Monday, February 02, 2009

Iron Maiden: The Number of the Beast

This is Iron Maiden's third studio album, and it's the first one from the band that I bought. This album marked a turning point in the band's history for a couple of reasons. First, it marks the introduction of Bruce Dickinson as the lead vocalist, whose style is distinctly different from that of his predecessor, Paul DiAnno. Second, it's the album that brought widespread popularity to the band, especially with such hits at "Run to the Hills" and the title track.

On the cover, Eddie is now huge. He's manipulating the devil, who is in turn manipulating a man over a burning hellscape. This is Eddie in all his big scariness, and I kind of like the fact that, despite his gargantuan size, he still wears jeans and a T-shirt. Incidentally, according to Wikipedia, the cover art as you see it above is a mistake. The sky is blue not by intent but by printer's error. It was supposed to be black. Newer prints of this compact disk apparently render the sky in its proper blackness.

The album opens with "Invaders," a good (but not great) song about Vikings. Then comes "Children of the Damned," which is based on the science fiction film of the same name. This song is classic Iron Maiden in its slow beginning that builds up to its rapid fire conclusion.

The next song is "The Prisoner," which is based on the UK television show of the 1960s (it even uses dialog from the opening of the show to introduce the song). Very good. Then comes my favorite song on the album, "22 Acacia Avenue." This song continues the story started on the first album with "Charlotte the Harlot" and on the second album with "Drifter."

Next is the title track, "The Number of the Beast." Opening with a quote from the Bible (The Book of Revelations, of course!), the song jumps right into a macabre representation of a man's bad dream. This is one of Iron Maiden's enduring hits, as is the song that follows it, "Run to the Hills." This song tells about the suffering of American Indians at the hands of the white man, and, though it is a very popular piece, it's not one of the better offerings on the album.

"Gangland" is next, a mediocre song about the Mafia, and then comes "Hallowed Be Thy Name," one of the best Iron Maiden songs ever produced. This song relates the last minutes of a man condemned to hang, and it features one of the long-winded wails Dickinson is known for.

All in all, The Number of the Beast is a solid album. It's not really a favorite of mine, but it's good, and it served its purpose of introducing me to Iron Maiden.

UPDATE: For your entertainment, a great ending to a great song, "22 Acacia Avenue."


KeithAlanK said...

I think Nicko McBrain joined on drums at this time, too.
He played with Pat Travers before Maiden.
The original drummer used to speed up the tempo whenever he did a tom roll, which drove us musicians crazy.

Albatross said...

Actually, McBrain joined on the next album, Piece of Mind. I remember when I got that one that I noticed the drum sound was different right away, and I looked up his name in the liner notes to see who the new guy was. I liked Clive Burr, and I like Nicko McBrain, but they definitely have very different drumming styles.

But, really, Nicko played with Pat Travers? Wow, I never woulda thunk it!

Learn something new every day.