Iron Maiden Number of the Beast- 1982
RMR Album Rating- 4
Iron Maiden’s third album “Number of the Beast” is considered to be one of the seminal albums of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM), and many metal fans consider it one of the greatest metal albums of all time, which is a pretty hefty claim. So, let’s take a look to see if it lives up to these claims.
The biggest change on “Number of the Beast” from Maiden’s first two albums was the addition of Bruce Dickenson, who’s operatic vocals didn’t just give the album a new vocal sound, but it changed the way Iron Maiden went about writing music. With Dickenson’s vocal range, they could now write songs around his voice, which they considered an instrument in itself right along with the guitar, bass, and drums. However, being Dickenson’s debut, and the band’s first venture in writing songs around his voice, there are some successes, but there are some also some serious failures.
The sound of the album is extremely patchy, meaning that it never gets into a smooth flow. This patchiness is both in terms of the ordering of songs, and musically— within the songs themselves. It just seems like the album never hits its stride. I will also say that the album is plagued with awful lyrics in some spots. Iron Maiden does great when they’re singing about war, evil, or any universal topic, but when their lyrics get too specific, they really fall short. The best example of this is “22 Acacia Avenue,” which is about a brothel. It’s not that I’m offended by the song’s content, but the lyrics are so literal that they come across as sounding incredibly trite. “22 Acacia” is just one example, but the album is littered with other cliché lyrics that really bring down the album’s overall listening value. However, with all that being said, there are some great moments mixed into all this patchiness. For instance, there is at least one great instrumental or vocal passage in each song. Whether it’s a guitar solo, bass line, drum fill, or a siren scream from Dickenson, every song does have something decent to offer, but only a few songs really come out as complete winners.
Of the 9 songs on the album, the best songs are the ones where the music completely syncs with Dickenson’s voice, and as mentioned, this doesn’t always work out. Only 4 of the songs really stick with me, which makes more than half the album completely forgettable. There is good news, though. The four songs that do shine—really are excellent tracks. The title track is great, although I do find the instrumental/ vocal mix to be a bit choppy, and its chorus doesn’t flow quite as well as some of the other songs on the album, but it is a landmark heavy metal track, and it did give Bruce Dickenson the nickname “Air Raid Siren” due to his 12-second scream at the beginning of the song (Click here to listen to The Number Of The Beast).
I also like “Invaders” and “Run to the Hills,” which both have instrumentation that is perfectly matched to Dickenson’s vocals, and both songs (especially “Run to the Hills”) move along at a galloping pace and have infectious vocal hooks.
Click here to listen to Invaders
Click here to listen to Run To The Hills
Then you have “Hallowed be thy Name,” which is the crown jewel of the album, and it rivals “Powerslave” as my favorite Iron Maiden track of all time. It starts off slow; then it really kicks in after about a minute. It has the same galloping pace as “Invaders” and “Run to the Hills,” but the sound is much more intense here because of the duel guitar attack from Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, which would become an Iron Maiden trademark sound on future albums. “Hallowed be thy Name” is not only an amazing track, but it also laid the blueprint sound for the next few Iron Maiden albums and power-metal in general. It really is fantastic; click here to listen to Hallowed Be Thy Name.
Ultimately, there are some really good elements to this album, but there are also some really poor ones. I really like Iron Maiden, but unlike many Iron Maiden fans, I don’t consider this their masterpiece.
So, to answer my original question, “The Number of the Beast” is certainly considered one of the seminal albums of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, but it is not even in the running for the greatest heavy metal album of all time, for it is not even in the running for my favorite Iron Maiden album of all time. After this release, Iron Maiden would move away from the early 80’s sound of the NWOBHM and become much more of a power-metal band with progressive tenancies, and those albums easily outshine this one.
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