Reckoning the Number of the Beast - The 30th Anniversary Final
What a week it's been. The hours that have been invested in this project are numerous, that is to be sure. Certainly though, "The Number of the Beast" is an album that must be treated with sufficient respect and grandeur. As we have discussed and reminisced all week, "The Number of the Beast" means more to heavy metal and the history of the genre than nearly all other albums before or since. It is a symbol of all we as metal fans hold dear, and a true testament to the staying power and virility of heavy metal that is perfectly executed. Yesterday, we ventured down memory lane with a number of prominent recording artists, and the response to my inquest was so overwhelming that it had to be split into two days.
As a quick aside, my personal story with Iron Maiden and the first time I heard "The Number of the Beast" is more mundane than many others seen below. Growing up in rural suburbia as I did, I was largely subject to the machinations of my parents' record collection (which, to their credit, was filled with names like the Beatles, the Who, Led Zeppelin, The Doobie Brothers, Boston and a lot of other cool bands,) and local alternative radio, which at the time of my most formative years, was riddled with the good (Soundgarden, White Zombie, Collective Soul) the mediocre (Seven Mary Three,) and the poor (Bush, the Smashing Pumpkins, thereIsaidit.)
As I ventured forth into the heady world of college radio, my musical tastes expanded exponentially as I came of age. It was the low-light, poorly ventilated, comfortable confines of 'Studio C' at WGFR 92.7 on the campus of Adirondack Community College (now SUNY Adirondack,) that I heard Iron Maiden. It was part of a larger transformation for me, but my impression of heavy metal was so incredibly exploded and rebuilt in that singular moment that my appreciation of it was forever changed. Anyway, I'll have some thoughts at the bottom, but for now, let me get the hell out of the way so you can read what some amazing musicians think about "The Number of the Beast."
Bruce Dickinson’s voice was unbelievable, operatic and nearly unhuman. After seeing what they actually looked like in magazines, videos and whatnot, I couldn’t help but feel amazed at how effortlessly they seemed to orchestrate such flawless heavy music as if possessed and chosen to do so, even weirder they made it look like fun? Made me feel like the band were just as mythical and unworldly as Eddie or the devil himself. Me and Rex spent a lot of time doing stupid shit that 16 year old punks did in the 80’s, excessive drinking, driving fast, taking chances, lawn jobs and other typical moronic stuff kids do, with “The Number of the Beast” solidly mixed in the soundtrack, some of the best times of my life. Bummer Rex shot himself in the head at 27, we should still be hanging out drinking and cranking vinyl. If I was ever abducted by aliens and they asked me, what is “heavy metal?” I would make them listen to “The Number of the Beast” and learn the ways of the mighty Maiden!
John Fitterer – Vocals - Crowned by Fire
I was ten years old when my older brother brought it home on cassette. He showed me the album cover and I was simultaneously petrified and amazed. My folks were out doing something, so he put it in my dad's stereo like we always did, and cranked it. "Invaders" lit up and I remember immediately liking it. When we eventually flipped the side the intro for the title track came on and we stared at each other silently, like we stumbled upon something we shouldn't have. The song was amazing of course, and I still love it to this day. It shortly after turned out to be the first real copy of a Maiden album I owned that wasn't dubbed, and it was sort of a badge of honor to be in possession of something this controversial in the 80's, but secretly knowing it wasn't about advocating devil worship. That album as a whole defined power mixed with melody. The songs were so punchy. It was amongst Birch's finest mixes too. I strive to write songs that memorable that also hit that hard. And to this day when the stage lights turn red at a Maiden show, the booming voice comes over the PA and everyone's hands turn to horns it literally gives me goosebumps.
Keith Spargo – Guitar - Silencer
My older brother introduced me to a lot of NWOBHM when I was thirteen and at that point I grew out my hair and basically listened to nothing but Iron Maiden with Black Sabbath, Metallica and Led Zeppelin on the side. I credit him with sowing my love for metal and Satan. It was also around this time I discovered the magic of cannabis — I have fond memories of carving “666” into every hidden smoke spot while I sang “The Number of the Beast.” I've always loved songs with a narrative feeling and “The Number of the Beast” had that and more. The evil, maddened lyrics felt great to belt out as I wildly headbanged to that chugging, ass-kicking bass, which sounded so crushing when my brother and I listened to it on our first real (expensive) stereo that we purchased with our own money at the time. Hails to Steve Harris!
Count Elric the Soothsayer – Bass - Pilgrim
I do like that particular song because of its relevance to the horror film “The Omen,” and I remember exactly where I was. I was managing a local chain called “Book and Music Exchange,” working with a guy named Stuart. I was sorta hogging the CD player, and had just heard the last track on Type O Negative's album “October Rust,” and I told Stu he could throw in a CD or two if he wanted just to mix things up a little. Much to my dismay he filled each of the five disc slots with the first five Maiden albums in chronological order. It was more than my pretty little head could handle but the musicianship is undeniable. Like Iron Maiden, I do find myself often influenced by horror.
I was at Hilaal's place. We just got the Iron Maiden discography from a cousin of ours. “Hallowed be Thy Name” was the first song we ever listened to of Maiden. I was so moved by the melodies and of the vocals of the great Bruce Dickinson. Iron Maiden has always been the core to the melodic side of Nothnegal.
Fufu – Vocals/Guitar - Nothnegal
Andre Hartoonian – Vocals/Bass - HeXeN
As a budding metalhead in the early to mid 80's, “The Number of the Beast” wasn’t the first Maiden album I was exposed to but it quickly became of one of my favorites. This record is amazing on so many levels from the benchmark set by the vocal heroics of Bruce Dickinson, the epic songwriting of timeless classic like the title track, “Run to Hills,” “Hallowed be thy name,” etc. Truly a massive record that will endure and inspire for generations to come.
Andy Haught – Vocals - Zeroking
I was 11 years old and starting 6th grade when "The Number of the Beast" dropped. But it wasn't until a year later when we moved from a rural, post-hippie redwood grove to a broad valley full of homogenized housing tracts that I came to know of Iron Maiden. In a matter of weeks my family had traded hilltop meadows encircled by "Stand by Me" forests for flatiron fields of adobe that funneled colonies of field mice into "Over the Edge" styled subdivisions. The kids were different too and it wasn't just their insolent, tweeny obnoxiousness. In Forestville (yes, that really was the name of my thickly wooded childhood home), kids were still giddy for "The Dream Police", "Highway to Hell" and “The White Album”. In Rohnert Park, every kid seemed to have a three shirt rotation of Ozzy, Maiden, and Y&T, the last one was a local pride thing I suspect. Maiden easily won the daily t-shirt battle on campus. It might have been because Eddie was the most bad-ass mascot in rock history or because confused parents feared the cover-art's playful depiction of the fiery depths. Whatever the case, my hormone-drunk male classmates and I belabored only one detail of the t-shirt wars; pretty girls wore Maiden shirts. Had "Diary of a Madman" or "Black Tiger" paraphernalia been the costume de riguer of Rohnert Park Junior High I might never had cared about Maiden at all. Kids today may wear their throw back Iron Maiden shirts and even order them with a machined pre-aging processes to make them seem vintage, but I doubt they will ever know the true dark alchemy of those garments. Some of the magic of which I speak has been lost, it came from a time before internet porn stole everyone's sense of innocent wonder. To be 12 years old in 1983, in the grips of that fuzzy pubescent vertigo that comes from seeing Eddie's puppetry hand curving around the burgeoning mammila of a girl who is moving into adulthood at six times the speed of the boys in her grade, that was a nearly impossible spell to break. I have few other impressions of Iron Maiden, except to say that I still don't like Bruce Dickinson's voice, and I vaguely recollect that the guy who had the locker above mine in junior high had covered his pad-locked cabinet with pictures of Steve Harris that he'd torn out of Hit Parader and Circus. That’s about it.
Tor – Staff Writer - Bloody Good Horror
I was already a huge Maiden fan prior to “The Number of the Beast.” So I was really excited to get my hands on it. I remember picking it up at Music Plus (yes, a record store) and taking it home and blasting the hell out of it. I think through the years Maiden has influenced me as a song arranger and a love for high energy in music! Maiden has maintained that energy without losing song writing. LONG LIVE IRON MAIDEN!
Shawn Duncan – Drums - DC4
Ump – Vocals - Motortrain
I remember hearing a local melodic death metal band covering "Hallowed Be Thy Name" when I was around twelve or thirteen. I had never really heard Iron Maiden at this point and remember being floored by the harmony lines throughout as the band covered the song. I immediately went out and bought the album, “The Number of the Beast,” after I heard who it was. I listened to the album probably a dozen times through from beginning to end as I had never heard anything so unique and melodic at this point in my life. That album has been a great inspiration to me and has since colored my writing within Hatchet so much. Great album!
Julz Ramos – Guitar/Vocals - Hatchet
All of us in Blessed Curse can agree about the importance of "The Number of the Beast" in the history of Iron Maiden as well as the history of metal as a whole. Quite possibly being Maiden's greatest work of all time, the musicianship quality with the lineup of Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, and Clive Burr is phenomenal considering it was released in 1982 and can still stand up to other great rock and metal albums to this day.
Derek Bean - Drums – Blessed Curse
I first heard “The Number of The Beast” when I was in guitar class in high school. My friend showed me “22 Acacia Avenue” and I was blown away by the energy of the song. After listening to the album in its entirety, I was instantly hooked on it. Iron Maiden was already one of my favorite bands and this album just pushed the boundaries of what the band was capable of. Adrian Smith has had a huge influence on me throughout my years of playing guitar. He has an extremely clean and old school style which I really respect and have tried to implement into my style of soloing.
Kevin Schwartz - Guitar - Pathology
Iron Maiden was one of the first bands introduced to me by my brother Jim and of course later by “Headbanger’s Ball.” “The Number of the Beast”/”Run to the Hills” is classic. One of the other aspects that made an impression on me was the artwork. It's safe to say that “The Beast” contributed to my becoming a musician and an artist.
Michael DeWolf - Guitar – Taproot
Byron Davis – Vocals - God Forbid
I was still in high school jamming with my first band in our makeshift jam room, which was a garage that belonged to the two brothers in the band. MTV2 was still playing metal and rock, but only for an hour every day. We were getting better at writing songs and playing our instruments, so we started branching out and talking to other musicians and learning of new bands from them. My friend Marshall let me borrow his CD case full of discs to go through; that's how I learned of Sepultura, Megadeth, and luckily Iron Maiden. Granted this was years after the record actually came out. Still, the energy that permeated through the music was so infectious that I had to start learning how to play bass with Steve Harris' intensity. “The Number of the Beast” itself had this awesome combination of rock with punk energy, yet the musicianship was very catchy and tasteful and fun to listen to and learn.
Fred Calderon – Bass – Carnifex
I first heard “The Number of the Beast” around a good school friend’s house when I was about 15. His older brother was a massive Iron Maiden fan and had all the albums up to that point in time. I listened to that album and got hooked on the rest of them and we used to just sit and listen to all the other albums from then on. The guitarists were an influence on me from then on and the whole epic sounding soundscapes and atmosphere that Maiden used to create on their albums.
James Cooper – Guitar - Scream Arena
I was 4 years old sitting in my father’s tiny one bedroom apartment with my older brother. I remember hearing it and thinking, this is so different from everything else. When I began playing bass 10 years later I revisited “The Number of the Beast” and with new appreciation thought “WOW!” Dueling guitars and that galloping bass line….I have made Steve Harris part of my repertoire and frequently break into Maiden gallops during rehearsals.
Paul First - Bass - Zeroking
John Tetley - Bass - Jag Panzer
In conclusion, I hope that I achieved my goal here, which was not to merely talk about and trumpet the merits of Iron Maiden's best and most influential album, but to get people talking about and listening to some truly amazing music. I hope this tribute has inspired you and the people to know to start a conversation about Iron Maiden that ends up covering a hundred bands and lasts well into the early morning hours. I hope you grabbed "The Number of the Beast" off the shelf, dusted it off if need be, and spun it again for your own edification. If you grabbed the album and heard it for the first time ever, I'm thrilled to welcome you to club. For everyone out there, I encourage you to leave comments and put your own memories down below.
There a number of people and organizations out there who worked really hard to help me put this together and I am indebted to them. In no order, I would like to sincerely thank Joe from BGH, Chris Colavito, Brian at Fresno Media, Marco at Salem Rose Music, Rikki at Adrenaline PR, Jessica at Victory Records, Vince at Metal Blade Records, Dave at Head First Entertainment, John Fitterer, Greg Armstrong, Mina Fedora and Vegas Nacy for making this thing way more successful than the Flight of Icarus (unless Dickinson is singing it.) Plus, a big thanks to my wife for putting up with me during the number of hours I sank into this thing.
Live Loud and LONG LIVE IRON MAIDEN!