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IRON MAIDEN: The Number of the Beast (1982)

–IRON MAIDEN: The Number of the Beast (1982)

Every rocker has his or her own particular conversion story. And, I believe, each individual has that one special album that literally changed their life for the better. It’s that one mind-blowing, incendiary album than can alter a worldview, shift attitudes and lifestyles, or just infuse one with a massive surge of enthusiasm for life. For the newly-converted fan, life thereafter will never be the same.

Iron Maiden’s The Number of the Beast was the ultimate metaphoric lightning bolt for me. Sure, it wasn’t the first metal album I’d heard or even enjoyed. I previously was a fan of hard rock bands such as Motley Crue, Van Halen, KISS, AC/DC, Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin, and by my freshman year of high school I had even had some more extreme metal by Metallica (Kill ‘Em All) in my collection. But TNOTB was to be the album that changed my life forever, making me bleed heavy rock and metal as long as I live and breathe. I don’t doubt that this album has had the same effect on many others.

In the summer of 1991, I was a 15-year-old soon-to-be sophomore bored off my proverbial arse with nothing to do in a new town and new state. With my family having just moved from West Michigan to Denver, Colorado the previous November, and about to start my fifth school in one calendar year, music and family were my only relief outlets. I remember getting my Columbia House mail order music catalog and seeing that they had cassette copies of Iron Maiden’s TNOTB available for just $2. Although I had never heard Iron Maiden before in my life, for at least a year I had been intrigued by their fantastical horror-themed album covers because of a brief encounter with a couple of middle school classmates. These two kids had brought a case full of cassettes to school one day, bragging in the library that they “had all the Maiden tapes.” I thought Maiden’s grotesque album covers were mesmerizing bizarre and yet beautiful, but I wasn’t sure what I would ever think of the music. A seventh grade teacher had also referred to Maiden in class once as the ultimate modern heavy band like Iron Butterfly. Columbia House’s ultra-cheap offer simply was too tempting to pass up, so 11 days later I was holding a shrink-wrapped cassette of my very first Iron Maiden album in my hands.

Heading up to my room and popping that tape in the deck for the first time was like being struck by lightning. I have never experienced such a visceral charge while listening to an album for the first time, before or since. The music was even more exciting than the colorful and evil-looking cover. It was loud, brash, speedy and heavy-as-all-hell music, but Bruce Dickinson’s vocals made the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up. I had never heard such a beautiful human voice in my life: so clean, so powerful, so high-ranged and exuberant. This, Maiden’s third album, scared the hell out of me and thrilled me to no end with its graphically violent lyrics and perfect metallic equilibrium. Again and again and again I listened to that tape, three or four times that first day, and I didn’t slow down for weeks. I bought up every single Iron Maiden album within a relatively short period of time, and they remained my very favorite band for many years. Number was my heavy metal soldier’s initiation rite, and I was hooked for good.

Now, if you are reading this then I can safely assume you already know about Iron Maiden’s history, and I’m sure you know for yourself how great an album Number is. But all I can do is to tell you how it makes me FEEL. Opening track “Invaders” is a lightning bolt of speed that is shocking in its brutality, while the melancholy, cleanly-arpeggiated guitar intro to “Children of the Damned” introduces a truly haunting quasi-ballad featuring Bruce’s piercing shrieks and some truly frightening lyrics: “Now it’s burning his hands/he’s turning to laugh/smiles as the flame sears his flesh/melting his face, screaming in pain/peeling the skin from his eyes.”

“The Prisoner “ calls for “information” in a speed metal tour-de-force with a gloriously catchy chorus. Next, the anti-prostitution-themed “22 Acacia Avenue” obliterates with searing alacrity and devastating lyrical bite.

Side Two gives us the brutally classic juggernaut of a title track, the galloping, cheery and infectious “Run to the Hills,” along with the epic and now ubiquitous ode to a condemned convict in “Hallowed Be Thy Name.” Even the mostly-ignored “Gangland” delivers an entertaining, albeit brief dose of melodic speed metal. It was all so emotionally powerful, so majestic, so bombastically brilliant, so utterly perfect.

My life certainly never was the same afterwards. How about yours?–Jonathan Kollnot

–Original U.S. Tracklisting: 1.) Invaders 2.) Children of the Damned 3.) The Prisoner 4.) 22, Acacia Avenue 5.) The Number of the Beast 6.) Run to the Hills 7.) Gangland 8.) Hallowed Be Thy Name

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~ by jonnyboyrocker on June 15, 2010.

One Response to “IRON MAIDEN: The Number of the Beast (1982)”

  1. Great piece. I loved priest, still do.

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