While far from a poor one ‘..Seventh Son’ has never stood up for me as a convincing statement from Iron Maiden’s most successful period.
Written by: Dangerzone
ARTIST: Iron Maiden
ALBUM: Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son
SERIAL: CDEMD 1006
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England
LINEUP: Bruce Dickinson – vocals * Dave Murray – guitar * Adrian Smith – guitar * Steve Harris – bass * Nicko McBrain – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Moonchild * 02 Infinite Dreams * 03 Can I Play With Madness * 04 The Evil That Men Do * 05 Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son * 06 The Prophecy * 07 The Clairvoyant * 08 Only The Good Die Young
WEBLINKS: Site Link
A frequently asked question over the years has been when did Iron Maiden start to lose it exactly? Some point to ‘Powerslave’, others to ‘Somewhere In Time’. It’s easy to find faults with both those albums, but to this day many maintain Iron Maiden lost it the day Bruce Dickinson took over vocals.
Whatever the case by 1988 Maiden were undisputed heavy metal kings, even in the face of up and coming acts like Metallica and their likes, although their status along with that of Judas Priest was beginning to erode slightly.
Albums like ‘..Seventh Son’ were factors in this, as the band had clearly lost the heaviness that existed on their first six albums, with the slickness of guitar synthesizers at the forefront as well as lengthy and overblown compositions becoming the norm. Apparently Steve Harris was keenly influenced by Queensryche‘s ‘Operation Mindcrime’ and wanted Maiden to create their own concept album to satisfy his prog fetish, which remains unabated to this day.
Dickinson went along with it, but years later claimed it was nowhere close to Queensryche and was somewhat ashamed of the whole thing. Whatever the concept is there’s no doubt it’s half baked and irrelevant. It captures Iron Maiden at an uncertain time in their history and you could say they seemed out of step with metal in general in 1988. But the fans didn’t seem to mind as this is one of their most well known albums and commercially they were peaking. But how great is it? To this day I’m not sure..
This is by far my least listened to Iron Maiden album of the 80’s, as to my ears the band had lost their edge. The opening synth flurry of ‘Moonchild’ expanded upon those heard back in 1986 and I assume many a denim clad youth was wondering what he was listening to. It increases in heaviness, but doesn’t sound anything like the Maiden of yore. It has more of a sustained metal riffing than usual and the best sections are the guitar solos, which have the ‘Somewhere In Time’ feel.
‘Infinite Dreams’ has gone on to be a Maiden staple and is the band at their most commercial, with an inviting chorus and some ponderous opening chords. The galloping mid-section recalls the ‘Powerslave’ era and is fierce traditional Maiden, but this is the band at their melodic apex in the 80’s. Another huge hit was ‘Can I Play With Madness’, which like most of the tracks here has gone on to attain classic status. Once again it’s highly commercial for Iron Maiden, with a hook made for the charts, but as accessible as it is was still considered obscene by the mainstream in 1988.
Another favourite is ‘The Evil That Men Do’, a galloping frenzy from Harris but bookended by a hook that again demonstrates Maiden’s intent on this album. It manages to meld both worlds of the band in a way few ever could hope to achieve. Why has it never moved me though? Is it really heavy enough? I’ll probably be asking myself this question forever. At least unlike the most recent three Maiden disasters the songs here are relatively short and to the point, something Harris has forgotten how to create.
At almost ten minutes the title track is by far the lengthiest song here, but even still it manages to avoid the ponderous and interminable nature of modern Iron Maiden. This has shades of the even longer ‘Rime Of The Ancient Mariner’ from 1984, with a series of heavy riffs and a hook straight from the heavy metal textbook, complete with swirling keyboards. It does take a host of tangents, but it doesn’t sound forced and the guitar work is the heaviest here. There’s a touch of neo-classical metal surrounding ‘The Prophecy’ and it is a rather bland track musically, livened up by the guitar solos, which have saved Iron Maiden on many occasions.
Much heard to this day is ‘The Clairvoyant’ and its familiar bass rumbling in the intro, the guitar synths dominant throughout. There’s no denying the bands knack for a hook, the one found here memorable, although these days it’s worn out by decades of overplaying and live overkill. Forgotten in the ravages of time is ‘Only The Good Die Young’ which moves with the familiar gallop and some unique Harris bass licks unfold also. It’s in line with the rest of the album, energetic but lacking the killer instinct that made early Maiden such a legendary band.
This is an album which still divides many. Some were in favour of the melodic direction while others shunned it. Iron Maiden must have fallen into the latter judging by the ‘back to basics’ metal of ‘No Prayer For The Dying’ in 1990, an album many panned also, but one that sounds more genuine to me than this album.
While far from a poor one ‘..Seventh Son’ has never stood up for me as a convincing statement from Iron Maiden’s most successful period and I probably went for a good decade without listening to this as a whole.
Compared to anything from 2000 onwards it’s far superior, no matter what anyone says. Harris needs to be reminded you can make an album without every song being over seven minutes, with three minute intros. Here at least he knew how to keep things mostly short and concise while still retaining the bands trademark sound, if watered down by the production.
Harris said he was annoyed at the U.S. for not accepting this album and in a way I can see why they didn’t. Look at the musical landscape in 1988 there and this seems rather out of place, not that Maiden has ever conformed to any musical fads. But I’ve never considered this a classic Iron Maiden album despite its strengths. This is a collection of songs, even with the concept connotations, and in all honesty Maiden were already past their best.
Entire Album (Select Tracks)
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