The number of the beast (1982)
âIf the band is doing really well with their first and second albums, and they’re not doing a very good third album, there’s a kind of deep sense of disappointment that can very often mean the beginning of the end. But a really good third album can turn everything on, and in our case, it was a great record. It really set the scene for the albums that followedâ¦ But of course the albums aren’t just music, they’re also the product of their time. And Beast number, because he occupied a space and achieved such legendary status due to his position in the band’s careerâ¦ it would be very difficult to dislodge that.
(Bruce Dickinson to Martin Popoff, The 500 best heavy metal albums of all time, ECW Press, 1994)
âI remember telling them when it was over, ‘You know, it’s gonna be a big, big album. It’s gonna transform your career.
(Martin Birch to Mick Wall, Run to the hills, MPG Books, 1998)
“[During] recording, I had a weird incident. I was driving all the way to London, and a car came out on one side and hit me. Turned out this guy was black, he was going to church looking for nuns. He started out there in the middle of the road, saying prayers. I was going to say ‘Well, this is really weird.’ In short, the invoice I received for the damage to my car was exactly Â£ 666. When I got the car back I refused to pay the bill, I said, “Either you make 668 or 670, I don’t pay that number.”
(Martin Bouleau, 12 years lost, 1987)
By the end of 1981, it was clear to Iron Maiden and his leadership that if they were to take another big step in their career, a serious change had to be made. Not only was Paul Di’Anno’s offstage demeanor becoming a growing distraction, his gritty singing style, while formidable in the 1980’s debut, lacked the power and range that suited where Steve Harris wanted. take the music then. Immediately after the group’s performance at the 1981 Reading Festival, their last show in support of the Killers album, manager Rod Smallwood approached Samson frontman Bruce Dickinson to eventually join the biggest group on the NWOBHM scene. After auditioning in September, Dickinson was hired and the rest, as they say, is history.
Iron Maiden was on the cusp of a major business breakthrough, but they had a lot of work to do. For the first time, the band had to create new songs from scratch and had three months to create the most important album of their life. And all the band did was get him out of the park on The number of the beast.
Looking back The number of the beast, what is most extraordinary about it, it is not only the quality of the anthem of so many songs, but the great stylistic variety of all. Each track is clearly unique, distinct and instantly memorable. Harris enters his prime as a songwriter on this record, contributing to five classic songs specially created to flaunt Dickinson’s stunning vocals. Still a ruthless songwriter, Harris’s material constantly demanded a seemingly inhuman vocal range and an ability to clearly deliver verses with twice as many words as needed, but in Dickinson he had the perfect leader, one who could sing it all. what was given to him. , no matter how difficult, no matter how breathless the verses are. Just look at a few lines from this album:
Call to arms, defend yourself, prepare to rise up and fight for your lives
Judgment day has arrived, so brace yourselves, don’t run, hold on
As the guards take me to the yard
Someone calls from a cell “God be with you”
If there is a God, then why did he let me go?
Dickinson’s status as a heavy metal vocal legend is undeniable, but it was his unrivaled performance on The number of the beast that cemented it. He may not have been able to make any tangible contribution to songwriting – ongoing legal issues with Samson prevented him from earning songwriting credit – but he carries the entire album on his back. Dickinson bursts onto the stage of the rampaging Viking tale “Invaders”, displays an opera flamboyance on “Children Of The Damned” – a cousin of Iron Maiden’s “Remember Tomorrow” but getting better – and brings the audience to the cell. cold of a man condemned on the moving epic “Hallowed be your name”. The power and command with which he delivers the phrase “The sands of time for me are running out” is impressive, a reflection of how the reach of Iron Maiden has finally come out of clubs and into stadiums. As big as Iron maiden and Killers were and still are The number of the beast is top level.
The album also marked the first time Adrian Smith has contributed songwriting, and it made an immediate impact. A tribute to the cult classic television series of the same name, “The Prisoner” displayed a remarkable talent for melody, groove and simplicity that would become Smith’s hallmark. â22 Acacia Avenue,â meanwhile, was a holdover from his days in Urchin and Evil Ways and is fleshed out with help from Harris, transformed into a multi-colored and surprisingly compassionate sequel to peeping âCharlotte The Harlotâ.
And of course, there are the two most ubiquitous, notorious – and popular – songs on the album. Starring one of the most distinct intros in heavy metal history and propelled by a brilliant drumming performance from Clive Burr – who shines throughout the album for that matter – âRun To The Hillsâ is Maiden at its more invigorating, its fast tempo echoing the gallops depicted in Harris’s portrayal of First Nations oppression, perfectly suited to the staging, something that immediately engages the audience. The title song, however, is a masterstroke. A perfect embodiment of heavy metal’s most crucial tenets – flamboyance, melody, drama, escape, menace, provocation, power – Harris’ surreal feverish dream is fiery and unusually dark, highlighted by a sensational solo duel between Murray and Smith and again delivered with theatrical flair by the indomitable Dickinson. Watch an audience erupt in reaction to this song in an arena, and you will understand the unique and deceptively simple power of this song. It’s heavy metal personified.
The number of the beast maybe Iron Maiden’s best album, but it’s not a perfect album. Featuring Burr’s only contribution to the band’s discography, âGanglandâ is an unfortunate faux pas. While it’s quite memorable, it doesn’t live up to the very high quality of the other seven songs. During the rush to complete the album, the band had to choose between the fast-paced “Gangland” and the darker, medium-paced “Total Eclipse” for inclusion on the album, the other serving as the B-side on the âRun To The Hills,â and Harris readily admits he wished he had chosen âTotal Eclipseâ far superior. The song was later included in the 1998 reissue of the album, and while âGanglandâ still stands out, âTotal Eclipseâ strengthens the second half considerably.
Upon its release, adorned with the towering but witty artwork of Derek Riggs – the devil manipulating Eddie with puppet strings, but with Eddie above the devil doing the exact same thing – the reaction to the The album was immediate, on both sides of the spectrum. ‘Run To The Hills’ became the band’s first single in the UK top 10, the metal press reception was overwhelmingly positive, and most hilariously, it was referred to by the US religious right as being satanic. In the early ’80s, there was no better publicity for a heavy metal band than a good ol’ Satanic panic, and while trying to brush off the patently bogus accusations was a huge deal, notoriety played a role. difficult US market.
With The number of the beast, the group was fixed. As Dickinson has said many times, it marked the roller coaster car reaching the top of that crucial first climb. The pace for the next 10 years would be insane, bringing the group to unprecedented success and ending up taking a heavy toll on everyone involved. This album was the catalyst, and in retrospect, the artistic climax of a legendary and multifaceted career that shows no sign of stopping after more than 40 years.