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Iron Maiden - "The Number of the Beast" (1982)


MacabreEternal

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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.

3/5

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Rare that I will read 4 paragraphs about Iron Maiden and agree with just about every word. Killers was their unquestionable apex and for me Piece of Mind would be their next best effort, even if it was to some extent a one-sided affair.

As far as Number of the Beast, I have heard more than a few punters call it out as their fave which always seemed strange to me. Hallowed always stood out as the alpha dog here in my mind.

But yes, even after all these years Run to the Hills does still provoke some combo of nostalgia and adrenaline, at least through the first chorus. RttH was actually the first Maiden song I ever heard here in the US, I guess that makes sense to be the single here in the states with its cowboys and Indians theme. I heard it in my car on the radio back in a time when you might hear a metal song on the radio once in a blue moon.

I was a bit older than 6 when it came out though, I was 20 in March of '82 so unlike most of you I have no memories of growing up with Maiden or the nwobhm from my teenage years. I do remember going back to get their first two records and wondering 'What the fuck were they thinking?!? They should've kept this guy!' (Di'Anno) but clearly I am well in the minority with this view.

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I was the opposite, I was happy to see them get rid of Paul. I didn't hate the guy, (that came later when he alone proved why he shouldn't be in any band) but I much preferred Bruce's voice. I may not rate it much more than 3/5 but I do think it's a better album that it's predecessors. I was sick of hearing songs like Run To The Hills by the mid 80's, but mostly because of the way they dragged it out live, not so much the studio version.

I've had plenty of people over the last 20 years on forums tell me I'm wrong for not liking Paul, but I'm thick skinned and don't really care, I just can't get into his singing.

As much as I do like this album I wont be rushing out and buying the cassette version released this week.

 

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Well Maiden wasn't hot shit here in the states until after they had already gotten rid of Paul, but I guess that was kinda the whole point, eh? They certainly went a lot farther down the road to success with Bruce than they ever would have with Paul. And that's their perogative, obviously I'm not paying their bills so I don't get a say.

But what I will say is as someone who was a young metalhead in the early 80's, having seen the early videos of a young Paul D fronted Maiden I think I would have really liked that version of the band if they had come around to play some small club gigs. 

But as the large scale too-big-for-their-britches sports arena filling act that they quickly became by the mid 80's with the soaring vocals, well that band held much less appeal to me. I reckon the vocalist switcheroo is probably the main reason why Maiden is just a footnote in my metal journal while they get their own chapter in many other peoples'. 

I've still never heard any of the albums that came after Powerslave. So obviously I'm basing all my opinions on Maiden Mark II on just 3 albums. I have checked out a few random tracks here and there over the years and nothing I've ever heard has ever inspired me to try out an entire album. But to each their own.

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Their prerogative was also based on the fact that Paul was damaging the band. Rightly or wrongly Steve had an image in mind for his band and Paul was ruining that image and in Steve's mind it was costing them gigs and money. Whether Paul was the best singer or not it made business sense to get rid of the broken wheel. As a business move it was obviously the right move for the band who went on to greater things. Whether it cost them a lot of fans I don't suppose they'll ever know.

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Seriously doubt it cost them many fans, according to that doco I watched recently Maiden, or maybe I should say Steve Harris went through an awful lot of band members in their early years and it didn't seem to have much effect on their popularity one way or the other. Mr Murray seems to be the only one that Steve never felt the need to sack. And if it did cost them any fans, they more than made up for it with the new fans they gained. I concede that Mr Dickenson was an important part of their eventual commercial success and probably the largest single reason they're now a household name even outside of metalhead circles.

But again, I'm not trying to say what they should or should not have done, that's their business. I'm only saying that from my personal perspective that the band they ultimately became, fulfilling Mr Harris' vision or whatever, was not really my thing, and I might have ridden the Maiden train just a little longer if they had gone with a different vocalist. Not even necessarily Mr Di'anno, but just someone other than Mr Dickenson. The soaring vocals just got old for me really quick. But the point is moot because once they went in a more progressive direction I would have lost interest no matter who they might've had fronting the band. The question I have is would Samson have become a big name band if Bruce Bruce had stayed?

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Dave kind of looks like he's ridden the wave and stayed where he knew he was going to get paid, but he was sacked in '77 at which time he joined Adrian's band Urchin, having previous formed a different band with Adrian at school. Maybe no one's safe from the sacking hammer of Steve Harris, although there has probably been as many amicable departures as there has been sackings.

 

I haven't listened to much Samson but I'd say no. Maiden's groundwork and Steve's determination was  got them where they needed to be. Some of it was probably luck and some being in the right place at the right time, but Steve worked his arse off behind the scenes to make sure everything fitted the vision he had. I don't think Samson had the same drive, I don't even think Bruce had the same drive until he'd been in Maiden for a while. Chances are none of them have had the same drive as Steve. These days they all seem to have the same drive and the same outlook for where the band is going, but like any band they are probably only one disagreement away from someone leaving.

 

 

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