Iron Maiden have built a career out of delivering fantastically savage riffs with a healthy dose of horror movie imagery and just enough tongue-in-cheek self-awareness. Of all the metal bands to take technical mastery really seriously, they are one of the few who also commit to crafting truly sharp songs, and they began the transition from robotic automatons to full-blooded rock icons on this day in 1982 when they released their third album The Number of the Beast.
The Number of the Beast marked the vocal debut of Bruce Dickinson, who replaced former singer Paul Di’Anno (who was fired because of performance issues and drug and alcohol abuse). Dickinson had previously been the frontman of Samson, another band that came up as a part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, a movement that helped shape the worldwide metal community and inspired the likes of Metallica and Anthrax (among many others). While Samson was an excellent band, Iron Maiden was something else entirely, a group who had already embraced a visual aesthetic (solidified by their official “mascot,” an undead creature named Eddie) and delivered powerful songs built for maximum impact.
Though they wouldn’t grab a true crossover hit until 1984’s Powerslave (which contained the hit “2 Minutes to Midnight”), The Number of the Beast is not only considered to be Iron Maiden’s greatest album but also one of the greatest metal albums ever created. It contains the iconic tracks “Run to the Hills” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name” (both of which still pop up in most Iron Maiden set lists when the band plays live) as well as the title track, which had an absolutely killer video.