REVIEW: Iron Maiden – The Number Of The Beast (1982, 1996 bonus disc)

Part 5 in my series of Iron Maiden reviews!

IRON MAIDEN – The Number Of The Beast (1982, 1996 bonus disc)

One of Maiden’s greatest album covers happened to house a great album inside.  There was a segment of Maiden fans that were very much against the replacement of Paul Di’Anno, but Bruce Dickinson was undeniably the right man for Iron Maiden.  Formerly known as the ridiculously monikered “Bruce Bruce” of rival band Samson, Dickinson fit in quickly and triumphantly.

From the first song, “Invaders” (a history lesson on the Norman invasion), The Number Of The Beast does not disappoint.  “Invaders” is a storming opening, but not nearly the quality of the next number:  “Children of the Damned”.  Along the lines of the older “Remember Tomorrow”, this song proved why Bruce was the man for the job.  The dramatically powerful music is only enhanced by Bruce’s wail.  They nicknamed this man “Air Raid Siren” for a reason.  “Children of the Damned” still sends shivers up my spine…

Another classic, “The Prisoner”, follows.  Significantly, this is the first Adrian Smith co-write on the album, and in Iron Maiden.  He has three co-writes on the record, and Adrian’s writing lent a melodic hard rock side to the band.  His composition style is unique from the other members of the band, and identifiable.  “The Prisoner” starts with that famous intro:  “We want information… information… information!”  The band had McGoohan’s permission to use it, and effective it is!  It’s a catchy, singalong Maiden song, the kind of thing that worked great live.  And Bruce really delivers on that chorus.

Charlotte the Harlot makes her return on “22 Acacia Avenue”.  The lyrics boast, “You can tell her that you know me, you might even get in free.”  But it’s not as simple and straightforward as that anymore, as Maiden have grown musically, so have they lyrically.  Another character, perhaps a family member, turns up and asks Charlotte, “isn’t it time you stopped this mad life?”  But if you’re not paying attention to that because the song rocks so hard, I understand.  This one too bears the stamp of Adrian Smith who was no doubt responsible for those terrific riffs.

With the addition of Smith and Dickinson, the band had obviously grown and intensified.  But the next two songs, opening side two, blew the doors off.  “The Number of the Beast” and “Run To the Hills” were a double whammy:  two awesome singles in a row that would help send the band off into immortality.  I’m not saying that with a shred of hyperbole.  If you’re reading this and don’t know these two songs, then I don’t know what’s wrong with the world!

I won’t dwell on either song.  Yes, “Run To the Hills” is one that I never need to hear again, but I’m sure glad I heard it the first time.  It’s the song that got me into the band.  I absolutely loved the video for “The Number of the Beast”, and those chiming opening guitars.  Then Bruce screams, and we’re off to the races.  Great song, awesome video, funny too.  This is the kind of image that people have of Maiden, that persists forever:  Bruce, long red hair flowing like a precursor to Axl, that fringe of his in front, and those spiked armbands. Classic!

“Gangland”, the only unremarkable song on the album, is a co-write between Adrian and drummer Clive Burr!  My understanding is that with 20/20 hindsight, Steve would have preferred to have “Total Eclipse” on the album instead.  “Gangland” does have a good bridge, but is otherwise pretty stock.

Finally, “Hallowed Be Thy Name”.  I remember this was misspelled “Hallowed By Thy Name” on the old cassette that my buddy Bob had, so I thought that really was the name.  “Hallowed” was to be Steve’s new 7 minute epic, something he’d become known for.  “Hallowed” is one of the best epics, and something that absolutely required the vocals of Bruce Dickinson to bring to complete fruition.  Bruce nails that mournful slow opening, and then absolutely lets rip with some pretty intricate words.  Seriously, do you ever try to sing along at album speed?  I always trip up words somewhere.

“Mark my words, believe my soul lives on don’t worry now that I have gone, I’ve gone beyond to seek the truth.”

And to sing it at his volume with that much emotion?  Unbelievable.

And that’s the album.  The 1998 remasters tacked on “Total Eclipse” as a bonus track, and it’s here on my bonus disc.  This was the B-side to “Run To the Hills”.  My younger sister actually had this single and I don’t know why.  (Kathryn, comment below please!)  “Total Eclipse” was actually performed live, and can be found on the Eddie’s Archive box set.  It’s a mid-tempo rocker with a fast breakdown in the middle, come solo time.  It’s catchier than “Gangland”, and is also co-written by Clive Burr, with Dave Murray and Steve Harris!

The bonus CD this time only has two tracks.  That’s all they released at the time, two singles, two B-sides.  The second B-side is a stunning live version of “Remember Tomorrow” with the new guy singing.  I always prefer Di’Anno, because he co-wrote the song, for his voice, and made it legendary to start with.  But Bruce is no slouch.  Much like Dio used to sing Ozzy’s stuff with more skill and range, so does Bruce in this case.

You’ll notice one guy is absent in the writing credits:  Bruce Dickinson.   Due to lawyers and rigamarole with his old band, Samson, he wasn’t legally able to write with Maiden.  Don’t worry though, he’ll make up for it on the next album!

I don’t want to give Beast a perfect 5/5 score for two reasons.  One, “Gangland”.  Two, better things were still to come.  There has to be room for improvement.  Therefore:

4.7/5 stars

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17 comments

  1. AN incredible and also important album in Metal history. I always liked Gangland personally, never thought it was worse than some of the filler on their other albums. Although I adore it, I guess the band weren’t that pleased with Invaders because they never played it live much did they?

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  2. Total Eclipse is a great track,as is the whole album,Invaders I think I recall reading that they played it in New Zealand on the Fear of the Dark tour.
    I remember buying it and going who’s the bloke holding the torch on the back cover,haha,but once I heard Invaders it was like …..who was the last guy singing??hahahaha,
    U knew back than that they were gonna be huge….I mean I seen them and Girschool open for the Scorpions in Winnipeg back in 82….and to be honest it wasn’t until after I seen the Scorps that I got into them,whereas I owned 2 Maiden albums and a E.P!…so I yeah I blown away buy them at the age of 15 and well between that and the merchandise they had converted thousands of 15 yr old boys that year,plus doing the trench work of playing all over North America as well….
    Great musicianship but great business sense as well…..

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    1. Deke thanks again for your perspective. I like that you remember these albums from the era and can add your memories. Stuff like “U knew back than that they were gonna be huge…” is great! It must have been an exciting time.

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  3. Yeah for sure it’s a total trip cuz well it’s great riding your reviews and everyone’s comments when I’m sitting in here in my living room (thank god for the ipad)with my wife and three daughters and there watching the X factor ( and no not the Maiden album)…. Plus I can relive yesteryear which for me was high school the yrs of 1981-86…..so thanks for that….

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  4. For sure the build up to album releases was different back than,I mean the magazines like Circus,Hit Parader and even to a point Creem u would flip thru and see a add for the soon to be released album with the street date…so the next course of action would be to Hound the local record stores and make sure that was the case and than me and friends would than worry about school..hahahaha….
    I remember being surprised to see Number of the Beast just kinda show up but man we were all waiting for the next Maiden to drop……

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  5. Sounds like I started highschool the year you graduated, that would make you roughly the same age as the kids who got me into bands like Maiden in the first place.

    I remember buying Hit Parader every month, and checking out the ads for the albums coming. Any time I could score a picture of some new Maiden cover art, that was the best!

    I’m really psyched to see what you guys think of the coming Maidens. These are really important albums! It is a pleasure re-listening to each one in order to do this. I just pulled another stack of Maidens out to take pictures…I have a lot of singles in the batch from 1988-1992 so hold tight.

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  6. I recently said I was too busy to write up song-by-songs on all these records. And I am. I really haven’t got the time for this. I should be sleeping – our teething baby will be up again in such a short time. But here I am at 22:00, on my second glass of a fairly nice red wine, both kids are asleep, and I have Number blasting in these good headphones and it’s AMAZING. Hells yes I gotta do this up, however briefly. I need to face the fact that once I’ve started something I cannot let it go.

    Invaders is one helluva notice served that the band will not relent. They are out to kick your ass Every. Single. Time. I Wiki’d why Di’Anno left the band, and I thought that was weak. Anyway. The introduction of Dickinson is a perfect fit; very different approach, but still bloody incredible. I loved Di’Anno’s raw punk approach on the early records. Dickinson just sounds like… Dickinson. As fans, you know what I mean. It’s that… thing that he has. Incredible.

    Children Of The Damned is beautiful. It made the little hairs on my arms stand up. There’s just so much going on, and it’s so unrelenting. It ROCKS! And those vocals! The Prisoner starts out weirdly – I had to look up that intro, and I stil don’t care – but then it gets down to the rocking and that’s all we need to get our Maiden on. Another huge, pounding song. I loved the guitar solo. Air Guitar Nation! Oh yes. Onward! 22 Acacia Avenue’s chugging guitars pulled me along, thrilling as I went to those little licks and riffs over top. That middle section made me work for the new rhythm but my ear eventually caught up. I love all the work on the drums, those center-cymbal hits. Perfect.

    I don’t even need to comment on Number Of The Beast and Run To The Hills. These are total hits, and you’ve heard them a million times. Good for you. Go and make it a million and one! I do have a Hills memory: a few years ago, we went to see Tool in concert, and after the (horrible) opening act finally left and before Tool took over the stage, the road crew must have been testing out the sound system because they blasted Hills at top volume. The entire arena full of people roared and cheered and started rocking out. Incredible. People were right into a bloody RECORDING. Now THAT shows you the power of good music.

    Gangland’s drums are impossibly fast. Holy shit. I played drums in a band for a while, and my arms got tired just listening to this. The energy here is just great. “Dead men tell no tales,” indeed, and those guitars on the run-down! Damn. These guys are Not Fucking Around. I loved it. Total Eclipse is a sweet mid-tempo track. It’s not the greatest song here, but every album has a song like that… WAIT! That brief middle section totally makes up for it! Yeah baby. But the rest is sort of a throw-away for this group. Sure, for any other band it’s a solid classic hit, but these guys? Just another day at the office. And Hallowed Be Thy Name? One of the first Maiden songs I ever heard. You all know it. I won’t even try to talk about its majesty.

    I am sad that this was Burr’s last record with the band, whatever the circumstances. He was one HELL of a drummer. Just awesome.

    Number? Brilliance, pretty much top to bottom. But you knew that already. Fucking GREAT.

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    1. That wiki article doesn’t even begin to touch on the problems with Di’Anno. It was a constant struggle with him. He had stage fright so badly that the band would do anything to get him up on stage. He’d be lying backstage saying, “Oh I’m sick, I can’t go on, you’ll have to go on without me,” and I believe that they did do that at once.

      Once they got Bruce in the band they had 5 guys who all wanted to be on that stage and out for blood!

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