Iron Maiden - "The Number of the Beast" (1982)
When this album was released I was nearly six years old. When I got my grubby little mitts on it some seven or eight years later I thought at the time that it was an "old" metal album. Given that the album has been around now nearly as long as I have it seemed a perfect entry to remind us all as metal fans of our ever decreasing spiral on this mortal coil. To start on a negative note, ‘Invaders’ just might be one of the worst album openers of all time. Couple this track with ‘Gangland’ and you have two of my least favourite Maiden tracks all on one album. Despite being a generally inconsistent affair and its poor start ‘The Number of the Beast’ manages a 3 because when the tracks are on point they are crackers.
The obvious anthem on here is ‘Run to the Hills’, which although I have heard more times than I have my own name be called still has some positive impact after all these years. But for me the real gems on here are the tracks that rarely get spoken about. ‘Children of the Damned’ retains that threatening and menacing edge from the writing of the first two albums and is actually complimented really well by Dickinson’s vocals. Similarly, album closer ‘Hallowed be Thy Name’ builds into a layered and solid structure, exploiting Dickinson’s range well. The storytelling theme of previous records continues on the third effort to. ‘22 Acacia Avenue’ expands on the tale of Charlotte the Harlot and continues that anthemic memorability to the structure.
Sadly, when the album dips, it dips badly. This makes for an inconsistent and sporadic release, like the bad arrangement of the first album that I spoke of the in my review of it only this time the quality of the song writing doesn’t rescue the likes of ‘The Prisoner’ and the aforementioned ‘Invaders’ and ‘Gangland”.
Given this album follows my all time favourite Maiden release there was always a risk of me feeling underwhelmed and that unfortunately is the case here. The iconic artwork aside I find little reason to return to this album with any regularity. Give me what came before and/or after this one any day of the week.