Thursday, 28 March 2013

Classic Albums - The Number of the Beast

Back in the day you could have been  forgiven for thinking that Iron Maiden were finished -  On the face of it they seemed like being just another short lived band. They'd had some success with their previous two albums, but nothing spectacular.

The time may have been right to build on this - It certainly didn't seem like the time to change personnel and yet that's just what they did when they replaced their vocalist Paul Di'Anno with Bruce Dickenson.

However this would turn out to be a good move and no offence to Paul Di'Anno but he really wasn't suited for the direction the band were to take from now on.

 Di'Anno was superb for the first two Maiden albums which sound punkish in nature, but now Maiden were turning into a new wave metal band and Brucie was a much better choice. As good as  Di'Anno was it is difficult to think of anyone but Brucie screaming out, '6 6 6...the number of the beast.' In fact I think Di'Anno's vocals were more versatile than Brucie's but Brucie rocks solid.

The Number of the Beast (1982) really kicks butt and is my third fave Maiden album next to Powerslave and Piece of Mind.

"I simply didn't think [former vocalist Paul Di'Anno] was capable of handling lead vocals on some of the quite complicated directions I knew Steve wanted to explore... when Bruce joined, it opened up the possibilities for the new album tremendously." Producer, Martin Birch

The album kicks off with Invaders and immediately we are in take no prisoners hard rocking mode. As an album opener the song does its job well but it probably one of the weakest tracks on the album - though, that's no complaint since the rest of the album is just so strong. Children of the Dammed comes next and this song is an all time classic and after hearing this track  you realize that Brucie is THE Maiden vocalist. Then we have The Prisoner which starts off with a sound snippet from the cult TV series of the same name before giving us a lyric inspired by the TV series. Bruce even takes on the persona of Number 6 to deliver the song and its bloody brilliant. Then we have some smut with 22 Acacia Avenue, a song about a prostitute who gives really good value for money. The main character seems to be Charlotte the Harlot who was also featured in a song on the previous Maiden album.

Now back in the day those four songs would have been side one of the platter - and WOW, what a first side! There's not a bad song there and when the weakest track is something as awesome as Invaders then we know we're firing on all cylinders.

To my mind The Number of the Beast marks the stage where Maiden went from being a rock act to a drama act. And by the I mean that every song is a mini play and instead of elaborate sets and actors the story is delivered with blistering instruments and vocals. Images as clear as a really cool High Definition Screen, like that one in PC World that I've been lusting after, dance in rhythm across the mental landscape. Their stage shows mirror this sense of high theater and as a live act they are quite an experience. I've seen them twice so I should know.

First track on the old side 2  (or the fifth song on the CD) Number of the Beast finds Brucie in the mould of Lon Chaney Jnr's Wolfman as the lyric conjours up a Godless landscape populated with devil worshipers. Then we're out West, the Old West to be specific for Run to the Hills, a pulsating song about genocide being carried out on the Red Indians of the Old West, Wow - what a song, what a lyric. Then we are off to the East End of London, Guv for a trip through streets ruled by gangsters and the original album ended with Hallowed by Thy Name, in which the lyric is delivered as though by a condemned man waiting for his final minutes to countdown before meeting the hangman.This is Iron Maiden MKII and from this band we would not get songs of teenage angst or odes to forbidden love but instead each and every song from here on in was constructed like a novel - a beginning,middle and end with incredible guitar work and driving drums punctuating the story.The Number of the Beast still stands today as a great album and one of the best metal LP's ever made.

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