It’s the 30th anniversary of NOB
Metal fans cannot hear the numbers without putting an extra beat after the first six. Little surprise, as Iron Maiden essentially dominated the number in 1982. That being said, it’s 30 years to the day that Number of the Beast (affectionately referred to as NOB by friends and fans) was unleashed.
Metal is evolving. Even the understanding of its fans is evolving with it. That being said, there is a facet of this evolution that does present a problem for NOB and other albums like it. What we call “metal” today could have passed, musically, for death metal about 10 years ago, for the most part. In the face of brutality, it’s easy to let musicianship slide. This is why contemporary metal fans will end up listening less and less to albums like NOB and Welcome to Hell and Kill ‘em All because the style of those albums is no longer relevant.
Or is it?
You see, one of the first reviews I put up on this blog was my review of Heaven and Hell’s album The Devil You Know. My opinion of the album hasn’t changed, but it proved something rather important: the classic formulas and styles still work. You could very easily re-record an album like NOB today, give it a little more crunch in the distortion, beef up the bottom end and turn it up a little louder and it will kick your ass afresh. Give it a spin and stretch your imagination when you listen. You’ll see what I mean.
The album was significant for a few reasons. We got our broader-audience introduction to Bruce Dickinson. Even if his voice annoys you, you can’t help but nod in respect for the legacy and skill of the voice that would be so definitive for Maiden. Sure Paul Di’Anno was the original voice and his albums are just as classic. Bruce owns the stage, though, and his voice owned the era of metal he came from. Vox Regis Emeritus.
We also got to say farewell to Clive Burr on the drums. Not much to be said there, sadly. Clive kind of migrated from project to project afterward, but his tenure in Maiden is what he will always be known for.
Also, even though it certainly wasn’t the first to do so (Black Sabbath’s eponymous album was released 12 years earlier and even Venom’s Welcome to Hell came out the year before NOB), it was one of the the albums that brought the Devil to the popular consciousness in rock. Many bands have done that particular deed better since, but every avalanche needs the initial landslide to get a-rolling.
We vulgar North Americans over here got an introduction to the brilliant, if surreal show “The Prisoner” through Maiden’s song of the same name. We were treated to the melancholy beauty of “Children of the Damned” and the moribund majesty of “Hallowed Be Thy Name”. We visited Charlotte the harlot again at “22 Acacia Avenue” and those of us who dug a little deeper were able to experience the “Total Eclipse”, which is my personal favourite cut (though some of us had to wait until the 1998 re-issue).
I shall definitely be spinning it today. I invite everyone else to put aside your Cannibal Corpse, your Lamb of God and your Slipknot and give it a listen as well. It’s never going away. It’s always with us, just like the Devil.