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Paul Di'Anno is out, and in comes the legendary air raid siren Bruce Dickinson. The result is the first album from Iron Maiden's golden era. But Bruce Dickinson isn't the only thing awesome about The Number of the Beast, this album was the first with the classic lineup (Clive is still here, Nicko would come later, but Clive is just as good as Nicko, they just have different styles). This album gave Iron Maiden lots of fame with not only the groundbreaking awesomeness of the music, but the famous controversy surrounding it. Even today this record is a huge title and is regarded as one of the greatest of all time. Does it live up to its reputation? Oh yeah it does, it is not THE greatest but it sure is up there.
The songs on The Number of the Beast are a bit more unique than they were on the previous two albums. We see a lot more skill and depth to the songwriting and song structuring on songs such as "22 Acacia Avenue" and the ridiculously epic "Hallowed Be Thy Name". We heard this a little bit on songs like "Phantom of the Opera" but it really starts to grow here and on Piece of Mind, and it blossoms on the Powerslave album. While Powerslave had a near prog rock element to the majority of its song structures, this album has more of a classic heavy metal, almost NWOBHM feel to it. There are some fast tracks such as "Invaders", "Gangland" and "Run to the Hills" and some slower atmospheric tracks like "Children of the Damned". The riff structures on here can sometimes get a little unique too, while "The Prisoner" and the title track were more straightforward, the riffs from "Invaders" are very complex, as are some sections of "22 Acacia Avenue". "Children of the Damned" begins as a sort of softer, clean guitar led ballad that turns into a wicked awesome lyrical section and one of my favorite solos ever (even though it is quite simple). "Hallowed Be Thy Name" is arguably the greatest heavy metal song of all time, with very few songs coming close to this. You must hear this song for yourself to really understand, as words don't really do it justice. All of the songs on here are very strong, with the exception of "Gangland", which is a decent effort but gets repetitive and sometimes annoying. I also feel kinda bad for "Gangland", as most people (including me sometimes) skip it just to hear "Hallowed be thy Name". Also, my only other gripe is that the final chorus of "The Prisoner" drags on a little bit too long, while it is still a very good song.
The instrumentation is well, its Iron effing Maiden, do I really have to say anything? Because it is amazing. Adrian and Dave are arguably the best twin lead guitar duo out there, and this album was only the beginning of their legacy. Even though Steve writes the majority of the music, that doesn't take anything away from their talent and skill. Clive Burr has always been one of my favorite metal drummers, he is not just a hammering meh machine like so many other drummers in the metal world, he actually had style and creativity to his playing. His drumming on "Invaders", "The Prisoner" and "Gangland" are all highlights of his drumming on the album. We all know how good Bruce is, who gave Iron Maiden the vocalist they deserved (and badly needed), but let me get to the star of the album: Steve Harris. Not only did he write all of the best songs on here (music and lyrics), but he did it basically single handedly. Not only did he play a massive part in the composition of the music on the album, but this is one of the greatest bass performances of all time. The bassline from "Invaders" is just spectacular, it took me a week to figure out each lick and fill he played on this song alone. He also began developing his famous sweeping hammer-on octave shape fill (fellow bass players know what I mean) that is very present on the verses of this track. You also hear outstanding bass work on "Children of the Damned" and especially the title track. Bass players please check this album out and learn how to play it, your playing will definitely benefit from the pure skill these basslines have. The production is outstanding as well, the guitars are clean and punchy, the vocals clear, the drums with just enough reverb, and the bass is loud and pronounced and supports the music perfectly.
Overall, The Number of the Beast really is an excellent record full of a great assortment of classic heavy metal. Some of the tracks from here are some of heavy metal's greatest, and even non-metal heads know "Run to the Hills" and the title track quite well. Honestly, if "Gangland" would have been cut in favor of "Total Eclipse" this record would be getting maybe a 98% score from me, but "Gangland" was chosen to be included among the original release despite it being weaker. The version I own includes both tracks which is pretty cool, and I would recommend snagging it. Regardless of the medium you own it on, definitely purchase this album. The Number of the Beast is and will remain one of heavy metal's most iconic and badass albums and it more than deserves to be in your collection . Plus it's got one of coolest album covers ever!
When the average member of the general public hears the words heavy metal one of the first names they should be able to reel off associated with the genre is Iron Maiden. This band has been around now for several decades and continues to influence many a band to this day. Albums such as “The Number Of The Beast”, “Powerslave” and “Piece Of Mind” are rarely missing from people's lists of their favorite metal albums and the band are seldom left out of a list relating to favorite bands.
Out of all of their albums the most popular would be The “Number Of The Beast”. This garnered the band a lot of attention through its controversial title track and the two highly regarded songs “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and “Run To The Hills”. It served as the perfect album for vocalist Bruce Dickinson to begin his career with the band on a high note and is one of a number of releases that many would say could contest to be the best metal releases ever. From the fast paced introduction of Invaders this album reeks heavily of grandeur and marvel and it delivers this spectacularly. Eight songs make up this forty minute slice of greatness and every one of them is more than enough to keep the listener interested.
Not one member of the band could be considered dispensable and nor do they slack off for “The Number Of The Beast”. The drumming is intense and varied from the quick beats that are pressed upon the listener by the opening song Invaders or the slower title track. Long before the band employed a trinity of guitarists; they proved their ability to create a well-paced and masterfully crafted release with just the standard two. Both Dave Murray and Adrian Smith contribute heavily to the overall sound of this release as should be expected from a metal release. Whether they are playing the slower clean guitar sections to “Children Of The Damned” or the lightning fast soloing found on “Hallowed Be Thy Name”; the performance of the duo never dips in quality.
The bass performance on “The Number Of The Beast” is as good as has come to be expected from Steve Harris who wrote the majority of the songs that make up this release single handedly. His rumbling bass lines are constantly audible and contain a strong amount of musical intelligence behind them. The bass to this release does not follow the generic formula of following every note of the guitars as has become the norm of metal in recent years but actually endeavors to break free of these chains. “Hallowed Be Thy Name” is Harris' best contribution to this album both as a writer and performer. It is a seven minute long streak of genius opening with some bells ringing and developing as the song progresses into an absolutely epic creation with many speed changes and some of the best riffs found on the album.
It was on this release that the air raid siren himself Bruce Dickinson was accepted into the fold and stands tall as one of his greatest achievements to date. Whilst his predecessor put in some strong performances; Bruce easily shows himself to be a marvelous replacement and far out strips him. This album even continues a successor to an earlier song that allows Bruce to continue the story of a prostitute named Charlotte started on the song “Charlotte The Harlot”. The song that arguably makes the best use of Bruce's operatic vocals is “The Prisoner”. This is the first of three songs that stretch over the six minute mark and never does it let up in intensity. The energy that is spilled into the vocals as the drums and bass gallop forward before the chorus is absolutely incredible but it is during the chorus where Bruce really displays his strengths. He holds some fantastic notes for a couple of seconds at a time before ending on a sharp note by barking the word "out" with a lot of conviction.
“The Number Of The Beast” contains four tracks that are often considered to be among the band’s finest (Run To The Hills, the title track, “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and “Children Of The Damned”) but the other songs that make up the album do not interrupt the flow of the album either. The aforementioned album opener Invaders kicks things off to a great start with a fast pace and a collection of stupendous riffs and “The Prisoner” continues this as mentioned. “22 Acacia Avenue” is the song that is most in line with the band’s previous material both in the nature of the introduction and the chorus as well as the fact that it continues the story of Charlotte. The only song of the original eight (“Total Eclipse” was later added on a re-release) that could be considered filler is “Gangland”. Following on from “Run To The Hills”; this song merely feels like a bridge between that song and the monumental closer “Hallowed Be Thy Name”. As the second shortest track on the album it can merely be seen as an interlude but has some good riffs as well.
The lyrical content on “The Number Of The Beast” is also absolutely top notch and is arguably one of its strongest points. Never on this release will you find a generic line and there is not an unnecessary lyrical contribution in sight. Each song’s lyrics feels focused and draws up a complete portrait of what they aim to portray; be it Norse warfare (“Invaders”) or an escaping prisoner (“The Prisoner”). The peak of the quality in the lyrical content on “The Number Of The Beast” is on “Hallowed Be Thy Name” which stands as just another reason why it could be seen as the finest thing on the album. It tells the story of a prisoner’s final moments before execution and the thoughts that pass through his head and has a lot of emotion behind it whilst being written in a tight fashion.
“Tears fall, but why am I crying?
After all, I’m not afraid of dying,
Don’t I believe that there never is an end?
As the guards march me out to the court yard,
Somebody cries from a cell “God be with you”.
If there’s a God then why has he let me go?”
The song contains deep religious lyrics that question religion and the morality of both the prisoner’s actions and guard’s actions without ever throwing any direct accusations. They are, in my mind at least, some of the best lyrics in all of metal and stand testament to how good a lyricist Steve Harris actually is.
“The Number Of The Beast” is rightfully considered to be a metal classic in my opinion. This is an album that has both a tight instrumental performance and a marvelous vocal performance from Dickinson. The lyrical content is strong and the guitar work intense; with the bass and drums complimenting it perfectly. Bruce Dickinson was the perfect choice of a vocalist for this style of music and this is the definition of the word “masterpiece”.
Nostalgia! I remember I first heard Iron Maiden playing a Tony Hawk game, I had to be about 13. The soundtrack featured Number of the Beat (As well as Eddie as an unlockable skater and Maiden decks), and holy shit. At this point my metal credentials was basically the fact that I owned the Black Album, and had heard Motorhead’s Ace of Spades. But that fucking scream. I was both floored and sold. The next time I was out, I went to the rock section, found the iron maiden CDs and picked up Number of the Beast. I did that thing where you straight for the song you heard, and then began playing it from the beginning. My mind was abosolutely blown for almost all of it, barring two songs - which I’ll get back to. It was all downhill from there; heavy metal is one hell of a genre.
Number of The Beast is one of those metal albums that every metalhead should be familiar with on some level. It’s a classic of the genre, and introduces one of the most recognized singers of metal, Bruce Dickinson. And with a new singer came a change in style. Paul Di’Anno Maiden was a great band, with some real grit. Paul sort of had a punky “kick your ass” attitude, but could also pull off beautiful vocals for songs like Remember Tomorrow or Strange World. Unfortunately, due to his habits and the fact that we all know he sort of DOES live a punk rock lifestyle AND beat the shit out of people, especially women or something. And benefit fraud. But Bruce brought a cleaner, almost operatic voice to the fold. And to compliment this, the band also became, much like an opera, more over the top. This is the beginning of the definitive Iron Maiden style. The galloping riffs, the high range vocals, the literature and historical lyrics. Not much to be said about running from the law anymore, or bedding women. Ok, well, maybe in the early 90’s.
Subtlety is gone as well. There really are none of the little things that made previous albums interesting. Songs like Remember Tomorrow just don’t work for this new Maiden, with its quiet bass intro, as one guitar plays the main riff, and the other adds quiet melodic enhancements to the song, and the drums sneak in soft drum fills, just before Di’Anno hits a high note, and the band hits us with enough energy to make the song more powerful, but not so much that it doesn’t fit in with the soft side of the song. This sort of subtlety is gone, in favor of making the music louder and more in your face. This isn’t necessarily a bad direction to go in, but it does lend credence to the argument that a lot of Maiden songs sound the same. While Maiden may not be the AC/DC of heavy metal (I’d say Motorhead), they do have a pretty standard formula. While they do try to add things to music with synthesizers or orchestra sections, that definitive Maiden style doesn’t change a whole lot. This album is the first to really show it off, and may be the biggest perpetrator. The intro, a fun, catchy and great speedy song with a great vocal melody, really sets the tone for much of the rest of the album. The Prisoner, the famous Run to the Hills, the sequel to Charlotte the Harlot, 22 Acacia Avenue, and the title track all really show off the maiden formula. They’re catchy, and have that classic Maiden galloping, driving beat, and the signature soaring vocals. The downside is that within the same year of me falling in love with t his album, I lent it to a friend, who was not nearly as into it, and upon its return said he felt like every song was Number of the Beast. Realistically, this can be seen as a valid argument. There is probably not enough true experimentation on this album, or hell in Maiden’s discography for that matter. They’ve settled into a particular sound, and they’re sticking to it, like it or not. Anyway, moving on…
Children of the Damned is a rather epic song, although it pales in comparison to the far more epic Hallowed Be Thy Name, which I think if you aren’t familiar with, you need to turn in your metal card, because it’s one of the best epics this band has ever done. Both of these songs start off fairly slow, and finish in with some great speed metal. Children of the Damned features a really cool section near the end, leading directly into one of my favorite glory notes Bruce has done. And that says something.
The only two songs on this album I never got were the quick, almost speed metal Gangland, which just never did it for me, and Total Eclipse. In another review which also agreed that this album was overrated, it was called into question that maybe this song is so coldly received because it wasn’t on the original release, and this is evidence that most of this albums positive reception is nostalgia. Well, I can tell you that this song was on the first copy of this album I ever had, and I never knew another Maiden fan before I bought this album to influence my opinion. And I still never liked this song much. So it might just kind of suck. I’m to understand that the band had to cut a song to make a b-side and these where the two bottom choices. Yeah, I agree.
At the end of the day, this album brought us a handful of classics, and truly made the Iron Maiden sound, and hell, it’s probably a good starting place, but this is far from their best work. It’s an influential album, and a fun nostalgia trip, but when put up against many of their other albums, in my opinion, it just doesn’t hold up, although songs like Hallowed by thy Name, the title track, Run to the Hills, and Children of the Damned will all be remembered as classics for good reason. Not a usual frequent listen for me though. More like that childhood friend you grew apart from, but still occasionally call to check up on out of the blue.
A quick note as far as original vs remaster. As I said the remaster features the B-Side Total Eclipse. You aren’t missing much if you don’t have this song. Otherwise, the biggest difference seems to be a volume boost. I’ve never noticed any clipping, though I’m not an audiophile. Otherwise, I really haven’t noticed a ton of difference between the two versions, except maybe on a few tracks (I seem to prefer the original mix’s version of The Prisoner, maybe it’s some dynamic range loss, or maybe it’s all in my head). However, I will say the remaster’s packaging is far more interesting, so if that’s a selling point, go for it. I don’t think the remaster did enough in terms of the actual audio to either enhance or diminish the album’s quality. Just throwing that out there if you’re worried about versions.
Long held to be Iron Maiden's immortal, classic contribution to the world of metal, Iron Maiden has undoubtedly had brighter musical moments than this, but its place as a go-to essential is not unfounded. Graced with some of the band's most recognizable songs, 'Number Of The Beast' lays down a foundation for all of the Maiden work to come. With galloping rhythms, acrobatic vocals, aggressive speed and relative lyrical sophistication, Maiden's third album is a great place to start with this band's illustrious career.
As part of the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) movement, Iron Maiden has a very signature sound to them here, one that's likely already indelibly etched into many a metalhead's mind. Twin-harmony guitars and a rhythm section that achieves a rolling pattern, akin to the galloping of a horse, are the two distinguishing traits of the band's music. Although these songs are quite catchy, there is a technical sense to the riffs. Speed metal is obviously a factor here, although it's used moderately enough for the music to be melodic and memorable. The two most famous tracks off the record are the title track, and the crowd pleaser 'Run To The Hills'; a song that features everything that fans love about Maiden. Here, the lyrics revolve around European conquest of the New World; an ambitious topic in comparison to the bawdy 'sex and drugs and sex' themes that many metal bands of the time were into.
Iron Maiden had been a capable act with singer Paul Di'Anno, but Bruce Dickinson's voice really brings the band's sound to a new level of distinction. He is one of those singers who manages to impress in a lower range, as well as a blistering falsetto. The epic closer and highlight 'Hallowed Be Thy Name' is most indicative of this. Beginning quite slowly, Bruce is able to set the scene of a dark holding cell, then raises the intensity as it becomes clear that the protagonist is doomed to be executed. Iron Maiden's sense of refined aggression is matched perfectly with this dark subject matter, although there are certainly more upbeat moments on the record, such as the tongue-in-cheek '22 Acacia Avenue'.
'Number Of The Beast' really is a perfect place to start with Iron Maiden, even more so than any best-of compilation. Although I think the quality of music would get higher as they tread towards more progressive domains, the classic quality and consistent songwriting makes this album a winner.
There is a time when a band goes from either good to bad, or bad to good. Maiden on the other hand went from good to better. The Number of the Beast marked quite a few changes in the band with the most noticeable being the addition of Bruce Dickinson, who replaced Paul Di'Anno. Now I am not here to debate who the better singer is or who should have stayed in the band but all I know is that for the most part Maiden got really famous because of Bruce. I know that this is Mr. Harris' band but if it wasn't for Bruce, Maiden would not be what they are today.
Another change is the songwriting style that Steve Harris has adopted. The first 2 albums are very street-wise oriented with songs about violence, partying, and being a rebel. This was a great approach since Di'anno's vocal style fitted the themes amazingly. With this release Harris has dropped the street-wise style in favor of historical, war, life, and, religious themes. The track "Gangland" tells about life in a gang where murder, drugs, and crime are always present. This is my least favorite track from the album and possibly the worst. Another track entitled "22 Acacia Avenue" tells the story of a harlot named Charlotte and how she comes to the realization that someday she will age and her East End services will end. "Invaders" is a song about the brutal invasions of our good friends from the Nordics, the vikings. This is a very good track that for some reason gets panned by a lot of people. I would love to see this song played live.
The occult is ever present on the album (duh!). from the epic artwork and name, to the songs that tell tales of the devil himself. "Children of the Damned" and the (in)famous masterpiece "The Number of the Beast" are proof on why Maiden is hailed as one of the best bands in metal history. Both are classics that should be on everyone's playlists. The latter song is a heavy metal anthem whose spoken intro should be remembered by every metal head. Who hasn't written 666 on the blackboard when they were in school? Who hasn't raised their fists up in the air and said hell yeah when they heard this? It's a true heavy metal classic that changed metal forever, no fucking doubt. Another historical track and probably Maiden's most famous song is "Run to the Hills". It tells the story of colonists from Europe coming into the new world slaughtering and taking advantage of the natives. This song is ever present on Maiden's set lists and is a true anthem. "The Prisoner" is an another great and famous track about the show of the same name that has good songwriting and sound. The chorus however can get stale after awhile.
This album contains a song that is regarded as one of the best heavy metal tracks ever composed, in fact it was ranked as the best heavy metal song ever by Digital Dream Door. "Hallowed be they Name" is a musical masterpiece that is a staple at every Iron Maiden concert. It opens up with a slow intro that picks up speed after a vocal passage. The song is about a man who is going to the gallows and before his execution he questions his beliefs and thinks about the afterlife. The lyrics are very philosophical and chilling in a way that it makes you think and feel for the man described in a song. After the verses there is a long instrumental passage followed by amazing solos from both Adrian Smith and Dave Murray. The song ends with Bruce singing the phrase Hallowed Be Thy Name, signaling the ultimate fate of the man sent to the gallows. An amazing song that will blast into your ears many times.
To sum this entire review up I would like to say that this album is truly a classic. No matter what people say this album will be recognized for revolutionizing metal and putting Maiden into a world wide spotlight. While this album does have some faults such as silly lyrics, and the song "Gangland", it made a huge contribution to metal that will never be forgotten. I will conclude this with a few simple words..."I know where I'm going, out!"
Well, the time has come, everybody. The new Iron Maiden album is almost here. I haven’t heard it yet, but I’m going to pick it up tomorrow morning (and it might well be that time by the time this review is accepted), and while I wait, I figure I’ll go back and review one of my very first Maiden albums ever, The Number of the Beast. Yes, I remember being a wee 15 year old kid and going into Best Buy and looking at this album like it was a golden nugget. I didn’t know much about heavy metal then, except that Iron Maiden was a cool band, with cool cover art and rebellious, rousing lyrics and energetic guitars oozing out of every pore. I mean…just look at the cover art. 25 years later and it’s still an icon of rock music at large. How can you beat that lovably dead miscreant Eddie pulling the Devil himself around on puppet strings? Eddie is better than the Devil, so Iron Maiden is better than the Devil. That’s just awesome. You parents think the Devil is what you need to worry about? Hell naw, it’s Maiden.
And the music, kicking off with the high-energy gallop “Invaders,” showed what Maiden was all about. Previously they had been a down n’ dirty punk influenced act with that hunk of armpit hair, Paul Dianno, on vocals, but this one showed the arrival of our great Air Raid Siren himself, Bruce Dickinson, who handles these songs with an expert feel and a comfortable segue between the aggressive snarls of the verses and the maniacal, melodious howls of the chorus. Could Dianno have managed this much versatility, this much power for a song this dynamic? Well, it’s a good song either way, and better than people will tell you. I’ve always had a soft spot for it.
But they really kick up the game with the following “Children of the Damned,” a much more calculated and sinister track…listen to the way it switches from that dark, swirling stomp to the fiery, hell-crazed conclusion. It’s a great build up, and one of metal’s real classic ballads. This is pretty much the first true example of why Iron Maiden worked in the 80s; it’s just such a charismatic tune. Maiden were not only a great band because they had a hell of an instrumental base, electrically fueled with storming riffs, rollicking bass and energetic, skin pounding drums, fronted by a singer who could really sell their songs, but also because of their charisma and style. The songwriting was endowed with poppish hooks here and there, but only as a ruse to reveal the absolutely astronomical metallic prowess hidden beneath. On “Children of the Damned,” we get a band exploring a new style with balls, conviction and a melodic sensibility that would only improve over the years.
Why was Maiden so great? Above all it was the attitude, the unmistakable style that made them a household name. You could recognize a Maiden song in three seconds flat. Like “The Prisoner,” with its jettisoning leads and monstrous beats from the drums. And just listen to Bruce’s wailing of every vocal line as if it’s going to be the last he ever sings…pure classic stuff! He sells these songs like a Thespian of sorts, becoming completely enveloped in them. The title track is another perfect example of this. That foreboding guitar flare that starts us off, the corking, boiling riffs and melodies…it’s all there, with Bruce rasping and bellowing and really becoming the man on the run from the devil in the woods that the lyrics spin the tale of. It is this kind of theatrical posing that metal was built on from the start – bigger, flashier, more grandiose. Subtlety? What’s that? That’s not the aim here!
“22 Acacia Avenue” and “Gangland” hearken back to the band’s past as a streetwise bunch of young punks, and the former works pretty well, with heavy, hook-fisted riffs and a domineering vocal performance making it into a stylish, aggressive take on the whole Charlotte the Harlot ‘saga,’ but the latter is pretty dire. It’s not a horrible song or anything, but it’s just kind of unimpressive, and doesn’t really inspire me to run down the street with a torch of white flames like some of the other songs on here do. It’s a very pedestrian track, with an average and very rockish riff, a somewhat rushed vocal motif and a chorus that isn’t so much powerful as…well, slightly annoying. The vitriolic verses are pretty good though.
“Total Eclipse” is another one I just don’t like as much, as while it is undoubtedly experimental and different…it’s too different for this album. It sounds like something you would have heard about five years earlier on a Uriah Heep album or something; not a Maiden album in 1982. The riff is pretty simple, and the whole structure of the song, with the more somber mood and the slower, laid back tempo, just sounds completely alien with the rest of the album’s blazing dual leads and frenetic rhythms. And I like Uriah Heep and other 70s rock bands, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that “Total Eclipse” is not a particularly inspiring or well done song for that type. Again, it’s not horrible or anything, just not that great like the better songs on here.
Enough has already been said about “Run to the Hills,” which is an all time classic with its ultra-catchy drum intro, the syncopated verses and the explosive, streamlined and layered chorus, which is criminally infectious – really; the band received lawsuits for how catchy this song is. If you don’t believe me look it up! You might not find anything, but at least you did something more interesting than reading reviews on this website all day long. “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” too, has been talked about to death, and I don’t have much to add. With its spine tingling build up, those first whispered lyrics and the explosive, careening metal storm that follows, Maiden created a classic for the ages. The vocals from Bruce belt out some of metal’s best and most iconic lyrics, and the riffs escalate into a platitude of classic metal glory that is still a monument to hear. It’s just great, and anyone who denies it is a fool.
The Number of the Beast is a historical landmark, as it is where Iron Maiden first started on the path that would lead them to worldwide stardom, but it is a fucking great album all the way, too. It’s simple, it’s poppier than the previous albums, but it’s a well written, tight collection of songs from a band bursting with youthful fire. Maiden on here showed the first signs of their expertise at crafting memorable, hook-laden and commercially successful work, and it’s a testament to exactly how good writers they were that these songs are still so universally memorable and loved. This isn’t Maiden’s best ever, but it’s an easy classic and well worth listening to, as it packs some kick ass songs. Go check it out, and if it's your first time, like it was when I first heard this, the experience will never be replicated again. Savor this one.
So here we are, we've arrived at one of the albums that is considered to define heavy metal itself. Not thrash metal, not speed metal, not power metal, not death metal, and not black metal - just pure classic heavy metal. Does it? In a lot of ways, yes. But it also has some significant problems, two songs which I really dislike, and only three songs I consider to be absolutely perfect. It should be a masterwork but consistency is the name of the game here, and Number Of The Beast, for all of the praise constantly heaved upon it, is not consistent.
Something that is always lost upon most metal fans is the phenomenon of how Maiden sold out. Yes, sold out. It was with this album. Now before all of you suckers reading this decides I'm either a looney or an idiot, just think for a moment. Iron Maiden is considered to be a band that pretty much never sold out throughout their entire career. Now take Judas Priest, who were accused of selling out many times, first with Killing Machine and British Steel(even though the latter is now a metal classic anyway), then even worse with Point Of Entry, before redeeming themselves with Screaming For Vengeance and Defenders Of The Faith and then promptly selling out again, this time to the glam crowd, with Turbo. Most fans don't believe they regained their power again until Painkiller(Ram It Down, a highly underrated album in my view, is often considered to be little more than a slightly better successor to Turbo, which is total bullshit), and then that they lost it again with Jugulator. True? In some ways. Maiden, however, were never accused of truly selling out, as even No Prayer For The Dying and Fear Of The Dark are far less obviously commercial than the most commercial Priest records and their later stuff again lacks such criticisms. Meanwhile, their first seven albums are often considered to be virtually untouchable, and none of them even remotely a sell out no matter how much money they made.
The problem is that this is total nonsense. In its own way, The Number Of The Beast is a sellout. Not a bad one, in a lot of ways actually a good one, as becoming more popular obviously raised Maiden's already high spirits even more and led them to produce many more records, all of which were far more similar to this one than to the debut and Killers. It's a far less obvious sellout than British Steel as even the songs that yes, are designed for radio-play are not very clearly singles in this sense. But just look at the differences between this album and the first two. The debut was(at the time)fearlessly experimental and progressive, combining rock, punk, and metal together in a way no one had really ever done before and doing so with brilliant musicianship, excellent songwriting, and a very good singer who fit the style they were playing perfectly. Killers was less progressive but extremely good nonetheless, with again a high punk influence on all of the songs, great musicianship throughout, and more killer(pardon the pun)songwriting. Neither record was ever trying to be commercial - Maiden had a vision and they pursued it in exactly the way they wanted, they just happened to become popular anyway because they kicked ass.
Now take this record. Despite its reputation to the contrary it's far less daring than the debut or even Killers. The riffs throughout are often far simpler, the songs themselves are for the most part actually less complex and progressive while at the same time often sounding more pretentious due to the singing(more on that soon), and the essential atmosphere, grit, and real, down to earth urban feel of the first two albums is gone, replaced by an overly slick production and a far more clean and civilised sounding singer. Granted, this has its strong points as well, since gritty raw production doesn't really suit the epic style they would subsequently go for, and nor would have Paul Di'Anno's vocals. Bruce does bring a certain power to the album, and he is genuinely a very good singer, the best examples of this being the songs Children Of The Damned and Hallowed By Thy Name(which, not coincidentally, are also the best songs on the record), as well as the overrated but still fairly good title track and most of Invaders. However, Maiden also lost something here. While this is still a NWOBHM album at its core, it also more than hints at the really epic sound they would begin playing on their very next album, a sound soon became nothing like NWOBHM at all, and more like proto-power metal. Of course this again has its strong points as well as its weak ones(one of the strongest being just how much this led to the development of power metal), but part of Maiden's original character was in Paul Di'Anno. When he left, something left with him - the part of Maiden that was how they used to be, their lack of pretentiousness but their desire to create something new and exciting, which they did brilliantly. And then Bruce came along, and Maiden started getting pretentious, lost all of their grit right after this album(the last traces of it can be found in the song 22 Acacia Avenue, one of the last urban themed songs they'd ever write), and yes, they did become more commercial. They just did so in such a subtle way that hardly anyone noticed.
I place the songs on this album into three categories. One is the excellent category. Only three songs from the album fit into that one. Two is the very good category. Three songs also fit into that one. Three is the decent category, which only one song fits into. Then there's the mediocre category, which two songs fit into.
The album begins with Invaders, a song which fits into the "very good" category, and seems to be a strong start to say the least. The improved production does have one really good strong point: it highlights the guitars and makes them sound far heavier than they did before. Once it gets fast this song becomes skullcrushing heavy metal that at times borderlines on proto-thrash. So far so good. Then Bruce's singing comes in, and...well, it works, but it's so different in style and sound from his predecessor that you can tell this is a changed Maiden. It's far more over the top, which Paul never sounded like, and this is a shame as it means the song becomes quite cheesy in a lot of ways, and Bruce doesn't have the singing chops to make an over the top performance not sound cheesy all of the time. Even so it's still going ok...and then the chorus. By the gods, the chorus. Why? Why that awful happy tone when he screams "INVAADERS! PILLAGING! INVAADERS! LOOTING!" ? Why that dreadful five notes up five notes down major scale instead of an actual riff? When I first listened to this on a sampler ages ago it put me off the album so much that I took several more months to buy it. Things like this damn chorus actually made it harder for me to get into Maiden. A lot of other reviewers have commented on it too, and yes, it really is that bad. It virtually ruins the song, and the only reason it doesn't is because it lasts for just a few seconds. It prevents the song from ever becoming great and leaves it as just good. There were no unbearably shitty moments like this in either the debut or Killers. The solo is fairly short and not very memorable but ok, and other than that there isn't much to say. A fairly simple song really. If not for the chorus it would be in the excellent category. Speaking of the chorus, it's another example of how Maiden subtly sold out: they introduced poppy moments which could appeal to anyone and everyone, but didn't write actual love songs, so they weren't perceived as sellouts. It's something a lot of people don't notice when they should, and it's for that reason that I stopped caring what the majority of either other metalheads or Maiden fans say and decided to just judge their albums on an individual basis.
However, we then have Children Of The Damned, a song which fits right into the "Excellent" category, and for a damn good reason: it kicks ass. From the deceptively gentle clean intro and verses, right to the mighty chorus and powerful heavy fucking metal riff behind it, and then after this repeats around the stupendous middle section which is just...well, sublime. The section from 2:20 to 3:01 is extremely well done, but then the part from 3:02 to 3:42 is absolutely brilliant, beautiful, and just plain outstanding, from the lovely but haunting melodies of the very heartfelt solo to the powerful crushing riffs underneath. It's moments like this that solidify this album as a good one despite its flaws, because this song is so fucking fantastic that the mediocre parts of the album don't matter while you're rocking out to Children Of The Damned.
My one and only criticism of this song is the lyrics themselves, which, despite working well, are not the often fairly serious and thought-provoking subject matter Maiden dealt with on their first two albums, but what basically amounts to fantasy nonsense. Yes, the film Children Of The Damned was an old school classic, but it was still kinda silly nevertheless. It's this kind of thing that led to Maiden overusing fantasy and mythology along with not particularly clever or interesting history lessons on albums like Piece Of Mind and Powerslave, and often being hideously cheesy in the process. However, I'll give it a pass here as this song is just too damn good for me to care about how serious or realistic the lyrics are.
We now reach The Prisoner, a song which fits into the "decent" category. It's not a bad song, but it really isn't all that good either. The intro from the TV Series is exceedingly cheesy and far too long, and the song just takes too damn long to get going by which point I've lost most of my interest. I was never a big fan of The Prisoner and Maiden manage to make it all seem even cornier than it really was, in fact probably a lot more so as the original series wasn't really that cheesy as far as I've heard. All I know is that I don't particularly enjoy this song. The "heroic" part where Bruce sings about escaping isn't inspiring to me either, because in order to really feel something here, you have to have felt for the real prisoner in the series, and I never did. The whole thing just wasn't my cup of tea, and so I can't really connect with the song as it's dealing with the same character. Again, not a bad song, but not a particularly good one either.
Then comes along 22 Acacia Avenue...which is absolutely brilliant, perfect from start to finish, with great riffs, two awesome solos, and an interesting performance by Bruce. It easily fits into the "excellent" category. I don't know why this song is so underrated, and it's even more absurd that it often gets ignored while the likes of "Run To The Hills" receive infinite praise from everyone. For me it's the opposite, as this is one of my favourite songs on the whole album, while "Run To The Hills" never appealed to me at all.(more on that later) Anyway, aside from the great riffs and solos throughout, there isn't much to say actually, although Bruce's singing here is interesting, because he's obviously trying to go for the very gritty urban style that Paul always had, which is to be expected as this song is about the same character last featured in "Charlotte The Harlot", a great song from the debut album. Does he succeed? Sort of, as he certainly sounds quite different than he did on, say, Invaders. But he just hasn't got the dirty, raw kind of voice that really suits this style, often still sounding too clean, and the way he screams "meet a lady that I knoooooooww" is terrible, as is the way he mirrors this the next time it goes around slightly differently with "you might even get it freeeeeeeee"...ugh. Those kind of vocal acrobatics are what always put me off Bruce a little. Sure he's a good singer, but very few vocalists can make those acrobatics actually work, and Bruce ain't one of them. Rob Halford is, and interestingly, so is Hansi Kürsch of Blind Guardian, a very influential power metal band that were likely influenced themselves by Iron Maiden. But Bruce just isn't, and while he can occasionally pull it off(the way he sings the chorus on the song Caught Somewhere In Time from Somewhere In Time, for instance), he often can't. This is the only weak point to an otherwise great song though, and the breakdown in the middle with the heavy crushing riffs and the excellent solo is really awesome. The song also ends well. All in all, one of the best songs this album has to offer.
Now we come to the infamous title track, a song I would place in the "very good" category. Most would consider it to be more worthy of being called excellent, but I disagree. Sure it's a classic song, and one of the best known of all metal songs. It's also remarkably straightforward, not very complex, not even very epic, and most of all, aside from the intro, not very dark. Lyrically it is but musically? The riffs are all very happy and upbeat and don't really paint a picture of the lyrics. When Iron Maiden previously wrote songs about very dark subjects(whatever "Remember Tomorrow" was about, Purgatory, Killers, etc)for the most part at least they actually sounded dark. Here they don't, which just goes to show that Number Of The Beast could very easily be called a sellout after all, as it wrote more obviously catchy and upbeat songs and certainly did make more money. One could argue that making more money was simply a side effect of better songwriting, but that's being pedantic, trying to make excuses for ideas that are very obviously commercial. Whether they're commercial in a good way or a bad way is up to the listener to decide. Personally, while I'd take the title track over a song like The Prisoner, and would place it on a roughly equal footing with Invaders, I don't like it as much as Children Of The Damned, 22 Acacia Avenue, or one of the later songs. (As a side note: this song was the one that caused everyone to call Maiden "satanists" - actually, not everyone, just the Christian side of the media, and it wasn't so much an assumption as an accusation. Either way it's fucking pathetic. Maiden weren't satanists, and even if they were, so what? The whole thing is dumb and shows just how much power idiotic religious fundies still have over our society. What's even dumber is that in the US, critics refused to acknowledge Maiden SIMPLY because they believed they were satanists. So the religious views of a band affect whether they're worthy of listening to? Those music critics should have been taken out and shot. If anyone wanted proof that the music media in America is still controlled by Christian fundamentalists, that's it right there. Utterly stupid.)
Next up is a song beloved by virtually every Maiden fan...except for me. Run To The Hills is probably the most overrated song they ever wrote. It's slightly interesting lyrically but not enough to make up for its obviously commercial slant and not very good riffs. I find little worth listening to in this song and like a lot of others on here it's annoyingly happy sounding. Judas Priest's "Savage", while not one of my favourite songs by them either, dealt with the subject far better. The only thing really worth exploring is how Maiden didn't make it a song entirely about the cruelty of the persecution of American Indians, but also about the glory the settlers felt as they rode them down and "drove them to the hills". While I'm pleased Maiden decided to show the perspective of both sides rather than just one, I still don't like this song. I just find its construction annoying. In particular, it takes nearly 50 seconds to get to a riff one can properly headbang to. Maybe one can headbang to the first riffs, but I'm not sure. Isn't it a bizarre coincidence that the two most popular songs on this album, this one and the title track, both take a while to get going? It's just ironic that for two songs that are supposed to define heavy metal, they don't even start with heavy riffs one can bang their head to. "Run To The Hills" is a song I place in the "mediocre" category.
This wasn't the worst, though...that's just coming up. "Gangland" has to be one of the most painfully awful and pointless Maiden songs ever written. It's even worse than the overrated shit on Powerslave(and that's saying something, since everyone else loves that album)and the dreadful songs on No Prayer For The Dying and some of Fear Of The Dark. It isn't overrated, but it still sucks nonetheless. The intro is boring and the main riffs are neither interesting nor very memorable. It's another attempt to go back to the grittiness of the first two albums, but unlike "22 Acacia Avenue", which was a great song, this song is crap. It's neither gritty, raw, or menacing, it's just stupid. Definitely falls into the "mediocre" category, and I have nothing else to say about it. It's that forgettable as well as shitty.
But then...where the fuck did this come from? Suddenly "Total Eclipse" begins, and we have a winner again! This is a disgracefully underrated song that deserves a lot more credit for at least trying to be atmospheric. From the powerful, genuinely heavy intro to the mighty riffs throughout combined with a respectable performance by Bruce and some very dark lyrics about a rather apocalyptic scenario, plus genuine musical darkness for the first time since "Children Of The Damned", this is a song easily worthy of the "very good" category. I don't know why this wasn't included on the original album because it kicks ass.
One good thing about Maiden is that with the exception of Killers, you can be sure of hearing a very memorable song at the end of every one of their albums. And this is absolutely true of the magnificent "Hallowed Be Thy Name", a song that has justly gone down in history as a masterwork of heavy fucking metal. This really is strong, very much because of its amazing atmosphere, which is quite seriously dark, with nary a happy sounding riff or solo in sight, but also because of three other things: Bruce Dickinson's performance, which is truly great and really portrays the emotion of the character's feelings he is describing in a way that's so genuine you almost forget about the idiotic way he sung on some of the earlier songs, the lyrics, which are definitely of the thought-provoking type, and the brilliant riffs and solos throughout the entire song. For once the clean intro isn't annoying or tedious but works brilliantly at creating a dark feeling. Then when the heavy guitars kick in at around the 1.00 mark, things become truly fantastic. I have no problems whatsoever with this song - it's one of the defining songs of all heavy metal and is NOT overrated - it does deserve every single bit of praise it gets. A true masterpiece.
So what does that even out as, then? Three awesome songs, three very good ones, one average one and two poor ones. Overall a highish score(which is what I gave it), but not perfect.
Despite all of my earlier criticisms, The Number Of The Beast is still an essential album, even if only for the three utterly brilliant songs, because they are so sublime that they transcend all of the album's various faults and weaknesses. It's more than that though - it's a piece of metal history, and deserves to be owned for that reason alone. While I wouldn't place it on the same level as its predecessors in terms of consistency, or as high on the scale of being inventive as Piece Of Mind or Somewhere In Time, or as high quality throughout as Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, it's still a good album to say the least and from my perspective infinitely better than the ridiculously overrated Powerslave. A quality album that, despite it flaws, should be in every metalhead's collection nonetheless.
A year prior, Paul Di'anno had become a footnote in the annals of one of heavy metal's legendary bands. But who was this new guy? Oh sure, he fronted obscure NWOBHM beefcakes Samson, but would he stand and deliver for the rapidly escalating Iron Maiden?
Over the past 27 years, it's safe to say this question has been answered. Bruce Dickinson came, saw and conquered, as early as his full-length debut with Maiden upon which he already has the chops of a seasoned veteran. The rest of the album wasn't too shabby either, as an increased quality of melody and songcraft permeates The Number of the Beast. The s/t debut and certainly Killers had their fair share of memorable tunes, but this is just about perfect, with the possible exception of "Invaders", a somewhat dull track that unfortunately opens the album.
So we'll skip that and move along to the solid steel bliss that is the remainder of this timeless exercise in 'eavy metal. "Children of the Damned" is nigh invincible, proof Dickinson was comfortable over more than triplets and power chords. A flowing, catchy acoustic track which lapses perfectly into a gleaming chorus, with a dual lead rocking bridge. "The Prisoner" makes great use of a sample from its namesake espionage TV show, and then Clive Burr kicks up a storm of rockin' beats, while the song also features some great Harris grooves and licks.
Following this we get the pseudo-sequel to "Charlotte the Harlot", that being "22 Acacia Avenue" with its montage of shifting beats and groove beneath some of Dickinson's most venomous lines on the album. Next up is the title track, one of Maiden's most infamous compositions and in all likelihood the best on this particular album. As much as we'd all like this to be about the devil (including cover artist Derek Riggs), it supposedly isn't. I like to think it's based on the Heinlein novel of the same name (certainly a source Maiden has used for inspiration elsewhere), but aside from the name, it's really not. "Run to the Hills", yet another of their live staples, follows with its elegy to the American Indian. It's rarely left their set in close to three decades. "Gangland" is a balls out rocker comparable to the style you'd hear in other early NWOBHM like Motorhead and Saxon, though hammered with those classic melodies only Maiden was adept at. "Hallowed by Thy Name" is the epic closure to the original album, a lengthy and moodier piece which foreshadowed others to come.
What more to be said for an album which is worshiped by millions of human beings, many of whom consider it their very best. I dare to disagree with such a sentiment, as I found "Invaders" a bit weak and the album not nearly as catchy as the next three. The Number of the Beast is surely the beginning of the band's strongest stretch of material (ending with Somewhere in Time), and nearly every track is an outright classic. With evocative and meaningful lyrics and subject matter, class act riffing and overall amazing musicianship for 1982, they were now the band to beat. Oh, sure, it'd happen in a year or so...but there simply were no other bands of this period as well rounded as Maiden when it came to creating interesting metal music which has survived in the minds of so many until this very day...
Iron Maiden's roster was fairly unstable in the early days, with each of the first four albums featuring a slightly different lineup; what's generally considered the classic incarnation would not be heard until Piece of Mind. It goes without saying the most significant of those changes was the frontman switch that took place between Killers and The Number of the Beast; it not only drastically altered Iron Maiden's sound on an aesthetic level, but altered their general character as well. Where before Maiden with Di'Anno at the helm favored gritty, violent songs about, well, gritty violence (often of a sexual nature and set in the modern day), the Bruce-led band favored songs about epic battles, historical conflicts, and of course general mythology, science fiction, and fantasy subjects. I wouldn't say that Iron Maiden "invented" those themes in metal per se, but they definitely played a major role in pioneering and popularizing them. While that may sound like a positive change, it also came with a drawback; to illustrate, an anecdote. I once saw an interview with Bruce, in which he explained the reasoning behind his stage antics; small gestures would be missed by those in the back row of a huge stadium, so in order to get what he wants across he has to exaggerate his motions to larger-than-life proportions. Just think about that for a moment. I doubt he was trying to be deep, but Bruce's simple and sensible explanation also seems to describe his music with Iron Maiden quite well: everything is large and exaggerated, written in CAPITAL LETTERS so even those in the back row know what's going on. Of course, the back row in this metaphorical sense unfortunately refers to the mentally rather than financially challenged. Dickinsonian Maiden seems to have lost much of its former subtlety, and everything is LARGE and out in the open, for better or for worse. Because of that, sometimes the Bruce-era material sounds too over-the-top, as if you're watching a high-budget action movie where the excessive gore, explosions, and/or general violence lack supporting substance, such that all the drama totally loses impact and becomes cartoonish (think "summer blockbuster"). Nowhere is this more apparent than in the title track, which is fun but almost unbearably cheesy and vapid to boot (but more on that later). Still, that over-the-top aspect Bruce brought also allowed Maiden to do amazing songs like "Hallowed Be Thy Name", which I can't imagine them even attempting with Di'Anno (of course, Bruce can't pull off Di'Anno-era songs, either). In short: Bruce is amazing on successfully emotionally intense songs, but often painfully too much for those that fall short or require subtlety or grit. Most (good) NWOBHM bands sound like they could beat you up, Di'Anno Maiden more than any; Bruce sounds like he's been in the library all day. Angel Witch sound instead like they were on the receiving end of some beatings, but that's a story for another time.
Everything can't be laid at Bruce's feet, though; he's the most obvious change in the band, but he isn't the primary songwriter. Harris seems to have gotten a bit lazy on this album, going for a more upbeat, simpler, and what I can only call "poppier" approach on many of the songs he's credited with (the notable exception being, of course, the monumental album closer). The only song he doesn't have at least partial writing credit for here is fucking terrible, though, so what the hell; damned if you do, damned if you don't. On to the songs!
"Invaders" opens the album on a promising note, with the epic tone it quickly sets simultaneously setting the Bruce-era apart from the Di'Anno-era, in which this exultant epic energy would've seemed totally out of place. Instead of stalking women through claustrophobic London alleyways and chopping them up to statisfy lust undeniably perverse, we're chasing women through burning villages and raping them to satisfy lust...except it was socially acceptable then, so you and Bruce feel just fine about it afterward. But wait, what the fuck is this? That silly chorus comes in like a wrecking ball of cotton candy and turns the delicious atmosphere to shit! Yes, it's another of those "what the fuck were they thinking" moments, like the shitty main riffs in "Sanctuary" or "Running Free", except this is a whole chorus and "Invaders" is actually quite nice besides that. My guess is Maiden were trying to do another of those quick mood shifts they seemed to like a lot early in their career, as heard on "Charlotte the Harlot" and "Remember Tomorrow", but while those songs worked fairly well despite the abruptness, "Invaders" fails utterly. The serious and tense tone with the defenders preparing for the viking invasion is replaced by farce as, apparently, the longships unload hordes of invading Smurfs, who proceed to merrily frolic the village to the ground ("Papa Smurf always says: 'rape, then pillage, then burn the place to the ground,' and Papa Smurf is always right."). I can see what Maiden were trying to do here; it's the same thing they do in "Run to the Hills", where first we get the perspective and mood of the Indians and then that of the American soldiers, so one would expect hordes of Vikings to have an upbeat and bloodthirsty theme like the soldiers; instead it's like you're watching a good action movie on TV when the channel randomly switches to loud cartoons for a few seconds, making you jump, but the channel switches itself back again before you can figure out what the hell happened. Now, imagine that three times every three minutes, and I'm sure you'd just turn off the TV in disgust, no matter how good the movie you were watching was. What makes it worse though is that unlike "Sanctuary", the rest of "Invaders" is fucking good! Epic feel, cool lyrics putting you in the battlefield ("Axes grind and maces clash as wounded fighters fall to the ground/Severed limbs and fatal woundings bloody corpses lie all around"), honestly I'm far more irritated than if they had just written a song bad all the way through (which they did, but more on that later). It's as if Harris made us a shit sandwich, but used some really good bread to fool us into taking a nice big bite, wasting the bread in the process, of course. I mean for fuck's sake, the chorus "riff" isn't really even a riff, it's a fucking major scale; up five notes, down five notes. It's as if "inspiration" struck during highschool band warm-ups, or something.
Luckily, "Children of the Damned" is quite a bit more interesting. It starts as basically a ballad, with the slow pace complimenting the ominous tone, and Bruce's emotional performance is good; the only downside to the song is the overlong chorus, which feels even longer when preceded by the shorter, superior verses. But once the song picks up after the second chorus, we never hear it again, so at least there's that. Some laughably claim this tempo shift "ruins" the atmosphere built up in the slow section. Rather than ruining it, the acceleration serves to heighten the tension and mood, without shattering it like on "Invaders"; the faster section is the best part of the song, hands-down. The tedious chorus doesn't make a return and the song is fairly short, so overall I'd call it pretty good aside from the pacing problems. It's definitely better than the previous track, but not nearly as good as "Remember Tomorrow" thanks to the tiresome chorus, though otherwise the songs are similar. I really wish Iron Maiden had tried more songs like this, they're better at slow, moody songs than people usually give them credit for (most tend to harp on the fast upbeat pieces or long epics), and with a little revision this one could've been a lot better.
"The Prisoner" starts out slow, with an intro from the old TV show (a good series, I might add), followed by...an instrumental intro. Two intros for the price of one! Yeah, they should've dumped one or the other, and Clive's drum beat is rather obnoxious to be the focus of the second intro, but anyway once the song finally gets going after more than a minute (and it's not even the album opener!), it's pretty exciting. Sure it's upbeat, and an easy target for accusations of being poppy, but like "Run to the Hills" and unlike "Invaders" or the title track, this one is actually justifiably and believably upbeat in its portrayal of the exultant emotional release of #6 who is finally free of his captors. SPIT IN YOUR EYE, I WILL DEFY! Freedom and escape from oppression (whether at the deliberate hands of a conspiracy, or just society and/or religion's restrictions in general) have always been major themes in metal, and "The Prisoner" does a good job of bottling that for our enjoyment. Sure, it's a tad overlong and repetitive, but if you ignore the double-intro (easy to do) and get swept up in the mood of the song it's good; the chorus especially is fantastic, and the driving riffs during the verses really hit home. Another song where Bruce's "over-the-top" nature isn't out of place.
Now, "22 Acacia Avenue" is a sequel to "Charlotte the Harlot", and predictably Di'Anno probably would've fit the song better; it was likely even written for him, as the vocal melodies are pretty restrained in range and difficulty for the most part, with no multi-tracking at all. Bruce does a good job, don't get me wrong, but he just lacks the grit that would've made a dirty, desperate song about a whore much better. The song is fairly long, second-longest after "Hallowed Be Thy Name", and it justifies its length well with an interesting structure. In the first minute-thirty it shifts between a slow, tense section and a "release" section that's more upbeat twice before going into a totally different section for a while...honestly it's pretty progressive, and unlike most of the songs on the album, it's the instruments that hold interest rather than the vocal lines, which definitely play a more supporting role. If any song on this album could be considered a grower, I'd say it's this one; repeated listens definitely rewarded me with a greater appreciation for it. I'd even say it's stronger than "Charlotte the Harlot", and definitely the sleeper hit of the album.
The title track is one many people like to cite as a Maiden classic, but I suspect it's more because it's essentially pop with metal aesthetics; before you scoff and decide I'm full of pretentious crap, pause for a moment of dispassionate reflection. The song is upbeat and happy, very simple both structurally and technically, and in fact the only remarkable thing about it at all is, of course, the charismatic singer. The "Satanic" theme is utterly incidental; Bruce could easily be singing about joyriding at 666 MPH or fucking 666 women in a row (you decide which is more impressive) rather than running from the devil in a dream, judging by the mood. I don't know about you, but a terrifying nightmare doesn't put me in the mood to dance around, and honestly the most flattering conclusion I can reach is that the lyrics were written separately and only put to the music out of convenience or coincidence. Still, ludicrous claims of quality and dubious theme/mood harmony aside, it's a fun little song. I find it strange that something as obviously poppy and radio friendly is so revered in a community that supposedly abhors such qualities, but there are many examples of similar sheep dressed in the wolf's clothing of a metal sound that have also attained popularity among metalheads, so I suppose it should come as no surprise. Always be wary of musical opinion in aggregate; I'd take the say-so of one guy I know I can trust over a million faceless fans any day of the week and twice on Sundays.
"Run to the Hills" is also considered by some a classic, while others abhor it, probably due in part to it being one of the best-known and most-played Maiden songs of all time. And it's easy to see why; it's catchy, upbeat, and emphasizes the classic NWOBHM gallop to great effect, capturing the feel of soldiers chasing down the redskins on horseback very well. It also displays the first of what I like to call Maiden's BFCs, or Big Fucking Choruses (as heard on later songs such as "Two Minutes to Midnight" and "Aces High", among others). I'm not much of a radio listener, so the song hasn't really been ruined for me, but I can see how hearing it all the time could. It's a fun little song, and has enough depth to stand above the title track and "Gayland" at least, despite its similar almost total lack of real guitar riffs. Instead we basically just have galloping and some chord progressions under the chorus, and some bass antics (redolent of an overlarge ego, but it's not too obnoxious). Like on "Invaders", the mood and perspective switch, starting out slow and melancholy with the Indians' lament and then bursting into galloping speed with the soldiers running them down. I have to applaud Iron Maiden for not taking the bleeding heart route and dispensing heavy-handed moral judgment like some bands (Satan's "Broken Treaties" comes to mind), and that "white man's guilt" bullshit gets old quick. Iron Maiden make destroying Native American culture sound like fun (which it probably was). It's not the most artistically significant song Maiden have ever written, but it doesn't outstay its welcome and has at least enough substance to have some lasting merit beyond mindless entertainment. When it comes on, I don't skip it; that pretty much sums it up.
"Gangland" on the other hand is so painful, they should have called it "Gangbang". For something supposedly about dangerous gang members slaughtering one another, it sounds about as dangerous as a booster shot. The gangs I imagine while listening to the song aren't Goodfellas or even Warriors; more like West Side Story. "Funland" would be another appropriate title for the song. The riffs are terrible, the melodies are repetitive as is the chorus, the slow section is one of the worst, most boring pieces of shit the band has ever written. The noodly bridge however is passable; Bruce's shriek of "yeah, c'mon!" before the guitar solo is downright cool...then it goes back to shit with the reprieve of the verse and final repetition of the chorus. The drums are really annoying too, and the thought of Clive Burr (who co-wrote the song with Smith) getting replaced with Nicko McBrain after this album gives me warm fuzzy feelings. His fills always seemed the equivalent of radio jingles to me, from the intro to "Another Life" to the beat that begins "Prisoner". I think if doctors were to do some serious research on this song, they would find that Clive's MS was the direct result of co-writing "Gangland". Maybe karma isn't such a silly idea after all. The song is under four minutes long, but it feels like an agonizing marathon of monotony. Think of the longest, most grueling run you've ever had in your life, whether towards a train, away from the police, or perhaps at a track meet at school; now, imagine running that again, but this time while waist-deep in liquid mozzarella. You fail to reach whatever goal you're running towards in time, and in fact find out you were going the wrong way all along. That is "Gangland".
Maybe I'm writing from Planet X or something, but does it seem like too much coincidence that "Total Eclipse", the only song on here I've seen get unjustly panned with any regularity, is also the only one not drenched in gallons of nostalgia? Now, I can't speak for everyone who's ever heard the album and written something about it, but it seems reasonable to assume that a good percentage of metal fans got acquainted with this album through the original edition which excludes this track. Unencumbered by that intoxicating nostalgia, the bonus track gave Iron Maiden fans the rare opportunity to objectively evaluate a track from the sessions that brought them this highly-regarded album. Is it significant that without that nostalgia to guide them, a good many fans blunder right into the wrong conclusion? I can imagine an aging metalhead listening to The Number of the Beast in his living room, graying hair flailing as he headbangs furiously along with "Gangland". For a few minutes, it has transported him back to the days of his beer-soaked youth, when regular jobs were for losers and metal was a full-time lifestyle, rather than something relegated to evenings and weekends (preferably when no one is around). All of a sudden, "Total Eclipse" comes on; the headbanging ceases, and a frown creases the fan's face. "What's this crap? Where's "Hallowed Be Thy Name?" He listens for a few more seconds, then hits the skip button in frustration and, recognizing "Hallowed Be Thy Name" with relief, resumes headbanging as before. Though many people have started getting into metal long after "Total Eclipse" became a staple bonus track on The Number of the Beast, that attitude towards it has been handed down to the younger generations (I bite the hand that feeds, of course). Now, that's not to say everyone who doesn't like the song is stupid, and stuck there in the middle of familiar friends, it's normal for a stranger to be left out. "Total Eclipse" is a slow, steady number with an emphasis on ominous atmosphere; it reminds me of "Children of the Sea", except the giant is wearing steamrollers like roller skates rather than boots for stomping. Compared to a radio jingle like "Invaders", it's fucking Chopin, as it's both less catchy and more mood-driven, a kind of song that requires a bit of attention to appreciate. I'm not claiming all Maiden fans are idiots or anything, but I do know that for an album that is so well-known and one that almost every metalhead has some nostalgic feelings for (yes, including me), "Total Eclipse" provides a chance to see a band we know so well anew; luckily, the song holds up quite well, even better than many of the supposed classics on the album. I like it.
Last but certainly not least, we have "Hallowed Be Thy Name". Incensed fans who by now may have pegged me as pushing an iconoclastic agenda can put that to rest; when it comes to this song, I uphold the status quo. It's fucking amazing, easily one of the best Maiden have ever written. It hits fantastically upon many major metal themes simultaneously; death, freedom, and of course religion. I love the ambiguities it presents, proving that contrary to my initial condemnation Bruce-era Maiden aren't always obvious. Did the prisoner really commit the crime, or is he innocent? Does he really enter an afterlife, or is the dream of it just the last refuge of a man staring death and oblivion in the face? By extension, does the band believe in the former or the latter? Nothing is spelled out, all we have is that brief glimpse of a man's last moments, and the intense feelings that well up inside him: disbelief, terror, hope for an afterlife but at the same time a questioning of that hope ("Tears flow but why am I crying/After all I'm not afraid of dying/Don't I believe that there never is an end?"). The music reflects these feelings wonderfully, with the last half of the song being almost entirely instrumental, "narrating" in its way the execution, and actually, Burr's drumming is great on this track; I take back the mean stuff I said about him before. Sorry Clive! The scene the music sets is just as vivid without words. Perhaps more so. A perfect album closer; one of those songs you have to sit back and ponder after it's over, savoring the mood that lingers long after it closes. Would that it closed a perfect album.
Nostalgia is a funny thing; it's essentially just left-over good feelings and impressions from an earlier time in life, but old or not those feelings can still be strong enough to influence people in strange ways. In an almost religious experience, someone can recapture maudlin memories of a more innocent past through nostalgia, and the stronger that experience is, the stronger the reluctance to re-visit the cult object of that nostalgia with objective eyes, much like a religious person might mentally block themselves from logical evaluation of their belief, jealously guarding the subject of worship ("faith", they call it, and the same terms could be similarly applied to the attitude of the metal community towards certain classics). Haven't you ever heard someone casually dismiss an album (or movie, or book, or whatever) you've loved for years, and you get mad, not because they're necessarily wrong but because you can't muster a rational defense on the spot so you're secretly afraid they're right? The anger is blown all out of proportion as well, as if they'd insulted a close friend who recently died or something (to this day I still get pissed whenever people say bad things about Transformers: The Movie, wanna fight about it?). I think this is where those things people call "guilty pleasures" arise; to their modern standards the music is lacking, but the nostalgia still allows them to enjoy the music despite being more or less aware of that lack. Unfortunately, other people get equal but opposite perverted pleasure from slaughtering the sacred classic cows, often as messily as possible (I'm sure if you look hard enough you could turn up evidence of that, maybe even somewhere else on this very page). Whether at heart the crusaders of truth they claim themselves to be, or more akin to those nimrods who like to spoil the end of movies for a cheap laugh (SNAPEKILLSDUMBLEDORELOL), these individuals often blunder way off into exaggerated territory, as perhaps they're too wrapped up in gleeful mental images of frothing fanboys to worry about anything like doing an album justice. Both stances are immature, and counter-productive to approaching the album's true worth, despite whatever reactionary, exaggerated reviews might be written to "balance the scales" or some similar bullshit. Is truth some kind of paperclip you have to bend further than you want it to get it to retain the proper shape? Now, I'm hardly the first to give The Number of the Beast a moderate score, but I hope after reading this at least one or two of those people who feel anything less than 100% is slander or anything more than 0% is a travesty will think twice about writing such reactionary nonsense. A word to the wise: 99% of albums are going to fall between those scores. And this concludes the preachy portion of the review.
Iron Maiden are a band that writes great songs, not great albums; viewed as a whole, there's not nearly enough artistic depth to The Number of the Beast for it to be considered a masterpiece, despite the excellence of "Hallowed Be Thy Name". Entertainment is fine for what it is, but the album fails at even that on more than one significant occasion. Given Iron Maiden's previous and subsequent albums, not to mention the phenomenal closing track, this one leaves a lot to be desired. The final track is a must-hear, but even the best of the rest isn't worth more than an occasional listen. Even if you totally disagree with this review, I hope it least at encourages people to really scrutinize The Number of the Beast, and similar albums as well. Metal has too many sacred cows.
I was a seven year old Catholic school boy when Number of the Beast came out. It was after seeing some seventh grader walking around wearing an Iron Maiden Number of the Beast tee on a dress down day when I was first exposed to this band. The next time I was perusing Tower Records, I went to look at all the Iron Maiden records and saw it again among the other ones as well. I was far from being a metalhead at this time but I was utterly fascinated at how heavy this band must have sounded like to go along with their awesomely metal looking cover art. Yes, this was the first real metal band I ever encountered, at least visually. I knew of this band even before I had heard of Black Sabbath. It would still be awhile before I was allowed to listen to the music behind the records. I think there are many who encountered Iron Maiden this way when they were very young. It was a true grabber. And so, what did this album finally sound like? It sounded like and still sounds like the embodiment of heavy metal. We think in visuals and when the term 'heavy metal' comes to mind, I think of Number of the Beast.
What can be said about the album that hasn't been said already? There is no denying it is a classic. That's for damn certain. But is it their best? No, it is not but it's up there. Number of the Beast is more classic than it is the very best. It's the inauguration of an era. It's heavy as hell but it never blew my socks off quite like Judas Priest did. It's fast and has an adventurous zeal to it. This album like every other one they did was written and recorded to be played live in concert and that's another great plus with the album. I would have loved to have heard these songs played at their show.
The production on Number is an absolute dream in no small part due to producer/engineer Martin Birch who seemingly was a sixth member of the band in the studio. Every instrument is crisp and the Steve Harris' bass pervades with hard focus throughout every song. Adrian Smith and Dave Murray add punch of physicality in their playing.
Invaders is the first track and it's trademark Maiden. It almost sounds like Ides of March at the beginning. The theme of battle is pretty cool and sets the table for everything else on the menu. As Bruce Dickinson's first song on an Iron Maiden record, it does well to bring him in with great command. Children of the Damned bears more than a striking resemblance to Black Sabbath's Children of the Sea with its acoustic intro and heroic atmosphere. Power metal never had it so good up until now. The Prisoner has a fabulous mid pace action with the drums. This song centers the album with its theme of fugitive psyche. I haven't had the privilage of seeing the band live but if I did, I would have hoped this was on the set list. While I loved the opening riff of 22 Acacia Avenue, the song is not a standout. The one small knock on alot of Iron Maiden albums is that they are slightly filler prone. I would say that this album is the least guilty of this but 22 Acacia Avenue and especially Gangland fill that quota on here although they are one of the better tracks in question in that regard.
My favorite thing about Iron Maiden is that their title tracks are almost always the best songs on their records. They seem to be in the middle of the albums and they always deliver the metal goods. It's thought they are the main course. When I look at the album covers, I can always put the song to the art. Number of the Beast is no exception. It's the best song on the album. Bruce Dickinson makes that awesome scream to launch the rest of the head banging glory that the song deserves. And then of course we have Run to the Hills which is the band's most famous song. The local radio stations where I live don't regularly play Iron Maiden but when they do, Run to the Hills gets the nod. I will say that it's a great song to play in the car but by no means is it even close to the best one by them. I think it has the right amount of length and catchiness that has made it the hit that it is. Hallowed Be Thy Name would probably be their second most well known song and probably their most venerable on the concert set list. It's another great classic that is a metal encore song if there ever was one. Bruce's crescendo that leads into the main part of the song is the most memorable. It never loses momentum and the guitars on here will stay in my memory for a long time. The influence on this one can be heard in many a thrash metal band to come.
Reflecting back on my heavy metal memories, this album will always stay with me. Those who don't appreciate this album were probably not around at the time when it made its debut or they just were oblivious to heavy metal in that period. Not only is there nostalgia here but there is replay value. Iron Maiden have the longest lasting influence in metal today and it would be a shame if you don't at least give it as many chances as you can to admire its spirit.
“The Number of The Beast” is Iron Maiden’s 3rd studio album and is the album that developed Iron Maiden’s signature sound. This is easily one of the most revered albums in metal. The production sounds great and lead singer, Bruce Dickinson makes his debut with the band. However, is it really as good as it is made out to be? The answer is… no. It’s an excellent album, but it is below most of Iron Maiden’s legendary discography. I have no idea how this can be above “Killers”, “Somewhere in Time”, “Iron Maiden”, and so many other releases.
The atmosphere of the album is generally a very cheerful depiction of all the dark themes it covers. (Indian struggles, Satan, battle, death, etc.) Every chorus is very catchy with upbeat cheerful playing behind it. (Except on Hallowed be Thy Name, Children of the Damned, and Total Eclipse if you have it) There are some more unique atmospheres such as the opening of The Prisoner, (Old prison camp) Hallowed, (Dark, slightly medieval atmosphere) and naturally the chilling opening of the title track. If you started listening to Iron Maiden on recent albums, do not expect much of this to contain the epic sound you’re probably more familiar with. There is an epic song and some gripping moments but the album is mainly a nice, light, ride. Despite introducing Iron Maiden’s distinct sound, this album does not really sound like the other releases. Later albums mainly built from this starting point.
Like usual, the band performs very well, and on this album they set the style for the following releases of Iron Maiden. Adrian and Dave play their guitars very well most of the time, and deliver amazing solos on Hallowed be Thy Name, The Prisoner, and the title track. Clive Burr’s drums sound especially powerful on this release. My favorite drumming on this album is on Run to the Hills and Hallowed be Thy Name. Bruce Dickinson’s singing matches very well with the instruments behind him, and Steve Harris’ bass keeps a very good rhythm.
First off, we have Invaders, a decent opener. Very typical Maiden verses, riffs, and solos are found here, which is fine, as Maiden’s typical sound is pretty incredible. The chorus however, contains unenthusiastic singing and a very silly bass line. Unfortunately this annoying excuse of a chorus is all you remember unless you really give this song a lot of listens. Children of the Damned is thankfully, much better. The melodic singing in the opening is flawless, and the song is constantly moving with plenty of building up, that eventually transforms into a powerful solo. The outro is pretty incredible as well, containing both melodic and rather harsh (Not extreme metal harsh) vocals.
The Prisoner is the second best song on this record. I say this because the song is very entertaining, consistent, and easy on the ears. I would say that this is one of the best songs on the album to sing along to, particularly because of its very prominent catchy chorus. The token solo in the song also manages to be one of the album’s best, being very fitting and fun. The Prisoner is ultimately the epitome of basic heavy metal at its best. Next up we’ve got the sequel to Charlotte the Harlot, 22 Acacia Avenue. The song’s distinct features include the only slow solo on the album and some harsher vocals. Besides what I mentioned, this is just another good Maiden song; nothing more, nothing less.
At last we have the title track, famous for its opening narration and for including Bruce’s highest scream, among other things. I would say this is the third best song on the album. The narration at the beginning of the song is very dark, chilling, and incredible. The opening verses, spoken in almost a whisper, build up the song very well. The famous scream then proceeds to carry the song to its main sections. Very enthusiastic singing dominates the middle verses and the chorus. The solo is the album’s best, containing very wild playing and some electrifying riffs. The outro is the same as the opening verses, (not the narration) just with different lyrics. Despite its dark beginnings, The Number of the Beast is the catchiest song on the album. Every line (Again, aside from the narration) is just begging to be sung along with, and the song gets stuck in your head just like popcorn gets stuck in your teeth. Unfortunately the song is seriously overplayed and just doesn’t sound as awesome as it should.
Run to the Hills is another one of Maiden’s signature songs. The opening parts of this song, particularly the drums, greatly reminded me of Native Americans, the topic of the song. The opening verses are as catchy as music gets, containing enthusiasm and rhyme. These verses are very accurate as well, and are perfect for opening a song about the dilemma the Native Americans faced when “White man came”. Unfortunately, the greatly prominent chorus is overly happy, plain, and irritating. The verses, on the other hand, are very solid. The solo is the same, being fast, fun, and very good. The drum roll build up following the solo, is my favorite part of the song. It’s very gripping and makes you anticipate a really good outro. The problem is, the drum roll just proceeds into the crappy chorus, which gets repeated over and over again until the song closes. The outro really makes my anger burn, especially considering all of the build up they put out before it. The rest of the song is very catchy and fun though, so it is good overall.
Gangland is pretty crazy, but it sounds a bit like filler to me. The singing is pretty good and Bruce has some good falsetto moments here, but I cannot help but criticize the very uninspiring solos and chorus on this song. The solo hardly goes anywhere, and the chorus is over repetitive much like the previous song. You can skip this one if you’d like. Later issues of the CD contained the song Total Eclipse. This is much better than Gangland and really should have replaced the song. To me, this song sounds like a prototype of the later Moonchild mixed with Rush’s Witch hunt. The singing is very powerful and the lyrics are very interesting. The solo is very wild in contrast to the songs more prominent darkness and brings images of destruction to my mind. In the end, the song reminds me of Armageddon.
The closer, Hallowed be Thy Name, is the best song on the album, and one of Maiden’s best of all time. As soon as the song begins with the powerful “bell” and you hear the grim guitars and singing, you can tell this is going to be epic. Bruce’s singing is as emotional and powerful as it gets. He sings the song with so much enthusiasm that it seems like he’s recounting one of his most painful experiences in life. (Which is impossible of course, as the song is about a man’s thoughts before execution, and Harris wrote the song to begin with!) Following the singing, there is a rather long instrumental section, which consists of the song’s solo. The solo is very fast, but manages to fit the dark, medieval atmosphere perfectly. The outro consists of Bruce yelling out the song’s title twice with as much enthusiasm as ever. The song then closes powerfully. Hallowed be Thy Name is one of the most beautiful pieces of metal ever written and a must-hear for everyone.
Overall, “The Number of the Beast” is a great album, but do not allow all the praising to bring up your hopes. You may be disappointed. This is an excellent metal album; not the greatest of all time. If you want some of Maiden’s best, check out “Somewhere in Time” or the famous “Powerslave”. This is still very much a classic, however, as it was the turning point of Maiden’s career. The new sound that was introduced here greatly influenced their later work, including most of their greatest albums. In the end “The Number of The Beast” is an incredible, but overrated classic.
Along with albums such as Reign In Blood and Master Of Puppets, Number Of The Beast is one of *those* albums. You know, the ones that garner praise as if you could package it in shit and people would cut off their own nads to lick it off. As such, there is inevitably two groups of people, the fanboys, and the detractors. And as you should know, both groups usually have something right.
The new vocalist, and arguably the most famous member of the band, Bruce Dickinson, is the most overarching presence on this album, and consequentially, has the largest problems with his performance. When he is just doing the normal range of vocals, without soaring high notes, then he does very well, with a great lower register reminding one of certain other vocalists like Geoff Tate and Rob Halford. Unlike these two, however, he just can’t do the high notes. Whenever he tries, it’s obvious he’s straining, and it comes out sounding as if he just put his balls in a vise to try to get the effect. As for the rest of the band-members, they really are just average. Even Harris’ much-lauded bass just plods along, and this leaves it up to Dickinson to pull up the slack, except for a few notable examples.
Throughout all of the songs, especially ones like 22 Accacia Avenue, there is still trace amounts of Iron Maidens punk era here. Normally that wouldn’t be such a bad thing, but Dickinson just doesn’t seem to fit during this. Also the album is really messy to listen to all the way through, as the conflicting styles often mark the inconsistent nature of Iron Maiden within albums. There’s not as much filler as say, Powerslave, but there still is enough to jam up the flow. Also worth mention is how poorly the songs are grouped, with the truly metal Invaders followed by a semi-ballad, and Hallowed Be Thy Name being preceded by the worst song on the album.
Now, the songs here can be grouped into three basic groups, the regular NWOBHM tracks, the singles, and the slower, emotional songs. Hailing from the first group, Invaders, the opener, has Dickinson giving forth both good and bad performances. Fortunately, the bad is short and merciful, rarely disrupting the flow of the song. The end result is good, with a chorus worthy of Maiden. A couple songs later, The Prisoner bursts on the scene. This is really where Maiden really starts proving they can pull out more than filler. It has an emotional chorus, with riffs that are energetic and bass that, surprisingly doesn’t just plod along like almost every other song.
After this though, it’s just more filler. 22 Accacia Avenue is a good song, but lacks any real hooks to distinguish itself, unlike the previous song in this series (Charlotte The Harlot). Also, as mentioned before, you could just imagine hearing this on the S/T or Killers, and Dickinson doesn’t fit. As for Gangland, this is the kind of song that gives haters their justification. It’s generic, and just plods along at the same pace without a single real hook or memorable moment. So much so that it could even give AC/DC a run for their money.
Now for the singles, everyone alive has heard them, they even rival Metallica for recognition. Of the two, Number Of The Beast is the better. Starting out with a spoken part similar to The Prisoner, it goes into the riff, and then a surprising thing happens, Dickinson gives out a scream worthy of his fame, and goes into a great performance, with a voice that really sounds like someone who has seen the devil. It also has a catchy chorus that, while repeated a little too often, deserves its recognition. The rest of the instruments though, are more generic, supporting Dickinson, and don’t really come out on their own except for a quality solo.
The other single however, doesn’t do so well. Run To The Hills, other than being catchy doesn’t really have much else to add. You’d think a song about the struggle of the Indians would have more emotion, but instead it just has Dickinson repeating the chorus ad nauseum, with another repeating part alternating in and out. And yes, it’s just as boring as it sounds. Adding to that, Children Of The Damned is boring for nearly the same reason, with a repeat chorus (though the guitar parts vary some) that utterly fails to capture the emotion or power such a song should have.
Luckily though, Beast ends on a much better note in that. Hallowed Be Thy Name shows off what Iron Maiden *could* do. It starts with an appropriately hallowed sounding guitar part, and goes into a deep and emotional performance by Dickinson. What is also surprising is that his vocals work well even when going into ranges where he’d normally sound like he had a ten-foot dick up his ass, and it is indeed a beautiful thing to behold. The rest of the band members also give equally inspirational performances, with riffs that reinforce the sad nature of life portrayed by the non-repenting lyrics describing a criminal going to his death.
While Number Of The Beast certainly has its filler, it also has its classics, it’s a good way to get into the genre, and has some songs that will satisfy even jaded veterans who’ve long left the classics behind. Just don’t go into it expecting a masterpiece
Highlights: Hallowed Be Thy Name, Number Of The Beast, The Prisoner
So what we have here is Iron Maiden’s third studio album, “Number Of The Beast.” Yeah, you seem to have seen the name of this album right at the top or its whereabouts in every list concerning heavy metal’s greatest album? Or whenever you asked a Maiden fan their favorite album chances are that more than just a handful of them must have said this album? This is exactly what has happened to me a ton of times as well. What is so great about this album eludes me even after hundreds of listens.
“Number Of The Beast” is an album that is a mixture of good, average and weak songs, most of which occupy the last two of the three sections I just mentioned. This was the first album that had Bruce on the vocals (the only reason me and probably a hundred others still stick to this band).
The album consists of tracks like “The Prisoner” and “22 Acacia Avenue” which are the rare good tracks on the album. These are memorable in their own ways, where the band clicks together wonderfully well encompassing good riffs, vocals and solos. Except for another track that I will mention later in the review these are pretty much the only good tracks here. The former of these tracks have a cool spoken intro while the next has one of Maiden’s best riffs, a good solo and equally good vocals.
Two tracks, which are “Run To The Hills”, and the title track irritate me to this date. It’s not that these tracks are weak but it’s the extremely high standard at which the fans of the band hold them which irritates me. Hang me for saying this but “Run To The Hills” is nothing more than a catchy karaoke song that one expects to here at clubs or parties. “Number Of The Beast” is another track that eludes my logic of why this track is so great. Yes, the chilling spoken intro followed by Bruce’s scream is one of the best moments in heavy metal history but that’s about it, here is where the “greatness” of the track ends. Mind you this track is not weak by any standard what so ever but is rather a better than average heavy metal track.
The tracks, “Invaders”, “Gangland”, and “Children Of The Damned” are horrible right from the word go. The latter of these tracks have a slow intro and is a decent “sort of ballad” track where everything is going average or just above average for the band except for the chorus that is nothing short of horrendous, once again Maiden in their attempt to raise the tempo of the slow track ruin the atmosphere they managed to create with the listener. This is the first time the band did this (ruin the track by raising the tempo) but more often than not, the band kept on doing this even later in their career. Also Bruce sounds bad on these tracks, and once the only respectable force of the band cannot deliver, you know that the band is going nowhere but down.
The gem on this album is “Hallowed Be Thy Name”. Everything and I mean everything on this track is great, right from the intro, to the ending. Right from the lyrics, to the vocals straight to the guitar solos (which for once do not sound repetitive) this song is nothing less then perfect.
“Tears they flow but why am I crying
After all I am not afraid of dying
Don't I believe that there is never an end
As the guards march me out to the courtyard
Somebody calls from a cell "God be with you"
If there's a God then why has he let me go?
As I walk all my life drifts before me
And though the end is near I'm not sorry
Catch my soul, it's willing to fly away
Mark my words please believe my soul lives on
Don't worry now that I have gone
I've gone beyond to see the truth
When you know that your time is close at hand
maybe then you'll begin to understand
Life down there is just a strange illusion”
Lyrics like these, which I just mentioned, are from the track “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and show the maturity of this band. These lyrics standout and for once Steve Harris does a job that does not pull the whole band down.
An important thing that annoys me throughout this album is the bass. It is extremely weak and that signature galloping bass line has been taken a wee bit to seriously by Mr. Harris because most of the bass lined in his career, with this album being no exception, sounding similar. With bass playing a major role in heavy metal band and if the bass itself sounds weak, no such album can be classified as one of the world’s best ever.
So there you have it. Good moments (the intro to Children Of The Damned, the creepy intro, scream and chorus of the album’s title track), but lack of good tracks (with the exception of the iconic “Hallowed Be Thy Name”). Now if the major proportion of tracks in an album fall under the category of “weak”, “average” or “slightly better than average”, enlighten me as to how an album can be regarded one of the best heavy metal album ever made? This album is overrated and is far away from being the greatest heavy metal album ever made, hell I don’t find this Maiden’s best work either! So if there any chance that you are new to metal and have not listened to this album (yeah, I know chances of that are extremely slim) and are expecting as great an album as you’ve heard and read at innumerable places then my friend, you’ll be highly let down.
“Run to the hills,
Run for your lives ….”
(Revised And Redone)
“The Number of the Beast” is widely regarded as one of the landmarks of heavy metal and one of the crowning achievements of Iron Maiden. This record put them truly in the map, selling very well, thanks to the title track and to “Run to the Hills”, the two big hits that made waves within the metal/rock community. But is “The Number of the Beast” good? Is it a masterpiece, like many reviewers already stated?
Meh, I don't think so. I'm a huge Iron Maiden fan, “Powerslave” is my favourite record ever, but this piece just doesn't get me, mainly because of its unconsistency. Everybody knows that Iron Maiden is a band that prefers to write great songs instead of great albums. There are bands out there, like Opeth, that make albums that really sound amazing as a whole, but Maiden just can't deliver a record like that (well, they delivered one, after all, the allmighty “Powerslave”). Unfortunately, there are always fillers here and there that kill the flow, in the majority of the times.
Surprisingly, “The Number of the Beast” has PLENTY of them. The opener is one of them, its chorus must be one of the most annoying choruses I've ever heard (“Invaders!”* childish bass line * “raping!” * childish bass line *). However, this song is very fast and that's one of the main characteristic of “The Number of the Beast”: there are some midpaced tracks here and there (“Children of the Damned”, “Hallowed be Thy Name”), but the majority of them are very upbeat. Clive Burr is the one that contributes the most to this aspect; while he isn't as technical as Nicko McBrain, his performance is simple but catchy and effective. His best performance can be heard on “Gangland”, a drum-driven track, that should work well as an instrumental, as the music is reminiscent of the fantastic “Genghis Khan”, but everything is ruined by the vocal lines and the repetitive chorus. It kind of reminds of Metallica's “My Friend of Misery”, which was also meant to be an instrumental, but, in the end, Hetfield sang on it and ruined the song (not completely though).
“The Prisoner” and “22 Acacia Avenue” follow also the boredom path; the first one has a nice spoken intro and drum lines, but it's WAY too long and that ruins the listening. The same thing goes to “22 Acacia Avenue”, a song that would be much better with a shorter length. The middle section is quite cool though.
Anyways, now the good things... The guitar work is obviously amazing. Iron Maiden is very well known for the twin guitar leads and blazing solos and, hey, this record is great, guitar-wise. There are lots of good riffs and solos present here, from the technical middle section of the afore-mentioned “22 Acacia Avenue” to the unforgettable first notes of the title track, all absolutely top notch. And where would be Iron Maiden without Steve Harris? He is not as present here as on later albums (“Powerslave” or “Piece of Mind”, for example, are more bass-driven than this piece), but he still is audible and his playing is, like always, tasteful, complementing the performances of the other musicians very well and, most of all, actually adding something to the songs.
About the highligts, there still are some here. “Children of the Damned” is not the best ballad ever made, nor the most beautiful one, but it's decent, featuring an excellent performance of an emotional version of Dickinson, an approach that he later used again on “Infinite Dreams”, a track out of “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”. It's a worth lisening track mainly because of the vocals, as I've already said, Dickinson doesn't deliver emotional performances too often, so better hear this one. The title track is an authentic classic and, despite I, in the majority of the times, hate the big hits of the metal bands, I must say that I like this one. And, wow, I like “Run to the Hills” too, one of the best tracks of this album. This song really grown on me over the time but now I love it; the fast drumming (and the intro, oh God) and the over-the-top Dickinson performance really please me.
After a catchy meal provided by the “Gangland-666-Run to the Hills” trinity, the Maiden gives us, then, a nice dose of epicness to our hears, with “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, considered by many as the ultimate Maiden song. It begins with a fantastic guitar riff, that, with the help of some cymbal hits, provides a nice and mysterious atmosphere to the tune. Then, the vocals kick in, with Bruce singing calmly – got to love that “the sands of time, for me, are running... looooooooooow!!”. After this part, the song becomes heavier, with a blazing deliverance of great metal guitar riffs by the two masterful guitar players. Anyways, I really like this song, but I don't consider it as one of the best Maiden ever wrote. In my opinion, there are thousands of better Maiden songs out there (”Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, “Phantom of the Opera”, “Dance of Death”, even “The Legacy”. However, it still wins the prize for the best track of “The Number of the Beast”.
So, this is a typical Maiden album, with too much fillers present; the only different thing is that they are actually worse than the ones on the other albums, so that harms the whole listening experience. Anyways, this record marked the beginning of the golden era of the band, so it's worth listening after all. But if you want the best Maiden record, get “Powerslave” or even “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”, which is a bit weaker but still good.
On other hand, there's some good material here, songs like “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and “Run to the Hills” are simply great and deserve a listen. And the performances of the musicians are all quite good, so that's another reason to hear this.
Best Moments of the CD:
-the creepy beginning of “The Number of the Beast”.
-the drum intro of “Run to the Hills”.
-the calm section of “Hallowed Be Thy Name”.
After the roaring "Killers", Maiden came up with what is often considered their magnum opus. And I can tell you that this is partially true. This is indeed Maiden's perhaps most classic album, but at the same time I like "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" better. After "Killers" and the following world tour, Paul Di'Anno left the band because he apparently didn't like the fame he was getting. A lot of fans were in doubt whether another front man could live up to his tenor with Maiden. But then nobody counted on Bruce Dickinson, did they? You could say that Maiden's sound completely changed when Bruce entered the picture. His vocal style is quite operatic and far removed from the punkish overtones that Paul had. This would also mark the end for Clive Burr.
The production is mostly excellent. Both the rhythm and lead guitar tracks have a lot of crunch and a metallic overtone. The bass is very up front. The only complaint would be about the drum sound, since it almost sounds like Clive is beating on a pair of buckets sometimes.
So the album begins with a riotous speed metal number called "Invaders". It's probably one of Maiden's most underrated openers even though the vocal/guitar combination during the chorus sounds slightly awkward. But aside from that little mistake there's nothing wrong with this song.
"Children of the Damned" is my favourite song from this album. It begins quite slowly and doomy, but later turns into quite a fast track with excellent guitar and vocal melodies.
The next two songs were fan favourites that never really made it beyond that status; "The Prisoner" and "22 Acacia Avenue". "The Prisoner" starts off with a spoken intro from the TV series of the same name before a recognisable drum beat from Clive initiates the song. It's quite a fast track with some great melodies. My only gripe about this track is that the chorus is a bit repetitive. "22 Acacia Avenue" is quite a long and progressive song for being about a whore (!). The intro guitar riff is very simplistic, but works really well. There's not much more to say about this song.
And the following two songs are all time metal classics that I don't think I have to say much about. "The Number of the Beast" with its lyrics, guitar solos and chorus, along with the galloping rhythm and catchy licks of "Run to the Hills".
"Gangland" is, along with "Invaders", the song that gets classified as fillers by most people. I kind of agree with that, but this one is a really good filler. A quite jazzy drum beat gives way to a very simplistic but catchy and quite heavy riff. The only thing wrong with this song is that it's slightly repetitive and not quite up to par with the rest.
"Total Eclipse" is a slow, epic and heavy track. The lyrics are the main driving force behind this song. The guitar solos and the ending part are probably the song's highlights.
And so the album comes to an end with the epic metal classic called "Hallowed Be thy Name". There's so much I could say about this song, but I think most of the other reviewers have already said enough about this.
It is an indisputable FACT that the mighty Iron Maiden were, are, and will continue to be one of the most influential, consistent and important heavy metal groups in the entirety of heavy metal. Their career is a long, industrious one exemplifying all the best characteristics of dedicated workmanship that have become synonymous with all the greatest metal bands, and it is also a career that has yielded some truly brilliant albums in the course of the genre’s history.
None more so, in this reviewer’s humble view, than 1982’s legendary ‘The Number Of The Beast’ – an album that truly deserves the accolade of “everyone should own a copy”, an album that has come to define all of the elements that have become quintessential to modern metal culture. This album, fellow metalheads, is the stuff of legend.
‘The Number Of The Beast’ is perhaps less of a defining moment for Iron Maiden than it is for heavy metal at large – Maiden are a band who have always been willing to expand and experiment over reliance upon the same old sound. Here, we find a band shrugging off the vague punkish overtones of ‘Iron Maiden’ and ‘Killers’, crafting a masterwork in high speed, balls-of-steel power featuring some of the most important and universally known songs in heavy metal.
For starters, the album itself is a wonder to look at – whether on CD or vinyl, Derek Riggs’ iconic depiction of zombie mascot Eddie towering above a scene of demonic carnage embeds itself in the brain instantaneously. Everything about the album as a package – the logo, the spot on album title and the infamous song titles – all serve to engage the listener’s attention in a vice grip that they won’t want to be relinquished.
The songs have become archetypes of the genre and anthems to generations of metalheads, and rightly so. While the likes of ‘Gangland’ and ‘Total Eclipse’ are admittedly somewhat forgettable, the sheer quality of the majority of the album renders this the most infinitesimal of gripes. Opener ‘Invaders’ is a fantastically over-the-top work of striding riffs and ridiculously cheesy lyrical conceits, complemented perfectly by ‘Children Of The Damned’, one of the best songs of a more mellowed bent that Maiden have ever written.
Fan favourite ’22 Acacia Avenue’ is a powerful headbanging exercise, but it is at the midpoint where the twin hammer blows of the record are delivered, and at the close of the record the piece de resistance: ‘Number Of The Beast’, ‘Run To The Hills’ and closer ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ remain three of the greatest songs in metal’s entire history, featuring some of the most unforgettable riffs, blazing solos and anthemic lyrics of all time, capable of raising devil horns in salute every time they touch mortal ears. The title track may just be one of the greatest songs ever conceived, with its spine-tingling refrain of “666! The Number Of The Beast!” a masterpiece of lyrical craftsmanship.
As a unit, Maiden here are on the top of their game. While they arguably would be given a greater edge in recent years with the use of triple guitar players, here the dual harmonies and galloping riffs of Adrian Smith and Dave Murray get the job done and done damn well. Clive Burr provides a backbone of steel with impeccable drum work, never overdoing anything and making every cymbal crash and rolling fill count. Bruce Dickinson and Steve Harris, for their part, should be given highest honours for their work here – Harris’ complex, driving bass lines are a joy to listen to, as is Dickinson’s human air-raid siren of a voice, a voice that puts in absolutely career-defining performance here. All of these elements combine into a tightly cohesive force to be reckoned with.
In terms of the sound of ‘Number...’, Martin Birch’s production is a stellar work. Crisp and sharp, all the instruments ring out clearly without intruding upon the other and all retaining their own power. Burr’s drum hit with full vim and vigour, the riffs are suitably meaty and heavy whilst never becoming too overbearing, and Bruce’s vocals fit comfortably amongst everything. While the bass’ prominent position seems to cause contention, ultimately Harris’ superb proficiency on his instrument renders this argument somewhat impotent.
‘The Number Of The Beast’ is without a word of exaggeration one of the greatest heavy metal records of all time – one that continues to enthral now and will no doubt do so for decades to come, so it is crucial to metal’s entire development and growth. This, fellow metalheads, is one of the records that no collection is truly complete without.
There are many different opinions about this album, ranging from Maiden's best to an overrated piece of garbage. If one steps back and takes a good listen to this album for what it is: Bruce Dickinson's first album in a time with little to no heavy metal, you can start to see this album for how great it really is.
Almost every song on here is unforgettable. There are the undeniable classics of The Number Of The Beast and Run To The Hills, fan favorites 22 Acacia Avenue and Children of the Damned, but then there are also gems in here in the form of The Prisoner and Hallowed Be Thy Name (quite possibly the best ending song to any album ever.) The only miss on this album comes in the form of Gangland. While not terrible, it's wholly forgettable. But even that can't slow down the dominance of every other song on this album.
Dickinson can really wail. His presence on this album is unmatched by any of Di'anno's works on their two previous albums. Dickinson's voice really made Iron Maiden unique at the time and was just something Di'anno could not pull off. Steve Harris on bass, of course, gives a fantastic performance all around, from the galloping of the title track or the emotional playing on Hallowed Be Thy Name, Harris shows just what he can do. Dave Murray and Adrian Smith pull off smoking solos in multiple songs and are only accentuated by Clive Burr's excellent drumming skills song in and song out.
Love it or hate it, no one can deny how influential this album was when it was first released and how it still influences bands over twenty years later. The Number Of The Beast is a great starting point for beginning Iron Maiden fans, and is definitely one of their best releases.
The Number of the Beast is one of Iron Maiden's most well known albums, and seems to have had an impact on the metal genre as a whole, with various critics naming it one of the best metal albums ever. With Paul Di'Anno replaced with Bruce Dickinson, Iron Maiden had to change their sound to some degree due to the more 'operatic' style of their new singer, which spawned the trademark Maiden sound which they still use today. While it isn't as good as Killers, it is still more than a worthy follow up and while not being the classic some say it is it still remains pretty damn good, if somewhat overrated.
Maiden's sound changed considerably with this album, with them opting for a more traditional Heavy Metal sound as opposed to the NWOBHM/Punk influence they previously held. While before it sounded as if the music on display was less thought out and simply raged ahead without as much thought to how each song was constructed, on here it is more streamlined and every note sounds as if it were carefully put in place. The crystal clear production accentuates this point. That is not to say it is a bad thing, as the tracks on this record are mostly high quality. It is generally consistent and packed full of dueling solos and awesome riffing. Iron Maiden knows how to make a good song, and it shows here with such tracks like 'Invaders', '22 Acacia Avenue', the title track, 'Run to the Hills', and the classic closer, 'Hallowed be thy Name'. Unsurprisingly, these songs became sort of Metal anthems, and to a large majority of people they are what comes into their heads when someone mentions Iron Maiden. About half of this album remains in their live set today which makes some songs seem overplayed, but they are mostly still competent songs in their own right.
But while a large majority of this is excellent, there are two songs on here in particular which bring it down. The first one of them is 'The Prisoner', which despite having some awesome soloing is boring and predictably in the verses and choruses. The second is 'Gangland', a song which is sub par compared to what else is on display here. That it is built around a drum beat and not a killer riff would explain why it is a throwaway track. It is very repetitive as well, not a good thing when the song is only 3:49 in length.
The highlight of the album, however, nearly makes up for it. Hallowed Be Thy Name is simply a metal masterpiece, and perhaps even the best track they have ever written. It starts off with an acoustic intro which then leads into a terrific riff with Dickinson’s trademark vocal performance. It then slows down at around 4:06 and leads into awesome fast paced soloing after which a riff is repeated a number of times. Towards the end the vocals come back in with Dickinson holding the last note for around ten seconds after which the song ends. Such a track is rightfully recognized as among the best things to ever come out of the NWOBHM movement, as one listen to it can justify.
So while not being up to the standards of ‘Killers’, this is still a solid Heavy Metal album. It is not necessarily the classic some say it is and more than half of it is overplayed to exhaustion, which can sometimes lead to one skipping over tracks like ‘Run to the Hills’ simply because said person doesn’t feel like listening to it for the 500th time, but it is still more than worth a listen. Its influence on the metal scene at the time was undoubtedly big and there are many people who still worship at the altar of it, but one gets the sense that it is a little overrated.
Iron Maiden - The Number of the Beast. The greatest heavy metal album of all time? Hardly, although a significant number of people will likely argue this to the death. The greatest Iron Maiden album of all time? Not quite, though it showcases a few of their classics. So what is it the greatest of? Well actually, the album really isn’t the greatest of anything. It has its classic moments, but it hasn’t got the heart of the band’s later releases. However, dwelling on what the album isn’t might cause you to lose sight of what the album is. And what it is is an incredibly important album in metal history, regardless of its inherent flaws.
I‘ll start with the album’s strengths. First off, the songwriting here is phenomenal. Tons of memorable riffs, melody lines, and lead. Some of Maiden’s best are present here in their full glory. Regardless of its simplicity, “Run to the Hills” is one of the single catchiest and most magnificent songs the band has ever released. The chorus is almost amazing beyond words. “Children of the Damned” is one their better power ballad type songs, with a great sense of melody and a cool clean riff. “Hallowed Be Thy Name” is of course none other than one of the band’s most celebrated masterpieces musically, lyrically, and even atmospherically. The intro is still chilling almost 25 years later. If that doesn’t scream greatness, I’m not sure what does.
Secondly, the addition of Bruce Dickinson was one of those legendary moments in metal history, as his creative influence would lead to dozens of classic tunes by the band. I personally like Paul Di’anno as a vocalist, but he doesn’t have the range that Bruce has. Bruce’s vocals aren’t perfect here, but they would be by the next album, Piece of Mind. His presence in the band is incredibly welcome.
Now on to its flaws. Its most glaring problem is the same one from the first two albums. While some of the songs are classics, the others are pretty much forgettable. Songs such as “Gangland” and “22 Acacia Avenue” really unbalance a generally strong album. If the band can write 5-6 classic songs, why can’t they write 2 more instead of filler? Your guess is as good as mine, though they wouldn’t have this problem on most of their prior albums. My other big complaint is with the bass sound. I never really noticed this until my most recent listen, but the bass guitar part is way louder than it should be, sometimes overpowering the guitars. Yes, Steve Harris is a great bassist, but he doesn’t need to be way up front like that.
Other than the weaker tracks and erroneous mixing, Number of the Beast is a great album by all means. It’s heavy, it’s quick, it’s catchy, it’s melodic, and it’s quite memorable. It’s not the band’s best work, but it shows the first signs of the true greatness the band would soon afterwards achieve.
In 1982, Maiden raked up an album which caused quite a bout of controversy and caused quite a stir in the metal scene as well. Paul Di’Annio went out the door and in came the superior Bruce Dickinson. Perhaps as a result of adaption to Bruce’s vocal style, Maiden softened their style, rooted out the punk and went forward to a more epic style. The residual effects of this change can be seen on this album. There are many moments and tracks which scream ‘Killers!’ (although with the punk elements out) here which is what makes it a sort of a bridge between early Maiden and later Maiden. This album was what really broke Maiden into the mainstream.
Bruce Dickinson is a much more capable replacement to Paul Di’Annio. With Bruce’s operatic style, Iron Maiden truly found its niche. Bruce had more range, power and emotion than Paul (there are few singers with as much emotive power as Bruce) and his talent spoke for itself, quickly erasing any doubt from people’s minds that Maiden had perished. Steve still shines on the bass-rich production which as I mentioned earlier, acts more as a boon than a bane to Maiden. Dave Murray and Adrian provide another solid job on guitars here, pulling off some of Maiden’s best solos ever in Hallowed Be Thy Name (which has Maiden’s best solo and is incidentally their best song as well), Number Of The Beast and The Prisoner. Clive Burr still hasn’t missed a beat although this would sadly be his last album with Maiden before he faded into obscurity.
A few weak-spots prevent this album from receiving a 99 or a 100. And these are Run To The Hills and Invaders. Both are nice and fun (esp. Run To The Hills) but lack the spark and the freshness of the rest of the album. Perhaps this is because these songs seem more like residue left off from Killers and don’t work at all when slapped on a more mature release like Number Of The Beast. Also bonus track ‘Total Eclipse’ was rightfully rejected, it doesn’t at all keep up with the standards set by the rest of the album.
The rest of the songs though, are some of the best if not the best of Maiden’s catalogue. ‘Children of the Damned’ is a haunting ballad on the movie of the same name, Bruce really rips on vocals here. The song builds up from a slow starts and finishes off with a majestic fashion with an adrenaline-pumping twin lead and a distinct wail from Bruce. ‘The Prisoner’ is another up-beat, catchy number with excellent soloing showing up mid-way. ’22 Acacia Avenue’ is the follow-up to ‘Charlotte the Harlot’. The song though is absolutely nothing like the Charlotte. I disagree with claims from many that it drags, in fact the length is just right. The soloing and riffing are top notch and Bruce delivers another performance for the ages here. Also, this song contains what maybe metal’s first bass solo at 5:57 (actually it’s a bass-guitar dual lead). The title track follows and is probably the catchiest song here. This song was in many ways flag-song of metla in the 80’s and especially raised the hairs of a few fanatical Christian groups with its supposedly Satanic lyrical content. ‘Gangland’ then follows and sounds like another song that could have been placed in Killers. Its probably the fastest song on here and the twin-lead midway is excellent. Next is ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ which is undoubtedly Maiden’s best and metal’s best song. The atmosphere around the song is immense and foreboding of the feeling of death lurking within one’s grasp. Maiden sucessfuly render the insecurities of a prisoner before his execution and his subsequent resignation to his fate. Bruce gives an unmatchable vocal performance while the guitar themselves play a riff laced with most exquisite melody and aptly mid-paced tempo (the way its menat to be, Maiden ruins it when they speed it up live), Burr expertly co-ordinates with the rhythm while Steve gives a dirge-feeling to it all. The song passes through various tempo changes and remains excellent throught. One point to note however is the solo section, which has Maiden’s best solos ever. Adrian (who’s part is now being constantly butchered by Janick Gers) and Murray both belt out their best here and the solos also feel amazingly suited to the atmosphere around the song. The lyrics contain some of the best lines ever invented, who can deny the charm of – ‘If there’s a god, why’s he let me die?’ or ‘When you know your time is closer, then you begin to understand that life down there is a strange illusion’?. The entire song is truly an achievement and a song of such depth, emotion and brilliance will in all probability never arise again, even from Maiden!
On the whole, the album is worth getting – if only for the last track. This album contains the last traces of the Killers sound and the subsequent release totally sheds any association with the debut or the sophomore release. Although recently the album has come under criticism for being repetitive, these views are all but biased – there is great variety to be found in the album and it is evident to any listener when he actually listens to it.
The first album featuring Bruce Dickinson is the start of a wonderful five-in-a-row representing the most solid, classic and beautiful releases from Iron Maiden and sets the standard for heavy metal, with which every other band will need to compare; in six years, this sequence will climax in the almost perfect Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, which many consider the last masterpiece before the start of Maiden's decadence.
With the coming of Bruce, the sound is definitely steering towards heavy metal, getting rid of those rock influences which could be heard on the first two albums; even if I like Paul Di'Anno, I think that they are at their best with Bruce's screaming high-pitched voice, which will also put into trouble his successor Blaze Bayley.
The vocal skill of the new singer is now giving the orientation for their new sound, which is generally going to be faster and richer then before; great lyrics are also to come, giving birth to some of the best epic pieces that heavy metal can remember in its whole history.
By the way, where the album lacks something is probably in the overall coherence about lyrics: many different themes are presented here, ranging from war to death, from poor people to imprisonment and much more; nonetheless, almost all of them will be the main themes of their whole history, so here we have a sort of a preview of what they will speak about in the next releases.
Since the first song - Invaders - you can tell the huge differences with the previous Killers: the sound's evolving towards a more mature, powerful and appealing sound; we have a "happy" riff in this one and Bruce is already screaming at his best, setting a very fast pace. His vibrating voice is again the strong point of the following Children of the Damned, which he can turn into a nice slow tempo song; after the spoken intro, The Prisoner starts slowly and grows progressively till the appealing refrain "Not a prisoner I'm a free man". Next comes 22 Acacia Avenue, which continues the saga of Charlotte the Harlot: no choruses here, only very long and quite appealing lyrics telling a story; however I don't like the sound very much, as I didn't like the first one: they are both a little boring.
Now a moment of silence, please, before we reach one of the most awesome Iron Maiden's tracks of all time: The Number of the Beast.
This one starts with a spoken verse from the book of Revelations, which is the last one in the Bible, telling about the coming of the beast, sent from the Devil, and whose arrival will start the Armageddon (the final battle between good and evil); I won't go into any other comment or discussion about this, since almost everyone has its own opinion, nor I will make any statement about whether Iron Maiden are "satanists", because that word has too many interpretations: I have mine, of course, and suffice to say that so much scandalmongering about it simply makes me laugh. Back to the song, after the intro it goes on slowly and almost in any verse you can perceive the growing tension and exciting atmosphere which climaxes in the screaming "yeaaah!" from Bruce after about one minute and a half... Try not to headbang from here on: I really cannot stand it! The pace is not very fast, if compared with some other masterpieces, nonetheless it rules from the first to the last note and it will definitely own you, that you want it or not. Simply wonderful.
We then come to the all-time classic Run to the Hills, which is not among my favorites: even if the chorus is extremely catchy, the rest of the track is not very memorable, though it remains a quite solid one.
Gangland is really nothing special, almost forgettable; now we have the bonus track Total Eclipse, which is nothing special too, along with those on the previous releases (Sanctuary and Twilight Zone).
Hallowed Be Thy Name is the last and longest track on the album, another well known classic: some people say this is one of the best pieces from Maiden but I cannot really find the point of its greatness; nice but nothing more.
Conclusion: the first of the five classic albums; not yet fully developed sound, but still interesting.
Highlights: The Number of the Beast, Run to the Hills, Hallowed Be Thy Name.
During the late 70s to early 80s the NWOBHM was a fairly loosely defined term, applying primarily to bands that had some similarities with the punk rock movement of 1977, but with more musicianship, more energy, and much better singing. Ultimately 2 very different styles would emerge from this movement, the thrash style pioneered by bands like Motorhead, and the more traditional melodic heavy metal by that of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.
This album, along with "Screaming for Vengence", represent the most standardized approach to the more melodic, yet still heavy side of the NWOBHM. It is a departure from the two previous albums not only in that Paul Di'Anno was replaced with Bruce Dickinson (which was a rather large change) but also that many of the more progressive elements on the past two albums vanished in favor of a much more standardized sound.
The song structure on this album, as a whole, is alot more basic. Songs such as "Invaders", "Children of the Damned", "The Prisoner", "Run to the Hills", and the title track are all structured like your stereotypical radio friendly metal tune from the 80s. Although they do rock out a good deal harder and have more lyrical depth than most of the 80s mainstream stuff. "22 Acacia Avenue" and "Hallowed be thy name" have fairly complex changes, the former has a fairly sizable change in feel, while the latter has a ton of varying themes that come in and out.
If I were to rate this album in terms of individual songs, it would get a 100 easy, but one thing which this album suffers from is a lack of overall variety. Some of the songs have a sameness to them, that is further brought out by the fact that some songs that are next to each other have similar intros. One example is putting two songs with drum intros (Gangland and Run to the Hills) right next to each other.
Stand out tracks on this album, ironically, are the ones that are the most radio friendly. "The Prisoner" has some great lyrical storytelling and is a good classic hommage to the old TV series (which I saw many reruns of while I was at college). "Run to the Hills" highlights one of Bruce Dickinson's greatest vocal performances, along with an unforgettable chorus. The title track has it's fair share of intrigue, particularly a neat little bass riff that follows the climactic guitar solo section.
One other point of interest is the guitar soloing. Although I have a preference to Adrian Smith's lead playing on most other Maiden releases, on this one Dave Murray has the lion's share of the better solos. His solo on "Hallowed be thy name" is much more dramatic sounding than Smith's, and his work on "Run to the Hills" is quite excellent.
In conclusion, this is an essential part of any metal collection. I can't say it's my favorite album, because other Maiden releases after this one built on the format that this one started and were alot more intricant. But some of Maiden's best and most well known music is on here. I can recommend this album to all whom appreciate good old fashioned traditional metal.
When Paul Di'anno was handed the pink slip in 1981 due to his questionable lifestyle, many Maiden fans wondered whether or not the band would be able to successfully soldier on. As we all know, their fears were allayed when Bruce Dickinson was selected to take on vocal duties. The band not only survived--they flourished. Dickinson's powerful and evocative delivery afforded bassist and key songwriter Steve Harris a larger window for creative songwriting. The rest of the world was not slow to pick up on this, as the album shot straight up to #1 on the charts in their native England while the band found themselves embarking on their maiden (pun intended) stateside tour. As hinted at in the title, the band's third volume still packs a wallop, despite having been released over two decades ago. I can't begin to imagine what people thought of this back in 1982.
Things kick off with the fast and furious "Invaders", an account of Viking conquests. Proto-speed metal is the name of the game here. After hearing ten to fifteen seconds worth of Bruce's wails, it is clear that he was a vital ingredient in the band's metamorphosis from a promising NWOBHM outfit into a worldwide phenomenon. Despite a fractured chorus, the track does a decent job of setting the tone for the rest of album. The second song, "Children of the Damned", begins with a soft, down-tempo intro, to which "Fade to Black" owes quite a bit. In my estimation, this song, more than any of the others on the disc, harkens back to the Di'anno days. After some impassioned, melodic vocals from Bruce, the song picks up the pace, and the listener is treated to a rapid-fire solo. Track number three is entitled the "The Prisoner" and begins with a clip of the intro from the old television program of the same name, followed by some nice groovy percussion work from now-erstwhile Clive Burr. Not to sound nit-picky, but this song has a more commercial flair than anything that Maiden had came up with thus far; the chorus is decidedly catchy and justs screams 'sing-a-long'. Of particular note is Harris's four-string work, pointing to Geddy Lee influences.
Up next is "22 Acacia Avenue", one of the band's more progressive compositions. The sequel to the eponymous debut's "Charlotte the Harlot", it is also a considerable improvement. Bruce's delivery borders on raunchy at certain moments, but that is precisely what this tune calls for. There exist a multitude of mood and tempo shifts, bolstering the song's replay value. After the conclusion of this 6 1/2-minute metal triumph, there follows the song that enveloped the band in controversy. Religious figureheads (known as crackpots by us thinking individuals) wrongfully accused Maiden of Satan worship, pointing their fingers at the title track. Things commence calmly enough with a Vincent Price-esque spoken word section taken from the book of Revelations, but shortly after the 1:15 mark, Bruce lets loose with a scream that would rip Roger Daltrey a new one. The chorus was definitely designed with audience participation in mind, and the song has been a mainstay of the band's setlist to this day. Two back-to-back solos, by Dave and Adrian respectively, round out this classic. Maiden's best-known song "Run to the Hills" calls this album home, and also has yet to be discarded from live performances. It may be cheesy and radio-friendly, but few things get a crowd pumped up at a Maiden gig more than this fun little number and that instantly-recognizable drum intro.
Whenever a Maiden fan is asked to pick out the weakest link from this album, the majority of replies will be the seventh track, "Gangland". I cannot bring myself to disagree with this viewpoint, but the song does not suck or constitute filler by any means. The riffing is relentless and Bruce is in total command here. A noteworthy fact is that Harris does not have a writing credit here; this fun little number was the brainchild of Smith and Burr. "Total Eclipse" was not originally found on the original album, but existed as a B-side. The lyrics revolve around the topic of nuclear holocaust, with an apocalyptic-sounding riff accentuating the verses nicely. It is unquestionably a solid track, but the band have saved the best for last. If ever a heavy metal nation was founded, "Hallowed Be Thy Name" would doubtlessly be its national anthem. Starting off quietly with some clean guitar and tolling bells, Bruce lucidly paints a picture of man reflecting on his last few hours of living. After about a minute in, the killer riffs begin, quickly joined by Dickinson's fiery wails. Two inspired guitar bridges give the listener a chance to catch a breath before the next verse kicks in. The final lines before the guitar histrionics begin are some of my favorites not just in Maiden's catalogue, but in all of metal, period. How can one NOT get a jolt from hearing "When you know that your time is close at hand/Maybe then, you'll begin to understand/Life down here is just a strange illusion."? A grand finale in every sense of the phrase.
In spite of all the accolades I've heaped upon the album, I firmly believe that it still plays second-fiddle to 'Powerslave'. By the time that particular album was released, Maiden had honed their craft to a razor-edge and all but had the metal world's balls in a vise grip. That in no way detracts from 'Number', though. It is still a high pick for the foundation of a metal music collection, and not a half-bad album for rock fans to pick up, too.
So comes the third album. Iron Maiden had enjoyed success with their two first albums. They had even released a live EP called ‘Maiden Japan’ after the second album. The truth is, though, ‘Killers’ was a disappointment after the mindblowing debut album, and vocalist Paul Di’Anno was starting to loose it. Maiden had to cancel several shows because of Di’Anno was getting drunk or worse. They needed someone to replace him. So, they began their search and found Bruce Dickinson. Bruce was at the time the vocalist in a band called Samson, and called himself Bruce Bruce for some reason. Steve Harris and the rest of Iron Maiden was of course very interested in having him join. Bruce wasn’t basking in any particular success with Samson, and thought this could be his way to stardom. He joined, and Di’Anno got the boot. And then Iron Maiden recorded their third album.
“The Number of the Beast” was the band’s breakthrough record. While they grew bigger through the rest of the 80’s, this is the album that really got the snowball rolling. It is considered by rock critics to be their best album, either this or Piece of Mind, while the fans think of it as one of Maiden’s best, perhaps not quite the masterpiece ‘Seventh Son…’ is, but still an incredible record.
The record starts with ‘Invaders’. A fast, upbeat track, it’s a great opener, though not quite the quality that most of the rest of the album possess. There’s a definite improvement in sound over the first two albums, and Dickinson’s incredible voice makes Di’Anno’s voice pale in comparison. Maiden really hit the jackpot with that decision. Song number two, ‘Children of the Damned’, is a semi-ballad. The intro is reminiscent of Metallica’s ‘The Unforgiven’, though if anyone’s ripped of anyone, it’s the other way around. It’s a really beautiful song, and the first song on the album where new vocalist Bruce really shines. Towards the end of the song, it gets faster, and Clive Burr’s drums in that section sounds fantastic. He really was one of the best drummers. Then comes ‘The Prisoner’, a song based on the television series of the same name. Somehow it almost outclasses the song that preceded it, and that’s quite a task. This one is a faster song, with a ripping verse, and a very catchy chorus. The most impressive section of the song is the bridge, though, where bassist Steve Harris outdoes himself. It’s like a leadguitar solo, only on bass. Incredible stuff, really. Track four is named ’22 Acacia Avenue’, the sequel to ‘Charlotte the Harlot’, found on the debut album. The basis for the song was actually something guitarist Adrian Smith brought with him from his previous band, and it was reworked into this song. It starts very slow, with a cool riff, and then it suddenly gets fast. The guitar work is great as usual, and Dickinson’s performance is a treat to listen to. Closer to the end there’s a really great guitar solo from either Adrian Smith or Dave Murray. Although I play the guitar, it’s impossible for me to distinguish between the two. They are both two of the world’s greatest guitarists in the world, so it doesn’t really matter if I can make them apart or not. The song itself is not quite as good as the previous two, but it still has a high quality.
Then comes the title track. This is one of the most legendary songs in metal history, and of course one of Maiden’s best. Not an overly complicated song, but it’s perfectly executed. It starts with spoken word by some guy (I’ve heard it is Vincent Price, but I’m not sure), taken from the Bible, and then the riff kicks in. Bruce starts to sing, and after a few lines it all explodes in a high-pitched scream of fury. Or is it desperation. I’m not sure. It sounds great anyway. And then the verse kicks in, which is so great to listen to, words can’t really describe it. After a couple of verses, two of the most incredible guitar solos comes along. You should really listen carefully when those kick in. The chorus is simple, with only two lines, but still holds up by far. And this is only the second best track on the record! Track number six is probably one of Maiden’s most well-known songs ever. ‘Run to the Hills’. A very cool song, with a galloping rhythm. It’s very repetitive, but it’s so good it doesn’t really matter. You could say it’s this record’s version of ‘Running Free’. Bruce sings REALLY high-pitched on this song, and because of that he sometimes have trouble singing it live. He did it perfectly at the concert I went to in 2000, though. Actually, he’s having more trouble singing ‘The Number of the Beast’, now that I think of it. Anyway, let’s go on with the review. ‘Gangland’ is the next track. Sadly, it can’t compare to the rest of the album in terms of quality. It’s co-written by Clive Burr, and therefore it’s kind of the drums that get the attention. The verse is allright, but the chorus is not good at all. The guitar solos are boring, and all in all it’s better to skip the song.
If you have the ’98 remastered version of this album, there’s a bonus track on it. Track number eight is that bonus track. ‘Total Eclipse’ is a song that was released as a b-side to one of the singles from ‘The Number…’, but it’s actually better than ‘Gangland’. I think it was written at the same time as the rest of the tracks, but somehow it reminds me of the hybrid between ‘The Number of the Beast’ and ‘Piece of Mind’. It’s a bit slower than most stuff on the album, and very moody. I’m glad it was finally included. The last song on the album, track number nine, is ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’. This is arguably Maiden’s ultimate masterpiece. It’s a real epic from start to finish, and was the start of those grand, neverending songs that Maiden concluded their three next albums with. It’s about a man that is about to be executed, and about the thoughts that goes through his head in these last hours. The instrumental sections of the song are wonderful, and it’s the guitars that really makes this song head and shoulders above almost anything else. One incredible riff after the next, mixed with harmonies and killer lead-guitar solos. The end is so perfect it brings a tear to my eye. My God, I’m so impressed!
Phew. I’m finally at the end of the review. This is an album that every metal fan should own. It defined what Maiden was/is all about, and they have kept this going until this day. Of course, they skipped the 90’s, but that’s another set of reviews. My final words must be: If you own this album, you’re one lucky human being. If you still haven’t got it (and NO, MP3’s does NOT count!), you should be ashamed of yourself, confess your dark sin and go buy the album.