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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)