The Number Of The Beast

Iron Maiden

Raw Power Records, 1982

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/09/2004

The firing (or resignation, depending on who you talk to) of Paul Di'Anno was a huge blow to Iron Maiden, who were coming off of their great Killers LP. With the exception of AC/DC, no other major heavy metal band in the early '80s successfully replaced its lead singer. Artistically and commercially, the odds were against Iron Maiden.

Still, there was no other heavy metal singer quite like Bruce Dickinson. He was theatrical, a fencer and had a set of pipes that could be powerful enough to strip the finish off of your first jalopy while sounding melodic. And, despite the few dozen fans who swear by Di'Anno, Dickinson immediately established his presence and became the definitive voice of Iron Maiden within the first few lyrics of "Invaders" from The Number Of The Beast.

In terms of critical acclaim, The Number Of The Beast is Iron Maiden's most successful, accomplished album. Of course, when it was released in the '80s, it, along with Iron Maiden, was panned because of the band's theatrical zeal and cartoonish references to Satan (although many parental and religious groups saw nothing humorous with Iron Maiden). For those who were willing to dismiss the unfair criticism leveled against the Irons, they were rewarded with songs that sounded more like hard rock - or even pop - than demonic heavy metal ("The Prisoner" and "Run To The Hills").my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Much credit to Iron Maiden's melodic vein must go to Steve Harris: unlike other hard rock or metal bassists, such as Flea or even Geddy Lee, Harris's playing usually incorporates a great deal of melody. Adrian Smith and Dave Murray's guitars were able to perfectly complement Harris's wild playing throughout The Number Of The Beast.

Lyrically, well, I'll concede, if you're looking for Satanic imagery, The Number Of The Beast is fairly rife enough hellish images to make a Christian rock fan cower behind a Stryper album. But the band coyly incorporates these images without endorsing any particular ideology. For the most part, the band is more concerned about injustices and the evil that men do (a theme that would be especially evident in their Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son LP), such as the plight of the American Indian in the galloping "Run to the Hills."

In his hilarious book Fargo Rock City, Chuck Klosterman said any youth who was listening to Iron Maiden in the '80s probably wasn't getting laid. Still, that doesn't stop the band from singing about sex (or the evils of sex) in "22 Acacia Avenue (the continuing saga of Charlotte the Harlot)" In the beginning, it sounds like a Poison or Motley Crue ode to nighttime entertainment: "If you're feeling down depressed and lonely / I know a place where we can go / 22 Acacia Avenue, meet a lady we all know." You can almost hear the audience yell "yeah!, let's go to 22!" But toward the end of the song, it takes a Taxi Driver-like turn into self-righteous vigilance: "Can't you see it'll lead you to ruin/ Charlotte you've taken your life and you've throw it away … You're packing your bags and you're coming with me."

It's hard to analyze The Number Of The Beast without sounding as corny as Kansas in August. The album is a landmark album, but for reasons I have yet to grasp. It's not revolutionary, it isn't a dramatic departure from earlier Iron Maiden releases, it's just a really kick-ass album. Why did this album get the acclaim while Peace Of Mind and Powerslave remained essentially fan favorites? No matter - the album, to paraphrase Beavis or Butt-Head, "rules."

Rating: A-

User Rating: A-


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© 2004 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Raw Power Records, and is used for informational purposes only.