The Number of the Beast is the third studio album by British heavy metal band Iron Maiden, released in March 1982. It saw the debut of vocalist Bruce Dickinson, and the final appearance of drummer Clive Burr.
The Number of the Beast met with considerable critical and commercial success and was a landmark release for the band, becoming their first album to reach No. 1 in the UK Albums Chart, and be certified platinum in the US. The album also produced the singles "Run to the Hills" and "The Number of the Beast", the former of which was the band's first top-ten UK single. The album was also controversial – particularly in the US – due to the religious nature of its lyrics and its artwork.
Since the release of The Number of the Beast and its subsequent tour, The Beast on the Road, "The Beast" has become an alternate name for Iron Maiden, and was later used in the titles of some of their compilations and live releases, including Best of the Beast and Visions of the Beast.
Like all of Iron Maiden's album artwork during the 1980s and early 90s, it was painted by Derek Riggs. The cover was originally created for the song "Purgatory", but Rod Smallwood deemed it of too high a calibre for a single release and decided to save it for The Number of the Beast album instead. The original 1982 artwork includes a blue sky in the background; this was a mistake by the printers of the album cover, and was later rectified and became black when the album was remastered for compact disc in 1998.
The album was also the centre of controversy, particularly in America, due to the lyrics of the title track and the cover art depicting Eddie controlling Satan like a puppet, while Satan is also controlling a smaller Eddie. Smallwood explains that the concept was to ask "who's the really evil one here? Who's manipulating who?" According to Riggs this was inspired by a Doctor Strange comic book "which had some big villain with Doctor Strange dangling on some strings like a puppet, it was something I read as a child back in the 1960s I think", while the images of hell were "taken from my knowledge of medieval European Christian art which was full of such scenes."
The album's cover art has been parodied several times – by crossover thrash band Stormtroopers of Death for the cover art of their 1999 album Bigger than the Devil, and on a T-shirt by Streetwear brand Diamond Supply Co.