Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast (1982)
Welcome back to YDCS! I don’t cover a lot of metal here but that’s going to change with our album this week, Iron Maiden’s The Number of the Beast. The Number of the Beast was Iron Maiden’s third studio album and their first to be incredibly commercially successful with singles like “Run to the Hills.” The whole album rocks out loud and features superb musicianship. I think that’s one of the reasons that people are drawn to Iron Maiden, besides playing loud rock music, they’re all excellent instrumentalists (listen to “Invaders” for incredible bass work, “Gangland” for drumming, and “Children of the Damned” for guitar). The other reason I think Iron Maiden draws a large following is because even though it’s metal music, it’s still very accessible. Iron Maiden was one of the leaders of the 80s metal scene, building on the work of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin in the 1970s and setting the stage for glam metal acts in the late 80s like Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, and Winger. Their music doesn’t throw you into the deep end as much as later thrash metal acts like Anthrax, Slayer, or Megadeth do.
I had never sat still long enough to listen to The Number of the Beast before this review, and the only songs I was familiar with by name were “Run to the Hills” and “The Number of the Beast.” I was pleasantly surprised with the record though! I expected Iron Maiden, like a lot of groups at this time, to fall in line with the desires of the record companies and make an album the featured a little bit of everything for different audiences. Maybe one or two power ballads, a few heavy metal songs for their core audience, and maybe another, more experimental track. I should have known better. The Number of the Beast is unapologetically metal and rocks out loud from start to finish. I really like a band that sticks to their guns and makes the kind of music that they like, regardless of the sales. It’s one of the reasons that Rush is my favorite bands! That attitude shows through on the album. They knew what kind of record they wanted to make and the final product is much better for that. I hope you enjoy the album!
Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown
Invaders: You start the record and the first thing you hear is this amazing bass line and drum fill that launch you into a high-speed song. “Invaders” sets the stage well for what you should expect for the rest of the album, and it was one of my favorite songs on the album too! I really liked the chorus where lead singer Bruce Dickinson hits some crystal-clear high notes in front of a shredding guitar. That highlight was one of the first inklings where you might think that the band has really got some chops. Great track! Dad’s Rating 8/10
Children of the Damned: “Children of the Damned” slows things down a little bit at first and shows a more restrained side of Iron Maiden, but then the remind you that they’re still a metal band and immediately speed things back up when you’re not expecting it. That was really cool and aught me off guard at first. Bonus points awarded on this song for throwing a face-melting, tapped guitar solo in the middle of this song. That was definitely a highlight on a song that I thought was going to be a power ballad! Dad’s Rating 8/10
The Prisoner: The first thing that I heard when I listened to “The Prisoner” was that I can see where more modern genres like speed metal draw their influence because this song follows the same basic structure as a speed metal track (think Dragonforce). It has really fast verses with down-tempo choruses that let you take a breath for a second. This is a rocking song too. Musically, it’s not my favorite on the album because it doesn’t show as much depth or musicality as other songs, but it’s still a really good song. Check it out to listen to one of the early influences on modern metal! Dad’s Rating 6/10
22 Acacia Avenue: “22 Acacia Avenue” was the weakest song on the record for me. It’s buried in the middle of the album at the end of the A-side, right before some mega hits. For me, there was nothing to make it stand out and I’ll probably forget it after this review. It rocks like the album, shows a level of dynamic range by alternating between slow and fast portions, but didn’t do enough to hold me. Dad’s Rating 5/10
The Number of the Beast: We’ve made our way to the title track of the album, “The Number of the Beast!” This song gets a lot of love from publications and “Best Of” lists to this day, much of it deserved. I’ll start by pointing out the things I like about this song. It’s a true rocker. The guitar solo is one of the better ones on the album and the dual guitar portion during the solo interlude is really cool. I also like the way that Davidson effectively spits out the lyrics. There’s so much emotion on this track that you can feel it just listening to it! Beyond those points, I think there’s better songs on the album that show a wider degree of musicianship and are more enjoyable to listen to. It’s a good song, but for me, there’s nothing special enough about it to rise to the level of stardom that some hold it to. Dad’s Rating 7/10
Run to the Hills: We’ve got a big one here! “Run to the Hills” is a practically perfect metal song and does well to represent the genre. Lyrics about the European invasion of Native American lands? Check. Out of this world vocals? Check. Fast-paced guitar and a killer solo? Check. This was the breakthrough hit for the band and is still cited as one of the best metal songs ever written. I think that a lot of that has to do with how clean the song is. Oftentimes, metal music can get muddied and hard to follow, but every instrument is clear as day on this song. I think that lends credit to the song and the skill of the musicians to let the music shine through so well. The other reason that this song is so good is that it deals with a very uncomfortable subject matter for a lot of people. Iron Maiden were brave enough to make a song about the westward expansion of America and forcing Native Americans out of the land. Metal is all about two things; music and message. They hit both on the nose with “Run to the Hills.” Dad’s Rating 10/10
Gangland: I had heard references to “Gangland” before this review but never actually listened to it. It actually ended up being one of my favorite songs on the album! I really focused in on drummer Clive Burr on this track and he laid down one of his best performances on the album on “Gangland.” High energy the whole way through the song and he even got to open up the song. When I heard only the drum to open up the song, I knew that it was going to be a special song. Dad’s Rating 7/10
Hallowed Be Thy Name: We close The Number of the Beast with another one of Maiden’s biggest songs and one of the most influential songs in heavy metal, “Hallowed Be Thy Name.” I want to start by addressing the lyrics because the lyrics inform the music in this song. The song tells the story of a man about to be hanged and the thoughts going through his mind as he walks to the gallows. The music pairs perfectly with the song, starting softly as the main character waits in his cell, raising to a frenzy at the end when his time is up. It was a perfect use of dynamic range. Each time I listened to this song I heard something new in the instrumentation, whether it was the bass line, the lead, or a different drum fill. There’s a lot going on but it all melds together to tell an amazing story. Dad’s Rating 8/10
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