"The Number of the Beast" is not an album, it's an experience. Not just for the music it contains, but for what it means to the heavy metal genre's past, present and future. The textbook example of heavy metal's evolution from a rough-around-the-edges marginal grouping of musicians to a hard-charging, mother-scaring, school-administrator-nervous-sweating phenomenon, "The Number of the Beast" not only changed the face of heavy metal, but helped change what was possible for it.

There are a small handful of bands and artists that get mentioned as the greatest acts in rock and roll history, a sacred pantheon of untouchable musicians who have earned a reverence unlike any other kind of adulation in popular culture.

It occurred to me just after the new year that 2011 marked the 40th anniversary of the release of the Black Sabbath album “Paranoid” in the United States.