After Ozzy Osbourne left Black Sabbath, legacy British heavy metal was ultimately lifted and reinvented by a multitude of bands, primarily two major acts that had their biggest successes in 1982. These two bands led the way for heavy metal in the 1980s, at least in the first half of the decade, before the southern California hair-metal scene emerged in significance. For now, the domain of heavy metal was dominated by these two bands, both of which we will cover this year. The first is Iron Maiden. Like many acts of this time, they featured two guitarists, Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, but the dominant influences in this band are the spectacular, frenzied bass work of Steve Harris, who was their primary songwriter, and yes, THE Bruce Dickinson on lead vocals. Their 1982 album, “The Number of the Beast”, is rated as the #3 greatest heavy metal album of all time by loudwire.com.
I don’t think I have ever listened to this entire album before today, but I will concur that this record absolutely rocks. Taking metal to a faster and more intense place, Harris sets the pace with his high-speed fury on bass that is unmatched in the metal world. If I had to describe the difference between heavy metal and punk rock, which are different and yet similar in intensity and aggression, obviously the arrangements are more complex on most metal songs, and the operatic-like ranges of the singers also define the sound. I did not know a single song on side one, but I really enjoyed every one of them. Some start slow, and some start fast, but they all finish with an intense race to the end.
The two signature songs from this album open side two. First comes the haunting guitar rage of the title track, with Dickinson’s insane range and vocal power. I’m not one who buys into the real threat or fear behind the satanic connotations of this song, but it does tap into the dark side of our society, however deep that may run. Next comes “Run to the Hills”, which has to be one of the greatest metal tunes of all time. Based on the exploitation and genocide of native Americans by their colonial intruders, the duo of Harris and Dickinson set this song on fire, and even non-fans of metal like my son have been known to turn this one up as high as they can. It is just a phenomenal track.
The album winds down with a seven-minute ode to darkness, “Hallowed Be Thy Name”. I was not a big fan of this specific genre back in its heyday. The images of their mascot, this massive skeletal zombie named Eddie, along with the fire and matching leathers probably distracted me from the overall quality of their performance. That said, I really wished I had added them to my long list of arena concerts in the early ‘80s, I have no doubt it was a show I never would have forgotten.