If you ever wondered what The Number Of The Beast sounds like compressed 666 times, we have news

The blurred cover art for Iron Maiden's Number Of The Beast
(Image credit: EMI)

As everyone knows, the number '666' is of special significance to many Iron Maiden fans. It's a number most commonly associated with the Devil, ever since its appearance in chapter 13, verse 18 of the Book of Revelation, that section of the New Testament where everything goes a bit haywire. 

"Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast," reads one well-known translation from the original Greek. "For it is the number of a man; and his number is 666."

In early 1982 Iron Maiden hired actor Barry Clayton – perhaps best known as the narrator of the popular Count Duckula TV series – to read the passage during the recording of their third album The Number Of The Beast. Clayton's ominous delivery was turned into the title track's intro, a classic was born, and religious groups across the US accused Iron Maiden of being Satanic, creating a furore that would send the band's profile rocketing skywards.

More than a quarter of a century later, Maiden were still trading off the number's beastly reputation, with the 2009 film Iron Maiden: Flight 666 telling the story of the first, globe-straddling leg of the band's Somewhere Back in Time World Tour.

But before this, in 2004, when Ed Force One was but a continent-vaulting glint in Bruce Dickinson's eye, someone took an .mp3 file of The Number Of The Beast, and compressed it 666 times. 

"If you have ever wondered what Iron Maiden’s The Number of the Beast would sound like compressed over and over as an .mp3 666 times, here’s your chance," wrote Cory Arcangel, the man behind the project. "And if you're wondering, yes it does lose quality each time it is compressed."

You can hear the results of this ground-breaking work (don't get too excited) at Cory's website, and for those who'd like to repeat the experiment, the code is available at GitHub

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.