Artist Iron Maiden
Album The Number of the Beast
Release Date: 22 March 1982
Label EMI/Harvest Genre Heavy Metal | NWOBHM
“Woe to you, oh Earth and Sea
For the Devil sends the beast with wrath
Because he knows the time is short
Let him hath understanding reckon the number of the Beast
For it is a human number
Its number is Six-hundred and sixty-six.”
Any metalhead worth his salt instantly recognizes the intro to this song, whether or not he likes Iron Maiden. And the song, “The Number of the Beast,” not only comes from one of Iron Maiden’s best albums, but also from what is certainly one of their most important albums. That album is the topic of today’s Retro Review, 1982’s The Number of the Beast. For the purposes of this review I’m listening to a vinyl copy of the album, because that’s the best format, and allows this album to sound as perfect as it was intended to sound.
There are many reasons for choosing this Iron Maiden album, not the least of which is the fact that “Hallowed Be Thy Name” is one of my favorite songs. And, of course, who doesn’t like “Run to the Hills” or the title track? The talent these guys had at such an early stage in their legendary career just blows the mind. From Bruce Dickinson’s legendary vocals to Adrian Smith’s and Dave Murray’s shredding to Steve Harris’ phenomenal bass work, it’s all just more than could be asked for.
Speaking of Dickinson, he is partially why The Number of the Beast was such an important album for the band. Previously, Maiden had recorded two albums, Iron Maiden and Killers, with Paul Di’Anno, and the band’s popularity was growing. However, the songwriting called for a future with a singer possessing more technical capabilities. Enter Dickinson. Exit punk influence. With a new singer and an altered musical direction, the album had to be a masterpiece.
The album was released to great critical acclaim, and has gone on to achieve placement on just about everyranking list in just about every heavy metal publication. It was Iron Maiden’s first album to rank Number 1 on the UK charts and their first album to achieve platinum status in the U.S. A masterpiece indeed!
However, the album’s success doesn’t mean it was smooth sailing. Quite the contrary. Mostly in the U.S., the band was accused of being satanic (calling your album The Number of the Beast might do that), and the band garnered tremendous opposition from social conservatives who went so far as to protest the band and smash and burn the albums. That was the climate in the ‘80s; people were afraid of satanic influence.
While the title track had nothing to do with satanism and was actually based on a nightmare that Steve Harris had, there were rumors of paranormal and unexplained occurrences during the recording of the album. These include the lights flickering on and off at Battery Studios, as well as equipment breaking down. But none of the stories top the one about then drummer Clive Birch crashing into a bus full of nuns and then being presented with a repair bill totalling £666.
If you notice any of the songs, they each have their own theme, though slightly related in idea. “Run To The Hills” strictly talks about the white man stealing what would become America. The lyrics are very true, though, considering school teaches you the watered down version that Native Americans greeted us with open arms and what not.
All in all, I recommend that everyone gives The Number of the Beast a spin or two. Whether it be MP3 or vinyl, it really doesn't matter because this is one of heavy metal's greatest albums... plus the guitar work and lyrics are spot on. If you don’t listen to the album for anything else, at least check out “Children of the Damned” and try to figure out how many Metallica songs are derived from that one song! And let’s not forget that we all wish Bruce Dickinson a speedy and healthy recovery from cancer. Stay metal my friends.