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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.