Breakthrough Albums: IRON MAIDEN’S ‘The Number of the Beast’

After a long hiatus due to some inspirational issues the series “Breakthrough Albums” is back again and the chosen album is so iconic that it turned out to be the living example of a musical style. I’m talking about Iron Maiden’s “The Number of the Beast” the album that boosted the band to stardom and helped shaping a musical style. Not a coincidence it was Bruce Dickinson’s debut with Iron Maiden, a fact that can’t be ignored because his vocals were the ones who helped a lot to shape Iron Maiden and Heavy Metal’s musical identity. The link between Bruce’s unique singing and Heavy Metal is so strong that there is an entire generation of Metal vocalists who quote him as inspiration. Of course, Bruce owes a lot to guys like Rob Halford and Ian Gillan, but on his behalf we have to say that he took it to another completely different level. Iron Maiden are still touring and releasing albums without any major media campaigns or any kind of favors from the big media and music critics. Okay, I agree that their albums don’t cause the fuzz that they used to, but their shows still are killers.

The album

It was released in March 1982 and it is the the band’s third studio album. As aforementioned, “The Number of the Beast” was Bruce Dickinson’s debut album and the last with drummer Clive Burr, to me a genius with the drumsticks. The swing this guy does with the hihats in “Hallowed By Thy Name” is just out of this world. Pay attention:

Besides his voice, Bruce added a yet more valuable asset to Iron Maiden which is his ability to write incredible lyrics and contribute with the songwriting process. A match that turned out to be the perfect marriage. Well, not really that perfect because he left the band once. All the songwriting process was modified with Clive Burr and Adrian Smith being part of it. Producer Martin Birch remarked,


“I simply didn’t think [former vocalist Paul Di’Anno] was capable of handling lead vocals on some of the quite complicated directions I knew Steve wanted to explore … When Bruce joined, it opened up the possibilities for the new album tremendously.”

“The Number of the Beast” was Iron Maiden’s first effort to reach a feasible commercial and critical success, but also raised some nondesired attraction due to claims of being satanic and that kind of nonsense.

From the beginning, “The Number of the Beast” was strongly opposed by social conservatives – especially in the United States, where Iron Maiden were accused of being Satanists. Public burnings of the band’s catalogue were organised, although some religious groups smashed the records with hammers, for fear of inhaling fumes from burning vinyl. “The Beast on the Road” tour was subject to numerous boycotts and demonstrations: venues were sometimes surrounded by activists who handed out leaflets and, in one case, a 25-foot cross was carried in protest. Harris has stated,


“It was mad. They completely got the wrong end of the stick. They obviously hadn’t read the lyrics. They just wanted to believe all that rubbish about us being Satanists.”

As all great albums, “The Number of the Beast” had its own moments of the extraordinary and fantastic, though laughable, as music press reports told stories of unexplained phenomena occurring during the sessions at Battery Studios, such as lights turning on and off of their own accord and the recording gear mysteriously breaking down. These odd occurrences climaxed when Birch was involved in a car accident with a mini-bus transporting a group of nuns, after which he was presented with a repair bill for £666.

What most people don’t understand is that “The Number of the Beast” is full of biblical references in its title track which opens with a spoken introduction from the Book of Revelation, read by actor Barry Clayton. Also the alegged number of the beast, the famous 666, is taken from biblical sources from Revelation 13:15-18, but as the album, this is very controversial as well. Some studies say that this number isn’t quite accurate. Around 2005, a fragment from Papyrus 115, taken from the Oxyrhynchus site, was discovered at the Oxford University’s Ashmolean Museum. It gave the beast’s number as 616 χιϛʹ. This fragment is the oldest manuscript (about 1,700 years old) of Revelation 13 found as of 2017. Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, known before the Papyrus 115 finding but dating to after it, has 616 written in full: ἑξακόσιοι δέκα ἕξ, hexakosioi deka hex (lit. “six hundred and sixteen”).

As you can see, “The Number of the Beast” is remarkable in any aspect.

Watch “The Number of the Beast” official video here: