"Heavy Metal, chapter 2"
Written: Dec 11, 2005 (Updated Aug 29, 2006)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
The Bottom Line: If Heavy Metal means something good for you, The Number of the Beast will mirror, or improve, the aforementioned meaning
If SIGMUND FREUD knew Heavy Metal, he'd have had quite a fine time.
Heavy Metal is the aesthetics of the tormented self. Individuals fearing the outside as well as the inside haunts - individuals quite unsure of what comes next, be adulthood, responsabilities, choices to be made. Individuals coming on their own with their personalities, on the crossroads between childhood fantasies and future uncertainties.
Heavy Metal is about finding a niche for a newfound self, within an oppressive external environment. Is the sound of the inner misfit.
This said, IRON MAIDEN's third album overall - The Number of the Beast - is a quintessential Heavy Metal offering.
Once it features of the very first Bruce Dickinson apparition in MAIDEN ranks, 1982s The Number of The Beast is a transitional album. Therefore, it embodies all the contradictions, all the opposing forces that lie within the boundaries of Heavy Metal aesthetics, in full throttle.
This is "Heavy Metal, chapter 2" (the first being BLACK SABBATH's 1970 debut, the Genesis).
IRON MAIDEN was known for galloping basses and epic compositions far before 1982. But the arrival of SAMSON's Bruce Dickinson meant this band finally had a singer matching all their sonic ambitions. Dickinson's elastic voice canvassed around Steve Harris' frantic leads whereas Adrian Smith and Dave Murray provided undeliable two-guitar harmonies as ideal filler.
The high notes of "Air Raid Siren" Bruce were the knockout those commanding choruses deserved (and suffered, in Paul Di'Anno's throathy delivery). Still, Clive Burr was too minimalist a drummer for this no-holds-barred barbarian assault. We would have to wait for next album, 1983's Piece of Mind, to see everything in its right place.
The sonic fervor of this new IRON MAIDEN was on par with MARTIN BIRCH's punchy production (even though my love for 1981 Killers' bone-dry passages, I admit IRON MAIDEN eagerly waited for something different). All tracks burst through the boundaries of previous albuns. Harris reserved his best batch of tracks up to that point. It is by far IRON MAIDEN's most aggressive offering ever (no, don't confuse aggression with that obnoxious Blaze Bailey butchery).
Invaders arrives with the force of a hurricane, ignited Harris foreboding the horde. Dickinson's raspy delivery is similar to Di'Anno only up to the reverbing chorus - that time is depth, baby. Twin-guitar alternates soloing bring the whole thing closer to Thrash, even though MOTORHEAD never had too melodic a jewell.
A sinister creep insinuates through the intrincate melodies of power ballad Children of the Danmed. Witnessing young Dickinson live back in 1982 was an epiphany (check out Visions of the Beast DVD, for that matter). In studio, the visual impact is sorely missed, but his astounding performance infused every single inch of the gothic chambers of MAIDEN's slowest offering, and one of the very best, period.
The Prisoner displays Smith's colorful leads and Murray's bold bases. Harris has plenty of time for his movie afiliations (including a sampled intro). The main character's isolation facing hardships, burdened by sistemic oppression and chased by his enemies is a mirror image for Heavy Metal itself. Burr manages to shift dynamics with ease but be aware, this is no Progressive Metal (things would change by 1988)!
22 Acacia Avenue is a grim tale of mistresses and murderers. Pumping like adrenaline, tongue-in-cheek Dickinson delves deeper (no puns intended) into the story of Charlotte, the Harlot (continuing the saga displayed early on IRON MAIDEN's debut), backed by a tense, brittled bunch of dunderheads. This is the closer offering to those glittery 80s odes to evil woman that packed MOTHLEY CRUE albuns. But this is simply too sinister (and earnest, to some point) to stand shoulder to shoulder with LA's hair metal! And curiously, Harris is not that prominent on this one, this is the bands showcase, Burr in special.
However, the real thing simply wasn't there until IRON MAIDEN presented the title track, The Number of the Beast. It would cause them many trouble given its content and surely the Devil itself would be frightful after the chorus, but indeed, this track is not a Satanic singalong. And it worked marvels, as a marketing stunt.
Musically, it is IRON MAIDEN's nod to BLACK SABBATH's Black Sabbath - a track dealing with human fears through a theatrical methaphor. If the Devil had arrived, what it would be like for a human being? BLACK SABBATH and IRON MAIDEN played with the fear within, the creepy feeling of the menace being built, and released.
Even though the atmosphere is gradually built, to perfection, every single fright emerging from the bands dark chamber of wonders, none could predict such a cathartic experience, that Dickinson yelling! It still gives me the chills. Heavy Metal had a new ruler. IRON MAIDEN was no longer New Wave Of British Heavy Metals brighter hope or even Paul DiAnnos former band. There was no turning back from the great chain of beings. Air Raid Siren has arrived - check out the video present on this enhanced ECD version, thanks Eddie!
Without wasting a single note, IRON MAIDEN goes upside with Run To The Hills, a perennial live favorite and a huge hit as well. Smiths most recognizable main riff alongside one of the most singalong Harris tunes, it surprisingly dealt with the plight of American indians, from the native standpoint. Americans of every origin, conquered by their doomy hymns, respondeded in even greater numbers to this MAIDENish tale of bravery and endurance before hardships. I have to say Ive never loved this track in particular, but some things are simply unable to be ignored: a classic (just take a look at the video, algo included here, uncannily funny).
Cooling things down a little bit, Gangland is a technically-profused offering of New Wave of British Heavy Metal. The overlooked grower of this great album. Dickinson kept the melodies running fast whereas his companions designed what would be of future classics Piece of Mind, 1984s Powerslave and specially 1986s Somewhere In Time.
Not available on original 1982 release (it was the B-side of the Invaders single), Total Eclipse is a aptly-named homage to IRON MAIDEN greatest inspirators, JUDAS PRIEST. Dickinson sings like a Rob Halford travestite (no puns intented, again). The band plays fast and tight, as if they were heading out to the highway on a freewheel burning. In retrospective, this humble B-side came to be unintendely the eclipse of MAIDENs New Wave of British Heavy Metal era. Forward, Melodic Metal and Progressive Metal!
Finally, in the end
Of a bad karma character. This was the storyline of the last number of the beast, Hallowed By Thy Name. An individual pondering on his last moments before being beheaded, in a Middle Age cellar. Bad, man
IRON MAIDEN managed to sculpt a masterpiece out of this complicated marble block. By far the best offering of this album, even better (and more chilling) than the title track, it works marvels with dynamics.
We are thrown into the characters state of mind by Murrays oceanic bends and Smiths stinging riffs. Burr plays like a Jazz drummer, with subtlety and precision. Harris just hints at what comes next. And Dickinson
What a dramatic, theatrical performance. He incorporates the head of the soon-to-be-beheaded. And what a multifaced delivery, alternatingly subtle, fiery, infuriated, exasperated. And the whole thing bursts as the character approaches Death (or vice-versa), the purest Heavy Metal experience. Murray & Smith unveil layers and layers of soloing, Harris sets the pace of the spiralling of tension, Dickinson breaks looser and higher and stronger
Until the end. What a performance! What a band! What a record.
This time I'm going down IRON MAIDEN's family tree included on this ECD! See ya!
01 (* * * * 1/2) Invaders
02 (* * * * *) Children of the Danmed
03 (* * * * 1/2) The Prisoner
04 (* * * *) 22 Acacia Avenue
05 (* * * * *) The Number of the Beast
06 (* * * * 1/2) Run To The Hills
07 (* * * *) Gangland
08 (* * * *) Total Eclipse
09 (* * * * *) Hallowed Be Thy Name
Check out my other IRON MAIDEN reviews:
1980s Iron Maiden
1981s Killers (my beloved one)
1983s Piece of Mind
1984s Powerslave (simply, the best)