Iron Maiden – The Number Of The Beast
The Number Of The Beast
We resume our story with Paul Di’anno getting canned for being a bit of a partier. ‘Arry had had enough, so in comes Bruce Bruce of Samson fame, and lo and behold: the classic Maiden lineup is (almost) 100% there.
There’s a noticeable change in sound here, mostly because they were completely out of old material, so every song was written for the album, and you can feel the extra energy coming out of your speakers. Number Of The Beast sounds almost like a completely different band, even musically (because Paul and Bruce sound so similar!). The presence of Adrian Smith as the dedicated songwriter really comes through here.
Side one is the most “rockin’” side, while side two is a bit more “epic metal” sounding. “Invaders” kicks off the album, but it’s the weakest song here. The bass is pretty groovy, but it’s lacking that special something that later Maiden openers would have (“Murders In The Rue Morgue” was the opener for the tour, “Invaders” has never been played live…not even at that show in Australia in 1990 where it was supposedly played). “Children Of The Damned” harkens back to “Remember Tomorrow,” with a dark, somber intro/verse, heavy chorus, and then concludes with a riff explosion that would set the standard for every single “mellow” thrash song that would ever come to be (“Fade To Black” comes to mind).
“The Prisoner” opens with the intro of the British TV show of the same name, and then a very un-Maiden-like drum beat, finally erupting into your typical uptempo Maiden track. Killer lead from Adrian here, and some excellent solos to boot. “22 Acacia Avenue” continues the saga of Charlotte The Harlot from the first album, and is a reworked version of “22” by Adrian’s prior band, Urchin (on a related note, “Sheriff Of Huddersfield” from the Wasted Years single is a parody of Urchin’s “Life In The City”). Truly a lost classic, as this is my second favorite song on the album. The second half of the song is absolutely incredible!
Side two opens with a foreboding spoken word intro from the book of Revelations, and kicks into the title track. More great riffing and one hell of a scream from Bruce (producer Martin Birch tormented Bruce by making him continuously re-take the intro just to get the scream he wanted!). “Run To The Hills” is your typical Maiden single: the galloping bass, catchy-as-all-getup chorus, and a great solo from Dave.
Now we get to the “controversial” part of the album. “Gangland” was the first song written for the album, and the band felt a bit attached to it, and thus decided to put “Total Eclipse” on the b-side of the Run To The Hills single, where it would linger until 1998 when Maiden remastered their back catalog from 1980 to 1992. Even though it was performed live on their headline shows (and “Gangland” was never played), it was relegated to non-album track status, a decision the band regretted almost from the get-go (interestingly, “Gangland” and “Total Eclipse” are Clive Burr’s only writing credits for Maiden). “Gangland” is basically a pre-production version of “The Prisoner” (drum intro, speed metal riffing, little noodle of a lead), and personally, I think “Total Eclipse” is a much better track, standing out as the dark, brooding midtempo track, amongst all the killer material here.
Anyways, the album closes with one of the greatest songs of all time, “Hallowed Be Thy Name.” From the quiet, introspective intro to the blistering finale, this has “CLASSIC!” written all over it. Great lyrics, great riffs, and the pure, raw emotion in Bruce’s voice just bleeds through your speakers.
The singles from this aren’t really worth tracking down if you’re not a completionist. “Total Eclipse” was added between “Gangland” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name” starting with the 1998 remasters, and the live version of “Remember Tomorrow” from the Number Of The Beast single is simply Bruce going all karaoke on the Maiden Japan recording. Yeah, the band was lying (and still is…) about this being recorded live in Italy from the warmup tour, as Bruce didn’t add a lot of vocalizations to the song on the full tour (and they’re the same as Paul’s from Maiden Japan), and Dave’s solo is disturbingly identical to the one on Maiden Japan, and Dave normally pulls his solos out from his nether regions. Also, the album art got botched, and the grey sky was made blue (which is why I’m not using the original artwork!), to the chagrin of artist Derek Riggs…and it was originally slated to be the sleeve for the Purgatory single!.
Kylie’s rating: 5 out of 5