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“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.