Iron Maiden's iconic 1982 album The Number Of The Beast is one of the benchmarks for which every metal band should strive to match. It's easier said than done, though that hasn't stopped a bunch of brave and/or foolhardy groups taking on the original album's eight classic songs. No easy task, but these are the ones that are worthy of the originals.
Candiria – Invaders
One of the oddest covers of a Maiden song. New York jazz-hardcore band Candiria have made a career from screamed rap vocals, bewildering time signatures and chugging metalcore riffing. Obviously, it's not the usual elements that go into Iron Maiden, and here they make Invaders practically unrecognisable from its original form, adding wild saxophone solos, chunky breakdowns, electro interludes and all manner of deranged barks from frontman Carley Coma. Mental.
Therion – Children Of The Damned
As with so many metal bands, Sweden’s Therion were hugely, but not obviously, inspired by Maiden. Rather than the punkier pace and grit of the bands early work that inspired the thrash movement, Christofer Johnsson’s melancholic, prog-metaller’s instead took the darker and more sombre elements of Iron Maiden and ran with it. This cover of Children Of The Damned is filled with far more sorrow and despair than the original. Good work from the gloomy guys.
Fozzy – The Prisoner
Considering they were initially thought of as a side project and doss about for a professional wrestler, Fozzy have done pretty well for themselves. Chris Jericho’s classic metal mob are still here and have gained the respect of many, but back when they released their self-titled debut back in 2000, mostly comprised of covers, there was a lot of cynicism surrounding them. Fair play then for Jericho to take on a song as iconic as The Prisoner, it’s fairly straightforward a version but they get away with it thanks to the strength of the material they are working with.
Dark Tranquility – 22 Acacia Avenue
Dark Tranquility were one of the formative bands of the Gothenburg Sound, a genre that openly took the waring dual guitars of classic Maiden and turned it into something more extreme. On the bonus disc from the re-issue of 1995’s excellent The Gathering album they took the bombastic opener of Number Of The Beast is turned into a sludgy, melo-death rager, which works shockingly well.
Zwan – The Number Of The Beast
When Billy Corgan disbanded The Smashing Pumpkins he immediately went out and formed a new, short lived venture named Zwan. These days not many people remember them for anything other than this understated and quite excellent acoustic cover that they handed over to be used on the 2002 movie Spun. The fact that Corgan himself isn’t even signing on their best-known work (it’s guitarist Matt Sweeney) probably doesn’t do much for Billy’s ego either.
Steve ‘n’ Seagulls – Run To The Hills
Finnish bluegrass band Steve 'N' Seagulls have made a career from covering heavy metal classics in a jaunty, jangling style. On their debut album Farm Machine they take on the likes of Rammstein, Metallica, AC/DC and Pantera with predictably varied results. What does work though, is hearing them attack the gallop of this Maiden classic, giving it a sound that you could can jig and headbang to at the same time.
Dream Theater – Gangland
Another classic album covered in full by the New York prog masters. Having taken on Master Of Puppets in full in 2004, they decided to go in on The Number Of The Beast in its entirety a year later. The highlight of might just be this version of Gangland. By far the weakest track on the original album, Dream Theater re-imagine it as a louche, jazzy number that is driven by Jordan Rudess’ honky tonk keys. A stroke of genius.
Machine Head – Hallowed Be Thy Name
Is this the definitive cover of any Iron Maiden song ever? Could be. After all, many have had a go at putting their own spin on this song, from Iced Earth to Cradle Of Filth, but none have come so close to matching it as Robb Flynn and co. As they did with Metallica’s Battery, Machine Head add a huge dose of street level swagger and balls out brutality to a proper heavy metal classic, and the results are glorious.