Review Summary: SIX. SIX. SIX. THE NUMBER OF THE BEEEAAAAAST!
In retrospect, is was the end of the beginning for the NWOBHM movement. Numerous albums such as Diamond Head's Lightning to the Nations, Judas Priest's Sad Wings of Destiny, and Black Sabbath's first two albums helping lead it. But now that all the major albums were out and the effect had been there, it loomed later on. To sign off a remarkable music development, for true rock, Iron Maiden responded with Number of the Beast: one of the single most controversial metal albums to date. But does Number of the Beast live up to all of its hype, quoted as the single album that made Maiden into what they are?
The answer is definitely a mixed bag. It is certainly one of Maiden's best albums, if not better than the two before it. Number of the Beast presented a fresh, new face: Bruce Dickinson, one of the most powerful metal vocalists. Due to Di' Anno being kicked off for his chaotic actions, Dickinson left his group Samson to join Maiden. One headlining tour was made for Beast, their third and most important release is a nostalgic climax, in a way: even the most basic music on their later albums were refreshing. The instruments were very atmospheric, in some ways, and Dickinson's moving, low-and-high mix of a pitch rockets through the album. And so, in half a year, Iron Maiden turned fourty-five minutes into their magnum opus, to some. And yet, as much as the album can annoy me, I cannot help but enjoy it.
Maiden has ditched their old material. Besides the obvious vocal change, the band entirely changes their material into something different, something more unique. Every band member would have a part of writing. There are no instrumentals, and the obvious answer is Dickinson's vocals. But Number of the Beast is a slightly new path, one that totally changed the style. It utilizes the strength of every instrument and vocals, whereas there were times in the previous albums that were dependent on a single instrument or vocal performance. The screaming and drums on "Number of the Beast" add to the atmosphere, whereas the bass and guitar lead "Hallowed Be Thy Name". Through the nine songs, the album otherwise proves the strength Maiden has been known for.
Perhaps fitting is the title. The name of the album alone constitutes a theme of chaos, rather than satanism. Though considered more satanic at first, they soon realized the album's atmosphere was just dark and thought-provoking. (Black Sabbath anyone?) Said themes are proven in the nature of 'Hallowed Be Thy Name', which deals with the hanging of a man, 'Invader''s classic theme of Viking attacks, and 'Children of the Damned''s slower nature, more haunting.
But the instruments help mix up the atmosphere well: there are some that are adrenaline rising, or grow over time. The dual-guitar work by Adrian Smith and Dave Murray prove to be as cataclysmic as many say. The blazing, shredding nature of each song otherwise prove a frenzied atmosphere. Harris proves to be one of the strongest bassists of all time, creating some of the most crushing rhythms in metal. Burr pounds his drums at an incredible pace. Guitars and bass can highlight songs such as Hallowed Be Thy Name
and Total Eclipse
, but drums add to the dark, violent nature of Run to the Hills
, which also highlights Gangland
, which highlights 22 Acacia Avenue
. Every instrument has their part to play, and they are all significant in their own way.
The question still stands: is this Maiden's greatest? Well, after numerous listens over the years, does the album live up to the awe and nostalgia that certified me into Maiden for years?
No. This is not Maiden's best. This is a band still in the building stages of their career, and the various influences laced throughout should otherwise prove my point. But it does contain everything that made Maiden into what they are: some precise storytelling, blazing solos, blasting drums, and one hell of an atmosphere. Though it is not Maiden's best, it comes incredibly close, and this an album you either hate or love. There is no way around it, but I recommend this to anybody, hands down.
4.5 / 5
Making a list is difficult, as every song has positive and negative aspects, some slightly more than some.