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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.