I never thought the original Number Of The Beast album was a particularly well written one in the pre-Blaze Bayley of Iron Maiden albums, with Iron Maiden, Powerslave, Piece Of Mind, Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son and Somewhere In Time being much stronger and more consistently well written albums. The Number of the Beast is the third studio album by British heavy metal band Iron Maiden, released in March 1982. It saw the debut of vocalist Bruce Dickinson, and the final appearance of drummer Clive Burr. The Number of the Beast met with considerable critical and commercial success and was a landmark release for the band, becoming their first album to reach No. 1 in the UK Albums Chart.
Paul Di’Anno reckons he quit. The official Maiden line is that he was sacked. Either way, the result was the same: a band on a steep upward trajectory had to find a new singer at a crucial juncture, as they looked to start work on their third album, following the runaway successes of their first two.
Although this was one hell of a risk, such was the wind in Maiden’s sails that even this potentially calamitous change of personnel proved to be nothing but an upgrade. And that was always the intention – to fix a squeaky wheel before it caused a real problem.
His name was Bruce Dickinson, an educated lad from Sheffield with a larynx like a foghorn, who had finished university and immediately put his talent to good use by, um, singing in NWOBHM outfit Samson. Where his Maiden predecessor had fronted the band as a gritty hard man, with a pugilistic vocal style to match, Bruce approached it with a more bombastic, theatrical zeal, the perfect match for the more involved, epic music the band were making. Still, he was in at the deep end: Maiden were already veterans of European tours, as well as having American and Japanese stamps in their passports. Not to mention they were also by many factors bigger than Samson, who had never performed outside the UK and had enjoyed a success that could politely be called ‘respectable’.
His first show with his new band was in Bologna, Italy, where he admits, “I didn’t open my eyes for the first four or five songs.”
“The road crew, who’d all been touring with Maiden for a while, were all looking at me and sizing me up,” he remembers. “Everyone was looking at me like I had two heads! But I knew that’d happen, and I knew I just had to get on with it. I knew people had seen the band with Paul, so there was some baggage. And we weren’t just introducing me — we were playing stuff from Number Of The Beast that nobody had heard yet, so it was very different to what they knew!”
Whereas in Maiden’s early years, songs such as Sanctuary and Running Free had burst in to clobber you and get out with minimal fuss, on the new album their sights were being raised. More traditional-sounding songs like Run To The Hills and the title-track were done with class and skill, while the seven-minute Hallowed Be Thy Name, the album’s closer, ramped up the drama to levels the band had previously struggled to hit, thanks to Bruce’s magnetic telling of the story of a man on his way to the gallows from the point of view of the condemned. They weren’t in the Ruskin Arms anymore.
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The verdict was quick and almost unanimous: the new, Bruce-fronted Maiden was a superior beast, and the album charted at Number One in the UK, news the band received while they were pushing a broken-down bus up a hill in Switzerland. Even Paul Di’Anno admitted that he’d been replaced by the right guy. “Bruce is absolutely the best singer the band has ever had,” he wrote in his autobiography, The Beast. “I think he’s got a bloody great voice, and it was just what the band needed at the time.”
But not everyone was so impressed. In America, church groups were up in arms about the album’s name, artwork and the lyrics to the title-track. Records and merch were burned – or, in some cases, smashed with hammers for fear of inhaling ‘evil’ fumes. Steve Harris was frustrated by the whole episode, observing that the point had gone entirely over these people’s heads. “They clearly hadn’t read the lyrics,” he said. Had they done, they’d have soon spotted that The Number Of The Beast is a cautionary tale of someone stumbling across a black magic ceremony in the middle of the night and turning in terror. Similarly, though the sleeve features Satan himself front and centre, controlling a puppet, he in turn is a marionette under the influence of Eddie. In fact, the most evil thing to occur in the creation of the album was when producer Martin Birch was involved in a car crash, and was presented with a repair bill for £666.
To look at it from a more business-minded perspective, though, the controversy simply meant this new, improved Maiden were growing ever bigger. And with Bruce a much more professional figure onstage than his predecessor, and better equipped to step up to the rigorous, seven-nights-a-week Maiden touring schedule, the hard graft of conquering first America and then the world could finally begin in earnest. Once the small matter of who was standing where onstage had been dealt with.
“Steve wanted to stand in front of everybody and run all over the stage,” recalled Bruce in his What Does This Button Do? memoir. “I wasn’t having it. I wasn’t going to sing to the back of the bass player’s head.” Things came to a head after a show in Newcastle where, following two hours of basically stepping on one another’s toes, Bruce and Steve had to be separated by Rod Smallwood backstage. But what Maiden had was far more important than tiffs over microphone placement, and with cooler heads prevailing, a compromise over stage territory was reached. Because what Maiden had done with their new album and singer was put themselves firmly on the road to being the most important heavy metal band of the decade. And already, nothing could possibly stop them.Read More
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The legendary British heavy-metal band Iron Maiden was formed in 1975 by the bassist Steve Harris. He knew perfectly what kind of music he wanted to play, and, as the result, he started looking for like-minded persons. Pretty soon the very first line-up was established, and the rockers began performing in small clubs. The potential was huge, and the constant shows all around the United Kingdom helped Iron Maiden to gain the popularity. Moreover, the style created by the musicians turned out to be truly revolutionary: Iron Maiden are considered to be the founders of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal.
Due to the number of concerts, the rockers managed to save some money and afford recording the first demos. Among them was the composition Prowler that later peaked at number one of metal-chart. Iron Maiden’s bright shows were attracting everyone’s attention, including attention from representatives of various labels, and by 1979 the band signed the contract with EMI. Thus, in 1980 the band’s debut album Iron Maiden was released and it got excellent reviews from the critics. The rockers did not make their fans wait too long for the following studio work: the second long play Killers, that proved to be as interesting and strong as its predecessor, was issued in 1981. Iron Maiden started the professional career in a very confident way, because the musicians managed to gain a huge fan base and also to establish a reputation of one of the most talented and prominent young bands.
Iron Maiden’s members always had plenty of new ideas, and the musicians realized them very well in the studio. Thus, the records The Number Of The Beast (1982) and Piece Of Mind (1983) were certified Platinum in the UK and on the other side of the Atlantic. In 1983 the famous magazine Kerrang! included Piece Of Mind and The Number Of The Beast into the list of The Greatest Heavy Metal Albums Of All Times to the first and second places accordingly. In general eighties became the Golden period for Iron Maiden: the rockers issued their best albums and managed to achieve the world recognition.
Nineties turned out to be a bit less successful for the band: there were rumors about Iron Maiden’s disbandment, which luckily proved to be fake. Maybe the albums of nineties were received in that way because of the fact that the extremely talented vocalist Bruce Dickinson quitted the group. Nevertheless, the band’s fans were satisfied: they got such strong long plays as No Prayer For The Dying (1990), Fear Of The Dark (1992) and many others. In 1993 the founders of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal released the live album A Real Dead One, recorded during the concerts in Europe. A Real Dead One became the real present for all the live sound lovers, as soon as that album could preserve the energy and drive of Iron Maiden’s performances.
Even if someone considers nineties to be not the best period of the band’s creativity, the millennium showed the real potential of the musicians. Iron Maiden’s line-up is worth mentioning: not every band has three guitarists, and of such high level. That helped to achieve the new sound, which turned out to be even more powerful than it used to be. Moreover, the group’s fans were extremely happy because Bruce Dickinson came back. The album Brave New World, released in 2000, debuted at number two in the UK and soon it was certified Gold. Three years later Iron Maiden issued the record Dance Of Death (2003) that had been crated in the band’s best traditions. The studio attempt titled A Matter Of Life And Death appeared in 2006 and it was enjoyed by the fans and it was critically acclaimed.
In 2010 Iron Maiden’s discography was enlarged by the album The Final Frontier that had been waited by fans for four years. The musicians’ skills allowed them to create not only the strong, but also the incredibly difficult from the technical point of view work. Iron Maiden never looked for the easier ways, they always did their best, and The Final Frontier is the bright example of that. That studio work already attracted the attention of millions of fans all around the world, and there is absolutely no doubt that The Final Frontier will be interesting for all the good music lovers.