Follow TV Tropes


Music / The Number of the Beast

Go To
"When the priest comes to read me the last rites
Take a look through the bars at the last sights
Of a world that has gone very wrong for me"

Woe to you O earth and sea
For the Devil sends the beast with wrath
Because he knows the time is short
Let him who hath understanding reckon the number of the beast
For it is a human number
Its number is six hundred and sixty six

The Number of the Beast is the third studio album by British heavy metal band Iron Maiden, released in 1982. Frequently regarded as a classic of the heavy metal genre, and a quintessential addition to any metalhead's collection.

The album marked the debut of group's most iconic vocalist, Bruce Dickinson after leaving his previous band Samson, and was also the final album that drummer Clive Burr played on note . The Number of the Beast sees Steve Harris' songwriting taking a more complex direction than previous efforts, which harmonised well with Dickinson's powerful, operatic voice. Thanks to this, it bridges the rawer, punk-like stylings seen on Killers and Iron Maiden (Album) with the progressive elements their career would later take, punctuated by Burr's wild, blistering precision-drumming. It was also the first album to contain writing contributions by Adrian Smith (which most assuredly wouldn't be his last).It drew controversy among Moral Guardians for its lyrical content and artwork, which got the band accused of being Satanists, and later led to protests outside their shows and public burnings of their albums. This may not have been such a bad thing, though.note 

Charting in many regions (including a #1 in the UK) and selling 14 million copies sold worldwide as of 2010, the album was a Breakthrough Hit for the band. To this day several of its tracks are among the most-played concert staples in the band's catalogue, with the songs "Run to the Hills" and "The Number of the Beast" both frequently considered contenders for Signature Song status.

It was also honored by the TV documentary series Classic Albums with an entire episode about the creative process behind recording this classic album.


Principal Members:
  • Clive Burr: drums
  • Bruce Dickinson: lead vocals
  • Steve Harris: bass, vocals
  • Dave Murray: guitar
  • Adrian Smith: guitar, vocals

Side One

  1. "Invaders"
  2. "Children of the Damned"
  3. "The Prisoner"
  4. "22 Acacia Avenue"
Side Two
  1. "The Number of the Beast"
  2. "Run to the Hills"
  3. "Gangland"
  4. "Total Eclipse" note 
  5. "Hallowed Be Thy Name"

Hallowed Be Thy Tropes:

  • Album Filler: The album could best be divided up into the A-list songsnote  and the B-list songs note . "Gangland" falls into this category by virtue of being the one song Harris himself now says he'd rather have left off the album in favor of "Total Eclipse" during the original pressings (the rest of the band preferred "Total Eclipse" too, but Harris vetoed its inclusion for being the more progressive of the two songs). "Invaders" at least gets redeemed by honor of being the opening track note .
  • All Just a Dream: The narrator of the title track wonders if the events depicted could be. Meanwhile, the narrator of "Hallowed Be Thy Name" is so blindingly terrified of his impending death that he's pleading for his reality to instead be a dream.
  • Audience Participation Song: During "Run to the Hills", Bruce has always had the crowd sing the second half of the line "Out on the plains... we gave them hell!"
  • Badass Native: "Run to the Hills" averts this, though it also outright says that the Europeans won because of superior numbers:
    We fought him hard, we fought him well / Out on the plains, we gave him hell!
    But many came, too much for Cree / Oh will we ever be set free?
  • Big Rock Ending: "Run to the Hills" and "Hallowed Be Thy Name."
  • Bittersweet Ending: "Hallowed Be Thy Name" ends with the narrator's death, but he's convinced that a kindlier afterlife is waiting for him and that he has nothing to fear from death at all.
  • Body Horror: The bridge of "Children of the Damned" gets pretty visceral describing the titular subject burning to death.
    Now it's burning his hands
    He's turning to laugh
    Smiles as the flame sears his flesh
    Melting his face
    Screaming in pain
    Peeling the skin from his eyes
    Watch him die
    According to plan
    He's dust on ground, what did we learn?
  • Careful with That Axe: The legendary 13-second scream heard at the 1:17 mark in the title track was apparently summoned up by producer Martin Birch forcing Dickinson to sing the introduction for hours, take after take. It ended up being possibly the fiercest, most blood-curdling of his career. To this day, Dickinson has never been able to reproduce it.
  • Concept Album: There is a school of thought that the first seven songs on The Number of the Beast each represent one of the Seven Deadly Sins, and that "Hallowed Be Thy Name" is about paying for your sins.
  • Creepy Child: "Children of the Damned," based on the eponymous film.
    He's walking like a small child
    But watch his eyes burn you away...
  • Dead Man Walking: Averted in "Hallowed Be Thy Name." Someone else that's also locked in a nearby cell calls out "God be with you" to the narrator.
  • Decapitation Presentation: Done by Eddie with The Devil's head on the single artwork to the title track.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The album cover designed by Derek Riggs, naturally. It was actually first created by him for the "Purgatory" single from Killers, but the band (and Rod Smallwood in particular) thought it was way too good to not make into an album cover.
  • The Devil Is a Loser: In contrast to what Moral Guardians assumed, the "Run to the Hills" single artwork has Eddie (his signature axe in hand) in a fight with The Devil, while the title track's single artwork shows the aftermath, where Eddie is holding the Devil's decapitated head. The band rightfully pointed out that they were not encouraging worshiping the Devil as he was the LOSER in the battle.
  • Dirty Coward: The settlers depicted in "Run to the Hills."
    Soldier blue in the barren wastes
    Hunting and killing's a game
    Raping the women and wasting the men
    The only good Injuns are tame
    Selling them whiskey and taking their gold
    Enslaving the young and destroying the old
  • Downer Ending: As per Iron Maiden tradition:
    • "Hallowed Be Thy Name" ends with the hanging of the song's narrator.
    • "Run to the Hills" is also rather tragic, all things considered.
    • "Invaders" finishes with the defenders scattering as the Vikings rape and pillage.
  • Epic Rocking: "Hallowed Be Thy Name" just qualifies at 7:13. Not the longest the band has ever written, but suitably epic in any case.
  • Face Death with Dignity: The ultimate choice made by the narrator in "Hallowed Be Thy Name". This is in contrast to the earlier parts of the song, which almost seems to pass through the Five Stages of Grief.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: "Hallowed Be Thy Name", which is used to signal the narrator's death knell as he's walked out to his execution.
  • Gaia's Vengeance: "Total Eclipse".
    Cold as steel the darkness waits, its hour will come
    A cry of fear from our children worshiping the sun
    Mother natures' black revenge on those who wasted her life
    War babies in the garden of Eden
    Shall turn our ashes to ice
    Is this the end, the millions cried
    Clutching their riches as they died
    Those who survive must weather the storm
  • Heavy Mithril:
  • Horrible History Metal: Because every Maiden album needs one or two: "Run to the Hills" focuses on the near-genocide of the Native American peoples after contact with European settlers.
  • Horny Vikings: "Invaders" is about them.
    Longboats have been sighted
    The evidence of war has begun
    Many Nordic fighting men
    Their swords and shields all gleam in the sun
  • Incredibly Long Note:
    • "Run to the Hills" is a stand-out.
    • "Hallowed Be Thy Name," too.
    • The first verse of the title track is prefaced by a legendary scream that Dickinson has not been able to match since, much less ordinary humans.
  • Intercourse with You: "22 Acacia Avenue" manages to be a pretty tragic example.
  • In the Back: "Run to the Hills"
    Murder for freedom, a stab in the back
    Women and children the cowards attack
  • Large Ham: Dickinson is particularly unhinged during these recordings, especially on "Run to the Hills." He also likens performing "Hallowed Be Thy Name" to "narrating a movie to the audience."
  • Last Chorus Slow-Down: The last phrase of "Run to the Hills".
  • Longest Song Goes Last: The album closes with "Hallowed Be Thy Name" (7:13).
  • Loudness War: The reissue suffers from this, which is a common theme across the band's remasters series.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Run to the Hills" is a very epic, uplifting song about the genocide of Native Americans.
  • Metal Scream: Very many, as expected from "The Air Raid Siren" himself. As much as fans talk about the title track's incredible scream, the one heard in the bridge of "Run to the Hills" is nothing to sneeze at.
  • Motor Mouth: Several sections in "22 Acacia Avenue," where Dickinson tries to match the speed of the riffs.
  • My Life Flashed Before My Eyes: Happens to the narrator of "Hallowed Be Thy Name" (and as any listener should know, he doesn't live through the song).
  • New Sound Album: Often thought to sit at the cusp of the band's Signature Style (which would be fully realized in Piece Of Mind and Powerslave).
  • Nightmare Sequence: "The Number of the Beast" was inspired by a nightmare Harris' had after watching Damien: Omen II.
  • Noble Savage: "Run to the Hills".
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Total Eclipse".
  • Number of the Beast: The eponymous song. As seen above, the song's opening passage directly quotes the book of Revelations, 12:12 and 13:18.
  • Performance Video: The music videos for "Run to the Hills" and "The Number of the Beast".
  • People Puppets: The album cover (above) shows The Devil controlling someone like a marionette and is in turn controlled by Eddie in a similar fashion. It was actually inspired by a comic book cover for Doctor Strange that Derek Riggs read as a child (which is noted in the page to be a common cover-design among comics).
  • Progressive Metal: While not as progressive as a lot of the band's later material, this album marks the point where they started including progressive influences in their music, and depending upon one's definition of the genre, "Hallowed Be Thy Name" will qualify either as an Ur-Example of the style or as one of the first genuine example. To give an example of its prog credentials, Dream Theater covered the album in its entirety.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
    • "Run! Fight! To leave! It's tough!"
  • Professional Killer: "Gangland" seems to be from the perspective of a mafia hitman that kills out of necessity rather than choice.
    Face at the window leers into your own
    But it's only your reflection, still you tremble in your bones
    How long can you hide? How long 'till they come?
    A rat in a trap, but you've got to survive
  • Rock Me, Asmodeus!: Even with a name like "The Number of the Beast", the title track is an aversion.
  • Run or Die: "Invaders" sees the Saxons retreating from "the mighty Norsemen."
    You'd better scatter and run
    The battle's lost and not won
    You'd better get away
    To fight another day
  • Record Producer: Martin "Farmer" Birch, as was the standard for Maiden's albums from 1981-92
  • Sequel Episode/Sequel Song: "22 Acacia Avenue" is a Darker and Edgier continuation from "Charlotte the Harlot" (heard on Iron Maiden (Album)). The character would get revisited in "Hooks in You" (from 1990's No Prayer for the Dying) and "From Here To Eternity" (1992's Fear of the Dark).
  • Shout-Out: References to this album are available here.
    • Steve Harris wears a T-shirt in the sleeve photos in this album with the following text: "NO! We are not an English rock band... we are dental floss salesmen from Montana!". This is a reference to "Montana" from Frank Zappa's Over-Nite Sensation (1973).
  • Spoken Word in Music: The title track (quoted above) and the intro to "The Prisoner."
  • Streetwalker: Charlotte in "22 Acacia Avenue" apparently only charges 15 quid, and will put out for free if you say you know a guy. It ends up being a bit like a heavy metal "Roxanne," with that narrator taking Charlotte in to protect her from her own downward spiral.
  • Tears of Fear: The narrator of "Hallowed By Thy Name" wonders why he's crying, claiming to himself that he's Not Afraid to Die.
  • To the Tune of...: "Children of the Damned" has been said to resemble Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Simple Man". Metallica would later catch the same accusation with their song "The Unforgiven II."
  • Updated Re-release: One in 1995 that added "Total Eclipse" (as detailed in Cut Song in the Trivia tab) and a live performance in Italy of "Remember Tomorrow" from the Di'Anno era, with Dickinson on vocals (originally released on "The Number of the Beast" single). Later, there was a 1998 remaster that just had "Total Eclipse", but notably restored the album cover's blackened sky (seen above) in the background behind Eddie, which was turned blue in the original release due to a printing error. It also came with some touring notes and multiple archival photos in the booklet, along with the ability to play the music videos to "The Number of the Beast" and "Run to the Hills" on any system above Windows 95.
  • Video Full of Film Clips: The videos for "Run to the Hills" and "The Number of the Beast" both have dozens of them, from multiple films (including Godzilla of all things, and a shot of The Crimson Ghost, made famous by The Misfits).
  • You Are Number 6: "The Prisoner" (taken from the series it was influenced by).