Review Summary: An unmistakable landmark in the genre of metal. This album owns. It's that simple.Iron Maiden
The Number Of The beast
When describing genres of music there are always certain albums that people cannot help but make reference to. When speaking of punk it is almost blasphemous not to mention The Clash’s London Calling
and you’ll rarely come across a progressive rock fan that won’t recommend you King Crimson’s In The Court Of The Crimson King
every chance he gets. Naturally, different people will have different albums they think perfectly represent a genre of music, but each genre generally has a list of albums that a vast majority of people tend to refer to. Case in point, when talking about heavy metal it is almost unheard of not to mention Iron Maiden’s The Number Of The Beast
and it’s not hard to see why. This album was the debut for long-time Maiden front man Bruce Dickinson and he made quite the impression! Bruce’s vocals were in there prime at the tender age of 24 and that is exemplified in the vast range and unrelenting power he displays throughout the album. And with Dave Murray and Adrian Smith laying down some “in your face” riffs and lightning quick solos, Steve Harris showing off his driving bass lines and signature metallic clank tone and Clive Burr holding it all together with precise technical drums beats it’s difficult to find any flaws in this album.
In the past there has been some controversy over the messages in Iron Maiden’s lyrics. People often misinterpreted them, thinking that they delved into the topic of satanic beliefs. This, of course, is inexplicably false. Maiden have always wrote about things that interest them, this album being no exception. Children Of The Damned
is heavily based on movies “Village Of The Damned” and “Children Of The Damned”. The Prisoner
was inspired by a British TV show fashioning the same name. The title track opens with a spoken introduction which draws from King James’ version of Revelation 13:18 and was also clearly inspired by 1960s horror films. Personally, I quite enjoy this aspect of Maiden. Most bands are too fixated on writing lyrics that have meaning and most of the time they come out seeming cheesy or cliché. Hopefully more bands will adopt this concept rather than trying to force meaningful lyrics, as meaningful lyrics generally can not be forced, but are formed in moments of total spontaneity.
The guitar work is nothing less than what you would expect from Iron Maiden. Dave Murray and Adrian Smith were both on top of their game filling the album from head to toe with fast riffs, shredtacular solos and some softer moments to add to the albums diversity. One of the album’s best riffs comes from the title track, The Number Of The Beast
. It’s quite vibrant with a mid paced gallop to it and some jet engine FX going on. Naturally, that’s only one example of the wonderful riffage to be found in the album. I’d also recommend the intro riff to Run To The Hills
. It’s similar to the riff in the title track in the sense that there is FX used, but it’s not as vibrant. If you’re looking for a good solo you could listen to any song on the album but perhaps the most impressive can be found in, what is often considered Maiden’s best song, Hallowed Be Thy Name
. The solo pounces on you roughly five minutes into the song and is a colossus of massive bends, quick hammer on/pull offs and smooth sweeps. Truly marvellous stuff. The album’s guitar work wasn’t entirely composed of hard hitting distortion, there were more delicate moments present. The introduction to Children Of The Damned
was very soft and melodious.
The Number Of The beast
debuted many changes in Maiden’s style. One of the key changes was the change in Steve Harris’ style of bass playing. Prior to this album Steve played bass in a more customary manner. It was on this album that Harris crafted his signature metallic clank-like tone and boy was he itching to show it off! Right from the start of the albums opening track Invaders
Steve’s newly coined technique is made evident. The guitar starts things off with a few power chords and then the bass rises up and steals the show, playing a cool sort of back-and-forth riff. Mr. Harris’ bass work is once again made apparent at the beginning of the very next track Children Of The Damned
. It plays softer in this track as it saunters along beneath the guitar. Yes, Steve Harris was a more than significant factor in the change of sound for Iron Maiden, but certainly not the biggest factor…
The biggest factor would have to be, without question, Bruce Dickinson. Iron Maiden’s original singer, Paul Di’Anno, was given the boot at the end of the band’s 1981 tour due to alcohol and drug problems. With the band left incomplete Bruce was more than glad to fill Paul’s shoes. And I must say, he did a fantastic job. There were brief occasions where Dickinson’s voice seemed to crack, most likely due to his young age, but for the most part he was excellent. Whether he was belting out notes at the top of his lungs, or chanting in a whisper like state his voice was always filled with intensity and passion. The track 22 Acacia Avenue
perfectly exemplifies this. Dickinson’s voice is constantly at a fever pitch. Also, in this track you can get a taste of the voice cracking I was talking about. During the verses Bruce does this sort of scream this that just did not work well. It wasn’t bad to the extent that it made the track unlistenable, by any means, but it was definitely a noticeable flaw. Stand out track Hallowed Be Thy Name
is a certifiable illustration of the aforementioned whisper-like chant I was talking about. During the intro Bruce’s singing is calm but powerful, much like the calm before a storm, in fact.
My only major qualm with this album would have to be fluency. The overall sound wasn’t as tight as most of Maiden’s later releases. This is most likely due to the mass amount of changes to the band’s sound that took place. The addition of new a singer, Steve Harris’ change in style, it was also Clive Burr’s first (and only) outing on the drums for Maiden and it was also the first time Adrian Smith contributed to the song writing process. As a result, it was extremely difficult for the band to produce a consistent ambiance. It’s not that big a deal in the long run, but when compared to other Maiden albums such as Powerslave
it is quite noticeable.
In conclusion, this album is a necessity for the typical metalhead and despite minor flaws is simply tremendous, most definitely a landmark for the genre.
Solid production (for time period)
Occasional voice cracks