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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.