Review Summary: The unsung metal masterpiece. And that's an understatement. In fact, my whole review is.
There are only few bands in the world that can make a concept album work. Almost all of them are prog bands that write long, delicately structured and detailed songs that sometimes struggle to find the right balance between musical quality and storytelling. And that's fine. But Iron Maiden aren't (at least then they weren't) a prog metal band and they made a concept album their way, saying everything that needed being said, leaving the music intact.
It was recorded in 1988 and was the last album with the classic eighties line-up. From my point of view, it perfectly reflected the band's collective growth. They had been making albums together for 8 years (some less than others) and reached their creative and technical peak with Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.
Everybody probably knows the main story behind the lyrics, so I won't be retelling it for the nth time. I'll simply focus on the music.
So, let's get on with it.
Moonchild opens it perfectly with Bruce reciting those infamous lines that lure you into the music and then you're banged on the head with synth/guitar intro. The verses are extremely aggresive, which is appropriate considering that they are narrated by the Fallen One himself, and you can hear the galloping bass in the background all along. The chorus isn't exactly a true sing-along but it's satisfying. Really sets the mood for what's to come. (4/5)
Infinite Dreams is a definite highlight of the album. Marvelously showcasing all of the band's talents in 6 or so minutes, is a Maiden classic. Starting with a mystic guitar intro and soon introducing whispered vocals before it explodes into a tremendous rhythm section forwarded by the bass (of course) and with strong vocals on top of it. Then comes a section that is obviously focused on the vocals but is highly entertaining. That lasts about a minute, and then the galloping guitar duo builds up (reminiscent of Hallowed Be Thy Name) until it erupts to a massive solo through a fantastic Bruce's scream at the 3:14 mark. Then comes another vocal section, but this time slightly faster and shorter, used only as a bridge between solos. And then when you finally expect a climax of an ending, it all slows down and you can only hear Bruce wailing: '...agaaaaiiiin!' Brilliant! (5/5)
Can I Play With Madness is a bitter pill to swallow. An obvious commercial attempt that simply sticks out of the record's mood. The overall groove is just too jolly (?) that it doesn't make a real impression of the actual message. But still has it's moments, like the arena-friendly chorus that you can't help but shout out, or the overall remarkable vocal performance. (3,5/5)
The Evil That Men Do is arguably the best song here. It just refuses to let you go for even a second of it's 4:36. Whether it's the opening riff (possibly the greatest one Adrian's ever come up with, rivaled only by 2 Minutes and that beautiful bit in Paschendale), the all-instrumental bridge towards the chorus, or the chorus itself. Even though it's repeated a million times, it doesn't lose any weight, in fact, I wouldn't mind another one towards the end. An instant classic. (5/5)
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son is one of those epics. The ones that only Maiden can write (a la To Tame a Land, Sign of the Cross, Mariner etc.). And it really fulfills, if not exceeds the title track expectations. Starting with a massive, epic riff beautifully enhanced by keyboard touches it leads you to the verses. And they are phenomenal. Sung with such dramatic and operatic power that they leave you with your jaw and your eyes wide open. But that ain't the last we've seen from Mr Dickinson. Those verses are only a build-up to the maestral (an understatement!) wailing 'ohh' parts and then the sing-along material of the song's title. After a short instrumental break, that circle is repeated but now followed by a quiet bass lead as a background to Bruce's narration. And then comes the best part (yes, that's right.). A 4 minute long explosion of instruments leading the listener to an absolute sonic ecstasy. And it ends appropriately, with a superb drum-lead crescendo. One of those epics. (5/5)
The Prophecy is often overlooked by listeners, and not without a reason. It's not hit-single material and it hasn't got the weight of a true epic. And another (even more important) reason is that it comes after the title track that set the bar just too high. And in fact, Prophecy is a pretty good song, not very memorable or impressive, but it entertains. Especially the great guitar solo, courtesy of Dave Murray. (3,5/5)
Next up is The Clairvoyant. And it really gets you back into the right gear after a minor (!) setback. As soon as it starts with that bass line, you know you're in for a treat. And you really are. With the classic Maiden arrangement (verse-verse-chorus and again) it has become a concert staple for years to come. The biggest credit for that, probably goes to the splendid chorus which is not only perfect for a stadium, than extremely intelligently written. By the books, but by the best books ever written. (5/5)
Only the Good Die Young is truly a special song. It has never been played live and yet it's become a cult favorite with the fans. It somehow captures the very soul of the album: the riff is similar to the title track's, tempo changes modeled by Infinite Dreams and nice little chorus like in Clairvoyant. Oh, and Bruce revisits the beginning on the very end with the infamous 'Seven...' lines again, just to round up the circle. It obviously isn't genuine, but it's got the best of all worlds. (4,5/5)
After a bit of Maths, we come to an average rating of 4,44 but why don't we round it up to a 5. Cheers!