The Number Of The Beast by Iron Maiden – album review

Iron Maiden is English Heavy metal band which was formed on Christmas day of 1975. They are one of the most popular metal bands at this moment alongside Black Sabbath and Metallica.  In the first 5 years band went through numerous member changes but one face always stayed and that is bassist, leader and main songwriter Steve Harris. In 1980 they released their debut album “Iron Maiden” which is seen as landmark point of NWOBHM (New Wawe of British Heavy Metal) movement.

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Their debut album is for me their second best album, first being” Seventh Son Of Seventh Son”. Even though Steve Harris was always very vocal for his distaste of punk music you can clearly hear a lot of punk in this album. Less complicated guitar lines (Although “Phantom Of The Opera” is one of their most progressive songs of all time) and especially at that time their singer Paul Di’Anno. Album also includes one of the best instrumental tracks I have ever heard in my life “Transylvania”. Clive Burr’s extremely good drumming is what makes this album. You can clearly hear that on the songs like “Prowler” and on the title track. What is an Iron Maiden album without great bass lines played by Steve Harris? This album is full of them like on songs “Prowler” and “Charlotte The Harlot”. With just these two songs Steve Harris showed how great bass player he is.

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A lot of bands that release great debut album suffer from one thing and that is called  “sophomore slump”. That means your next album is big disappointment. So did that happen with next Iron Maiden album called “Killers”?

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Absolutely not. Although I enjoyed their debut album little bit more ,”Killers” is still pretty good album. Easily best song of the album is “Wratchild” and yet again one of the biggest reasons is very good Steve Harris’s bass line and virtuoso playing of two guitar players Adrian Smith and Dave Murray. “Killers” also has one instrumental track called “Genghis Khan” and it is as good as “Transylvania”.

 

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And now we get to the big one. “The Number Of The Beast”. Iron Maiden’s most popular album with a lot of classic songs like “Run To The Hills”, title track and “Hallowed Be Thy Name”. On this album another band member change happened. Paul Di’Anno was replaced by Bruce Dickinson.  So how good is “The Number Of The Beast”?

This album is absolutely amazing, but that is nothing new. Lot of people were praising this album when it was released and there is a lot of people who are still praising it. Album opens up with really good and fast “Invaders”. Opening your album with really fast song is very good thing. It prepares you for what is about to come. Also, “Invaders” sounds like it would be perfect opening song for “Biker Mice From Mars”.

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Then we get to first classic song on this album and that is “Children Of The Damned”. This song is very often played on the live shows and it is very obvious why. Like a lot of Iron Maiden songs “Children Of The Damned” is perfect song to sing along to. Just listen to that melody in the chorus. It is a perfect ballad with beautiful acoustic guitar and equally beautiful electric guitar which gives this song heavier sound. Bruce’s vocals on this and on all other songs are absolutely fantastic. Usually one line choruses tend to sound very repetitive, but for some reason that is not a case with this song. It is probably because of that melody in the chorus as I already mentioned. Also guitar solo perfectly fits the overall mood of the song. I love how it starts very simple and then it becomes this very fast shredding solo which is backed up by very good rhythm guitar which has very nice groove.

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Who are you?

The new number 2
Who is number 1?
You are number 6
I am not a number! I am a free man!
[Laughter]

This is how track #3 called “Prisoner” opens up and it is one of the best ways possible to open up the song. As I already mentioned a lot of Iron Maiden songs are perfect live songs, but this one is not like that. This song has some other great qualities. Like for example great bass line and overall great production and instrumentation. Also, solo is amazing.

Here is one weird thing. I was never big fan of Venom, they have some good songs but you can clearly hear how “22 Acacia Avenue” was heavily inspired by them. I love how Bruce’s vocals on this song are so theatrical and it creates great atmosphere. Especially when he sings:

When you entertain your men don’t you know the risk of getting disease

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This song is continuation of “Charlotte The Harlot” from their debut album “Iron Maiden”. It is basically a song that is talking about dark side of prostitution.

And now we get to one of most iconic Iron Maiden songs which is title track of this album and yet again it starts with spoken word.This time it being part from Book of Revelation 13:18. Guitar riff is outstanding just like Clive’s drumming and that is not even best part of the song. With this song Bruce Dickinson showed the world how great singer he actually is. That scream is one of the best vocal lines I have ever heard in my life. As he explained on the BBC Classic Albums series, Bruce Dickinson’s high-pitched scream at the end of the intro was a result of producer Martin Birch forcing the band to replay the intro several times. Dickinson became so fed up with the constant repeats that he emitted the scream out of frustration, and it fit so well that the band decided to keep it. (source:SongFacts.com). This song sparked a lot of controversy, because of its “meaning” which many people got absolutely wrong. This song was influenced by the 1978 movie Damien: Omen II, which is about a 13-year-old Antichrist. It was written by Iron Maiden bass player Steve Harris, who explained: “Basically, this song is about a dream. It’s not about devil worship.”. Many preachers started to believe that members of Iron Maiden are Satanist which still to this day makes me laugh. Because of this song massive record burning were organized. Those incidents will later be their inspiration for song “Holy Smoke” which appeared on their 1990’s album “No Prayer For The Dying”

“The Number Of The Beast” is followed by another classic and very often songs played live. “Run To The Hills”. If you have ever heard single Iron Maiden song this is probably song you have heard and it is absolutely amazing. One thing that I always liked about Iron Maiden is how loud and how clearly you can hear the bass lines. After all, when you have bassist like Steve Harris is it would crime against humanity to not give him a lot of presence in the mix. Which can not be said for some bands and their vocalist *cough* Into The Wild Life *cough*. Iron Maiden likes to talk about history in their songs and “Run To The Hills” is not an exception. This song talks about battle between Native American and settlers in which  first verse is written from perspective of Native Americans,second verse is written from perspective of the settlers and last verse from third person narration.

At this point of the album we get to the worst song of the album and that song is “Gangland”. Do not get me wrong this song is still pretty good but in comparison with other songs this one is the worst one. Main reason is the chorus. It is kinda uninteresting. Iron Maiden choruses are most of the time very interesting musically and/or lyrically but this time that is not the case.

There is not better way to end already great album with your best song of all time. That is how good “Hallowed Be Thy Name” actually is. This song progresses both musically and lyrically in an amazing way. We will talk about lyrics later, but let’s focus on musical side of this masterpiece. I love how song starts with very spooky and kinda doomy atmosphere which is carried by great guitar riff played in finger  style. From that point song progresses to full Prog Metal masterpiece.Lead guitar part creates very good melody and Bruce’s singing adds up on overall atmosphere of the song making it more theatrical. He really knows how to present the lyrics in the best way possible. Just like in most of songs of this album drums are absolutely fantastic. Same can be said for bass line. Although it is not that much complex like others bass lines from this album it is still very good bass line and it fits the song in such a beautiful way. Then we get to the solo and holy shit. This solo is absolutely one of the best solos of all time. Tapping part is probably best part and yet again it is covered by really good rhythm guitar which has really nice groove.

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Now, let’s talk about lyrics of this song. This song is about a man who is on death row and about to be executed, it is from the perspective of that man. He realizes that he is about to be executed, but he doesn’t want that to happen. It is very hard for him to accept that. He is asking himself is this really end for him or is this some kind of crazy dream and that he will wake up soon. He is questioning is there God and why he does not save him. As he walks his life drifts away because he is about to be executed. He says how people should remember his words which are:

When you know that your time is close at hand
Maybe then you’ll begin to understand
Life down here is just a strange illusion.

Lyrically this is easily one of the best songs of all time. There is not many songs that can tell story like this in such a good way like this song did.

With this song this albums ends and I can tell you this album is 40 minutes of pure awesomeness. That is why this album gets perfect score 10/10.

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