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The Number of the Beast

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★★★★½
(291 Reviews)

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  • This is, as most every … metal fan knows, Iron Maiden’s third album and their first to feature their longest-running singer, the great Bruce Dickinson. Circa 1982: freshly out of his former band Samson, Dickinson would replace Maiden’s original singer Paul Di’Anno …, and would stay with the band until the mid-`90’s, only to return again in 2000.Bruce Dickinson is one of metal’s best singers, period. His mighty pipes carry tremendous range and power, and he can hold a note for the LONGEST time. He also throws a great performance onstage. He ranks up there with Matthew Barlow of Iced Earth, James LaBrie of Dream Theater, Michael Ã…kerfeldt of Opeth, and Glenn Danzig of Danzig … as one of the best metal singers I’ve ever heard.Now, for the rest of the band: Steve Harris, songwriter/backing vocalist also is one of the most talented bassists I’ve ever heard. He plays a standard-tuned 4-string, but good LORD, just listen to him! He creates such complex rhythms and even leads; he’s like a third guitarist …. Every song he can clearly be heard under the fantastic guitar riffs and fleshing out the thick drumming.Dave Murray and Adrian Smith: what can I say about these guitarists? Where can I BEGIN? The two are a fearsome duo, slicing and dicing the listener as they alternate leads and solos with ease, creating such fast-paced riffs and crunches, it hardly matters how much or how little distortion they might use. I’ve practiced playing guitar for a couple of years, but lately I’ve been doing so a lot more thanks to them. Definitely one of the most perfect guitar duos out there, and still going strong. And now they have an additional guitarist in the mix, Janick Gers, but since he’s not on this album, he won’t be discussed…although he sure is good, too. I just wish they would credit who played which lead and solo in the notes!Clive Burr is a highly underrated drummer, I think. He provides really loud, well-paced beats, as well as great fills and crashes. Unfortunately he wouldn’t be with the band for long, and would be gone by the PIECE OF MIND-era …, but when he was with them, boy he was good. One of my favorite performances by him: the intro to “Gangland.”The songs are all so perfect, I will go through each one individually.”Invaders” is a fast-paced, attention-getting opener. It tells the tale of a Viking invasion upon a Nordic village, I think. The drums thunder like a thousand running feet, the bass and guitars like cries of fear and fury. And Bruce Dickinson…it’s easy to see why many called him “Air-Raid Siren.”"Children of the Damned,” I’m not so sure what this one’s about. It starts off kind of slow and has great guitar work from Smith and Murray, and slowly gets more up-beat, but then in the bridge of the song…VROOOOM! It just takes off at an ultra-high pace and knocks the listener off their feet ….”The Prisoner” has a little sample from the sci-fi sitcom of the same name, then breaks into a mid-tempo beat that is simply infectious for foot-tapping. Then it speeds up so suddenly and without warning, with a sweeping, powerful instrumental thrust. Dickinson snarls and barks out the tale of a man in prison who has one thing in mind: getting out. Very catchy chorus, too. And remember what I was saying about Harris being a complex bassist? Just listen to the leads he makes in the pre-chorus: CRAZY!”22 Acacia Avenue,” another faced-paced track, is a fable of a prostitution house and how truly insane and upside-down one could be. While the song is excellent and I could be stuck on a deserted island with it, it is probably one of my lesser-favorites.”The Number of the Beast”…, the source for many a parent’s apprehensions that their kids are listening to bad music. A streamlined and fast-paced tale of a man’s encounter with an unholy cult performing a Satanic ritual, yes – but by no means promoting Satanism; rather, this takes a fearful outlook upon such practices, as the narrator within the song is trying to get away…but ultimately, unsuccessfully. After an eerie intro by the late Vincent Price, the atmospheric guitar riffs kick in, with Dickinson’s worried-sounding vocals coming in with a now-classic opening line: “I left alone…my mind was blank…” The solos in the bridge of the song dazzle, and the little gap between them is amazing in itself as the pace slows down, then picks up again for a huge “shebang!” Parents may still want their kids to avoid a song that has “666″ in the chorus, but regardless, this is one of Maiden’s best.”Run to the Hills” is very similar to “Invaders” in plot, but this time tells the story of the white settlers that came to this land we now call America, and as they mercilessly hunted down and slew the natives. The beginning drum beats lead into a great trio of guitars and bass, and then Dickinson comes in with his furied snarls. Then, like many Maiden songs, the song suddenly picks up pace and fires off into a blistering, galloping juggernaut.”Gangland” is yet another uptempo piece, this time focusing on living in the more ghetto side of town, and the fears of going outside, for the gangs might get you. Rather violent and up-in-your-face lyrics, too. Like “22 Acacia Avenue,” one of my lesser favorites, but still a masterpiece.”Total Eclipse” is a prophetic tale of nature taking revenge upon mankind for our decades of causing such damage to her. It starts off with mid-tempo, fairly heavy riffs that are like thunder in the sky, and then builds up the pace a little. Dickinson’s vocals are at their most furious here, I think.And then there’s “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” the ultimate masterpiece on this album. Clocking in at over 7 minutes, this is the tale of a man’s final hours as he is on death row and waiting for his time. The imagery and emotions FEEL so real. This one starts off with a bell chiming …, and then the song picks up pace a bit, building to climatic verses where Dickinson’s solo vocals alternate with blasts of instrumentation. The massive bridge is breathtaking with its powerful time changes and solos…and with the subject matter, this song is an excellent choice for an album closer.As well, this 1998 remaster/reissue is very good. The notes are packed with information about the era and the recording/touring of this album, and the sound is pristine.So there it is: Iron Maiden’s 1982 album, the first to feature Bruce Dickinson, and where they achieved perfection. The band has had many, many other good songs on other albums, and this one isn’t even their best – but it is, without a doubt one of them, and certainly one of the most important albums in the history of heavy metal.

    Posted on March 8, 2010