Iron Maiden - The Number of the Beast
EMI
NWOBHM
9 songs (44:50)
Release year: 1982
Iron Maiden, EMI
Reviewed by Al

I think it would be a fair supposition to say that any human being living today that has had a reasonable amount of exposure to western popular culture has at some point in their lives come across the name Iron Maiden. Whether it be because of the mid 80’s media frenzy over Satanism, the memorable cartoonish artwork and ever present mascot Eddie or unfathomable as it may seem, the music, I think you would be hard pressed to find someone you could mention Iron Maiden to and receive only a blank stare in response. Iron Maiden have managed to permeate the consciousness of popular culture to an extent that no other actual metal band has ever managed before or since and perhaps for this reason alone they deserve mention in the hallowed classics section of this site.

But as we all know there’s far more to it than that. In order for something to be labelled a classic in this genre I feel that it has to meet these basic criteria.
1) Be an outstanding album. An album should simply be a glittering gem of the genre. It should eclipse the majority of other releases with its sheer awesomeness in both its own time and the present. It should make your head bang and your heart pound and bring the planets into alignment for an hour (give or take) of musical joyousness.
2) Stand the test of time. It should achieve criteria no.1 even after being over 10 years old. Just because it sounded good then does not mean it will sound good now, if however it still does it’s highly likely you have a classic on your hands.
3) Innovate and influence. The album should have introduced something new and substantial to metal music as a whole at the time it was released and gains classic status brownie points every time you hear the album’s innovation or sound being used by contemporary musicians.

The Number of the Beast not only achieves these three criteria, it is quite possibly one of the best examples in existence of an album matching them exactly. I often find myself asking if an album is a classic and I often ascertain that with another question, ‘Is it as good as The Number of the Beast?’

As I’m sure many of you know, Maiden were formed in 1976 by bassist Steve Harris and released their self titled debut album in 1980 with Paul Di’Anno covering lead vocal duties. Another year and another album later Di’Anno’s time with the band came to an end. While little fault could be found with his vocal abilities, even to this day, Di’Anno’s rampant alcoholism resulted in the rest of the band ejecting him from the group. It may go down as the best decision made by a heavy metal band in the history of mankind as his replacement would later become one of the icons of the metal scene and prove to be the secret ingredient required for the bands unbelievable success. I am of course speaking of Bruce Dickinson. Aside from being an impossibly charismatic front man and an integral part of the band’s legendary live shows, Dickinson could really SING. While there have been some amazing vocalists in the history of metal Dickinson’s delivery has always been in a league of its own and his style has been emulated countless times by other vocalists but never quite repeated.

With the band settled into its most memorable line-up they recorded and released The Number of the Beast. Instead of wittering on about the tracks individually I’d like to instead demonstrate exactly how the album meets the criteria I mention earlier. It meets criteria 1 due to the sheer strength of the majority of its songs. The title track and Run to the Hills are now a part of metal mythology and nothing can really be said about them that has not been said before but on top of this are tracks such as The Prisoner, 22 Acacia Avenue and Children of the Damned. Each one a master class in crunching riffs, blinding solos and soaring choruses. The icing on the cake is of course the closing track Hallowed Be Thy Name, my personal favourite among Maiden’s output and one of my favourite songs of all time. It distils almost everything I love about metal in seven minutes and still sends chills up my spine every time I hear it. While there are a couple of missteps in the form of Invaders and Gangland, they are so utterly eclipsed by the brilliance of the rest of the album that it scarcely matters. The album as a whole captured the essence of heavy metal and in some ways defined the genre itself. That’s a big check in the first box then.

The album meeting Criteria 2 has been affirmed every time I play it. Even after all these years and the countless times I’ve heard some of the tracks, this album still manages to sweep me up and blow me away with its sheer power and quality. Even tracks like Run to the Hills which I must have heard many hundreds of times still surprise me simply with how damn good they still are.

Criteria 3 can be seen in a staggering number of heavy metal releases in the past decade and beyond. Whether it’s the dual guitar melodies and solos found in the Finnish and Swedish melodeath bands or the vocals and structure of power metal, time and time again you can hear influences stretching back to Maiden and to this album in particular in the music of today. Without the existence of Maiden heavy metal as we know it would be a very different beast.

The only other question to address would be, ‘Why this one?’ I’m sure any long time reader of this site would notice that there are a large number of Maiden albums in this section of the site, so why does this warrant inclusion as well. The answer to that is simple, this is where it all started, this is where Iron Maiden became the band we know and love and this is where Iron Maiden took the first steps toward becoming one of the biggest acts in the history of this genre. It also comes down to personal taste, if I had to choose only one Maiden album to be classed as a classic this would be it, everyone has their personal favourites, this is mine. Enjoy it as much as I have.

Killing Songs :
Take your pick, Invaders and Gangland are below the standard of the rest however.
Al quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Iron Maiden that we have reviewed:
Iron Maiden - The Book of Souls reviewed by Goat and quoted 73 / 100
Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier reviewed by Goat and quoted 83 / 100
Iron Maiden - Flight 666 DVD reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Iron Maiden - Killers reviewed by Thomas and quoted CLASSIC
Iron Maiden - Iron Maiden reviewed by Thomas and quoted CLASSIC
To see all 29 reviews click here
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