Tuesday, November 8, 2011

REVIEWS: Classic album review: THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST by IRON MAIDEN (1982)

Rating: 82%.
This is a fantastic album. I think the great thing with Maiden is its sheer commitment, dedication and professionalism. I once heard that Steve Harris was nearly going to become a pro soccer player at West Ham United and that doesn't surprise me.

One thing about Maiden is the consistent quality of all the songs. There's no weak ones. And I even like "Gangland". It shows the punk influence on the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). The lyrics remind me of something like the song "Guns of Brixton" by The Clash on London Calling. Some reviewer wrote that the "Gangland" chorus doesn't rhyme. Well I think it deliberately doesn't. It's designed to create an effect of uncertainty and chill in the song. As if Harris wanted to make it rhyme but couldn't think of a word. It is crazy to think that.

All of the songs are fantastic. The so-called less famous songs are 90% as good as the classics. "Invaders" foreshadowed Maiden's move into writing songs about history. It suffers marginally from lack of a strong chorus but it's fast and intense. I think Maiden is great at setting atmosphere in a song. Anyone who has seen the video for "Hallowed Be Thy Name" on the DVD Behind The Iron Curtain which features ancient battle clips and shots of Dickinson walking up the steps of a ruined castle tower seemingly keeping pace with the song music would know what I mean. 

Other highlights of this album to me are the memorable melodic choruses on songs such as "The Prisoner", "22 Acacia Avenue" and "Run To The Hills". "The Prisoner" is another very under-rated song. Dickinson's voice is a major highlight of this album to me. It's strong enough to carry the music and not be lost in it, and full of range and passion.

The guitar solos here are the best I've ever heard from any band, especially on the title track and "Run To The Hills". And they are not just guys showing off. They fit in perfectly with the mood and the structure of the songs. It's almost as if Murray and Smith took the small opportunity given them to really just express themselves on these solos. They sound very free and unforced, and chock full of passion. A band at it's peak, just enjoying itself, and which did it for the fans.

How does it compare to Powerslave? To be honest, I prefer this one, but not by much. There are shorter songs here, more direct lyrics, more accessible no-frills sound (to the extent that Maiden can be no frills), and no fillers at all in the middle part (unlike Powerslave).

Great songs here which to my knowledge cannot be heard on any other Maiden disc are "Invaders", "The Prisoner" and "Gangland". To me, that's a great reason to get this album!! I always wonder why "The Prisoner" never made it on to the live set. I guess the band just had too many good songs.

Maiden, a huge influence on today's bands. Great to see them still going strong in Year 2005, selling huge numbers of tickets for the recent Scandinavian shows. And a band that didn't resort to cheap imagery and theatrics just to get some records sold. It didn't have to do it, the quality was all apparent.

By Jack Frost, first posted on Amazon.com 12 November 2004. 

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