IRON MAIDEN — The Number Of The Beast (review)

IRON MAIDEN — The Number Of The Beast album cover Album · 1982 · NWoBHM Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
Iron Maiden’s The Number of the Beast is one of those albums that is widely considered a classic album and quite often is at the top of people’s favourite Maiden album lists. And while I consider it a solid album, I wouldn’t quite go that far about the Number of the Beast. The previous album Killers even though it didn’t have Bruce Dickinson on vocals was actually in my opinion a better album. That’s definitely not to say I’m one of those people who thinks that The Number of the Beast is bad, it’s certainly not, it’s actually really good, exceptional even, but it’s not an album without its faults.

That said after album opener Invaders you might be forgiven thinking that this is Maiden’s best work. A fast three and a half minute job and basically the first album track with Bruce Dickinson up front. It’s a great metal song and definitely a Maiden classic. The slower Children of the Damned follows and keeps the standard as high as Invaders set it. Two vastly different songs here and if the whole album were up to this standard then yes, it probably would be my favourite Maiden album but sadly that is not the case, though it keeps going strong through the third track The Prisoner which is based on the TV series of the same name and has samples of its audio in the intro. 22 Acacia Avenue is no less a strong song, although of the first four it’s the weakest. Lyrically it’s a sequel to Charlotte the Harlot from the self-titled debut album.

Next on the album come two of Iron Maiden’s most known songs, the album’s title track The Number of the Beast and Run to the Hills. Great songs both but this album was released in 1982 and since then these two in particular have been played to death. They’ve stood the test of time in terms of greatness and are definitely worthy of being considered classics, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing and perhaps to some these songs might be ones that sometimes, unjustly I might add, get skipped. Overall though you’ll notice that I didn’t say anything negative about my personal thoughts, and you’d be right in thinking that up until this point The Number of the Beast remains a 5 star album.

This is where it all goes downhill. To call it bad would not be fair (in fact they’re still pretty solid songs) but after six of the nine songs being of such a high standard the next two songs come as something of a disappointment to say the least. They are namely Gangland and Total Eclipse (which was only added onto the album for the 1998 remaster). Wrong’s wrong with them I hear you ask? Well not a lot really but Maiden have become the victims of their own high standard on the album with these two songs. Total Eclipse is the better of the two with a quite infectious groove to its rhythm.

Fortunately they bring it all back up to the standard of the earlier songs with the album’s closing track, Hallowed Be Thy Name. While it is like The Number of the Beast and Run to the Hills in that it has been overplayed, in fact I once read an interview which said Nicko McBrain won’t play if this song isn’t in the setlist (ironic consider Clive Burr is still in the band at this stage), this is one of the earliest examples of an Iron Maiden epic. And Nicko has good reason to want this at every gig, because it is easily the finist thing on The Number of the Beast. While the debut album had Phantom of the Opera this is perhaps the first true classic of the long Iron Maiden, usually Steve Harris penned, epics. The song tells a story like an epic should and is executed to perfection. From the haunting toll of that bell in the intro to the traditional Maiden sound when the song erupts into full assault heavy metal to Bruce Dickinson’s excellent vocal performance, especially nearing the end of the song in those final lines of the song when for the first time the song’s name is sung, Hallowed Be Thy Name is what metal is all about. Perfection.

Because of those two songs, Gangland and Total Eclipse, overall I just can’t quite consider The Number of the Beast to be the masterpiece it’s often hailed as but yes, it is very good. I just need to be in love with every single song to give it a full 5 Star score, so with that said, my final verdict is just a bit lower.

(Review originally written for Heavy Metal Haven)
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