one of his career-defining vocal performances, while the rest of the band leaves absolutely nothing more to be desired.
Next up is an absolutely amazing live rendition of the classic “Remember Tomorrow.” Dickinson takes Di’Anno’s vocal lines and completely makes them his own, carrying the ballad in a way the former singer couldn’t even begin to emulate. His operatic delivery contributes a touch of grandeur to the song as well as making it even darker in style. This was back in 1981, while he was in his absolute prime, meaning his screams could still break the sound barrier. Just listen to that final shriek!
The rest of the band is excellent as ever. Whoever produced this did an excellent job; everything can be heard clearly without any one instrument overpowering another. Things are even more crystal clear than in studio, and that’s something to brag about on a live number. In fact, the instrumentalists’ performances actually beat out those on the studio version, the enhanced production doing wonders for the solos and riffs, not to mention the powerful bass guitar. Maiden abounds with all-around energy, making for what is probably the best version of this song available.
This single is absolutely essential for Maiden collectors. Derek Riggs’s masterful cover art combined with the incredible music contained within makes for an engrossing experience among Maiden’s all-time best. Under no circumstances should this be missed.