If The Number of the Beast was any more of a landmark, it’d be a colossal sculpture somewhere in London’s East End that grabs and bites the heads off passing tourists (or those twats in band logo t-shirts who don’t actually fucking listen to them).

Opener Invaders gets the ‘Maiden gallop’ going instantly. The chorus’ slight pantomime camp goes unchecked (but must have been difficult to stomach for the punky swagger of the Paul Di’Anno-era), allowing one of Maiden’s many, many great points to manifest: the busy, restless leads. Slightly Maiden-by-numbers, it nevertheless works here as an exercise in setting the pace and tone for the album – but revisiting the song by itself is a potent reminder of why it would never go on to bother any best-of lists or become a fan favourite.

Invaders’ breathless rush is barely over before Maiden bravely allow for the epic balladry of Children of the Damned, but typical of Maiden’s inability to sit still for too long, the song gallops off into its dramatic climax. It is, of course, essential to also remember The Number of the Beast as the beginning of Bruce ‘Air Raid Siren’ Dickinson’s victory-laden tenure as frontman, and Paul Di’Anno’s colossal, unimaginable butthurt.

It takes until The Prisoner for true brilliance to rear its head, a giddy, hook-laden rush with Dickinson proving a fantastic vocal narrator over delicious guitars, unrelenting sprint and gleaming production.

Continuing this look at Dickinson the narrator, his fantastically leery-slimebag-turned-concerned-ally over the character of Charlotte the Harlot in the creeping, near-mini-epic 22 Acacia Avenue is almost worthy of an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical (in the best way possible). It’s a testament to the sheer lyrical and storytelling wit of the band, continuing this strength and helping to set a course for an unimaginably distinguished career. (And we’re only halfway through!)

The second verbal/soundbite intro (after The Prisoner’s snatch of dialogue from it’s namesake – and inspiration – television series) opens title-track The Number of the Beast, tantalisingly building excitement before brightly launching into- once again – the trademark ‘gallop’, stunningly mixing the aforementioned delicious Maiden fruits: compelling lyrical storytelling, Dickinson’s dizzying scuzzy wail, tasty guitar work almost tripping over itself in a sheer rush to escape the speaker… hell, even the fucking drums are catchy!

Creating an incredible centrepiece for the album, Number is followed by the equally immortal Run to the Hills. Unrelenting in sheer quality, it is yet more direct and urgent: Dickinson unleashing fearsome highs and surely showing otherworldly promise for the music to come.
In comparison, Gangland can only fall short as a mere song coming after a pair of perfect metal hymns. It still has a fair crack at reaching its brethren’s lofty heights, but when pitted against them it can’t quite get there. The same can be said for mid-paced 1998 addition Total Eclipse, which employs the same tactic of briefly speeding up for a pointlessly brief middle section. It accentuates the Children of the Damned-esque epic slow-burn, however: and the pair are by no means meritless – they simply unfortunately sit directly next to absolute gold.

Speaking of which, closer Hallowed Be Thy Name then looms like a shadow on the gallows pole. It encapsulates the album as a whole, with the aforementioned bajillion reasons to love Maiden decisively laid out in sequence.

Dickinson is incredible, again becoming the lyrical ‘character’, surrounded by catchy riffs and leads that actually contribute to the sense of doomish tragedy and end-of-life philosophising that he spends the song doing. It’s absolute fucking perfection: allowing only half a song to carry any vocals but ensure that the instrumental segments are just as memorable and instantly loveable as any vocals.

All in all, it’s difficult to underestimate the album’s sheer impact. By piercing the heavens with most of its songs, a huge shadow forms for those not quite able to reach as high: but they still shine within them, and experienced as a whole, The Number of the Beast‘s immortal parts will forever hold their place within the machine that is heavy metal.

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