December 12, 2022 Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast / Beast Over Hammersmith (40th Anniversary LP Set Review)
Iron Maiden are perhaps the biggest band in Heavy Metal history. Offering the entire package, they have the songs, the context, musicianship, imagery, and energy to capture the attention of multiple generations. Looking back, the history of the band is quite interesting as well because long-time Vocalist Bruce Dickinson did not join up with them until late in 1981. Six years after their formation, the early years of Iron Maiden felt a bit different with Paul Di’Anno on vocals for both their self-titled 1980 debut album, as well as 1981’s Killers. Two albums that laid the footwork of what was to come for the band, at the time, Iron Maiden were Heavy Metal with a much more Punk Rock sound. Then in late 1981 Iron Maiden were looking for a new singer after parting ways with Di’Anno, and their trajectory would change forever. Connecting with Dickinson, who had been with the band Samson, in early 1982, he, Steve Harris (bass), Adrian Smith (guitar), Dave Murray (guitar), and Clive Burr (drums) would go into the studio together to create the legendary album known as The Number of the Beast.
A monumental footnote in time for Iron Maiden, The Number of the Beast album found the band taking a different approach to the music. Clearly a successful experiment, the album would become the band’s first to top the UK Albums Chart and reach the top 40 of the US Billboard 200. Additionally, the album included the powerhouse singles “Run to the Hills,” the band’s first top-ten UK single, as well as the title-track, “The Number of the Beast.”
In all, you could look at The Number of the Beast as the quintessential Iron Maiden album and one that would catapult them into a different stratosphere. Now celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2022, The Number of the Beast is celebrated with the release of a commemorative triple black vinyl set. Another artifact produced and put out to fans from the Iron Maiden camp, is this latest piece worthy of your collection?
Available to purchase as of November 18, 2022 thanks to Warner Music, and through BMG in the USA, the trip heavyweight black vinyl set includes a remastered edition of the entire original album, but also the live recording of Beast Over Hammersmith. The latter is a live concert from March 1982’s Hammersmith Odeon London show. Recorded at the beginning of the Beast On The Road World Tour, it was captured on tape only days prior to the release of The Number Of The Beast album and now becomes available officially for the very first time on vinyl.
In addition to this, The Number of the Beast album itself is presented differently than before as well. Originally including “Gangland” as track 8 on the album, this set swaps it out with “Total Eclipse.” Not to be overlooked, “Total Eclipse” was actually intended to be on the original release, but Harris states due to a mad rush to release the single “Run to the Hills,” they had to pick a B-side, and it was “Total Eclipse.” Needless to say, the band gets to rewrite history, swap out the songs on the album, and it fits quite well. Furthermore, this new set has exclusive liner notes written by Harris, but also restored and expanded artwork taken from the CD format of Beast Over Hammersmith, something previously only available in the Limited-Edition Eddie’s Archive boxset put out all the way back in 2002.
All great features for any collector, the next question is, how does it sound? Truthfully the most important aspect of all, it sounds rich and vibrant; and this is especially felt with the live recording which showcases the hunger and passion the band had for this material in those early days. Clearly the sound quality, mastering, and attention to detail was present when pressing this set, because it is like hearing each song for the first time all over again. In all, it is a fantastic set that all Iron Maiden fans are going to want to pick up. Even if you are new to Iron Maiden, you are going to want to hear this classic album in this format, because it truly exemplifies what this band is all about. That is why Cryptic Rock gives The Number of The Beast / Beast Over Hammersmith 40th Anniversary triple LP Set 5 out of 5 stars.