Iron Maiden — Number of the Beast

Yup, we’re diving into the old cassettes now.  Pulled down a shoe box and found 8th grade staring back at me, personified in this instance by Maiden’s iconic “Eddie” mascot.  I would also wager that this makes me the first person to combine money-saving tips and Iron Maiden into one blog.  This may prove to not be a very significant achievement.

But in the annals of heavy metal albums, Number of the Beast was a significant achievement.  Perhaps their best work (I put Piece of Mind and Powerslave as equals), it’s also the first Maiden album with frontman Bruce Dickinson’s distinctive wail.  While much 80’s heavy metal (including plenty of Iron Maiden material) seems dated two decades later, a fair amount of Number holds up.

Which is good, as it’s an archetype of an album, laying a lot of groundwork for not just future Maiden albums, but heavy metal for the duration of its “golden age.”  All the ingredients show up in good form — 7-minute dirges laden with catchy riffs and countless time changes, songs based on works of literature, songs about ill-fated characters and ill-fated deaths.  The cherry on top?  A title, title track, and album cover designed to scare parents.  You had to grow up in the eighties to fully appreciate how concerned people were that musicians would turn their children into devil-worshippers.

Listening to it now, the musicianship still impresses, although it does reinforce the notion that metal bands didn’t know what to do with their bass player, often forcing them to ape rhythm guitar.  Strange when you consider bassist Steve Harris was one of the principle songwriters.  And while I’ll never be 14 again, and won’t throw these albums in with the gusto I once did, it has made me excited to dig deeper into my shoeboxes.

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