1986 was an excellent year for metal, and especially thrash metal, with bands such as Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Dark Angel, and many more releasing some of the best thrash records of all time. Iron Maiden wasn't (and still isn't) a thrash metal band, but they weren't about to be forgotten in the sea of thrash. They released the amazing Somewhere in Time album, which added synths to the Iron Maiden formula. The album did really well, hitting #3 on the UK charts.
The band followed up Somewhere in Time with Seventh Son of a Seventh
Son. It is the album that is widely considered the last of Iron Maiden's golden age albums, and was a great hit with the fans, spawning 4 singles and reaching #1 in the UK. The album featured the return of Bruce Dickinson's song writing, after he was left off the writing credits of Somewhere in Time.
Lyrically, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
is one of Maiden's finest efforts. To this date the album is the lone concept album in the bands career. The lyrics are backed by powerful music, but the story is where the band really shines. The album tells the tale of a man with paranormal powers, and how the forces of good and evil attempted to use him against the other. Aside from fitting the story the lyrics in some of the songs such as The Prophecy or Only the Good Die Young reflect on society today.
At the beginning of the first track, Bruce introduces the concept with two short verses, the second being particularly interesting, which foreshadows doom and failure for the protagonist. Right after the spoken part, a heavy synth section starts off Moonchild
, before the guitars start up. Musically, the song is fast paced and sounds really cool. It features solos from both Dave and Adrian, with Dave's taking the spotlight. Bruce's singing helps add to the energetic opener, though he leaves much to be desired in the verses. I can't really say I'm a fan of the lyrics, even though they're well written. Moonchild isn't Iron Maiden's best opener, but is still a good track.
The next song, Infinite Dreams
, is a personal song written by Steve Harris. The lyrics explore themes of reality, life after death, and the meaning of life. The lyrics seem to be one long question, asking "What happens next?" Infinite Dreams is one of the best songs on the album. It features excellent, melodic harmonies from both guitarists. Bruce's singing is top notch, and goes along with the instruments quite well. The song starts slowly with a mellow riff that reminds me of the opening riff in The Clansman, but as it progresses it builds up to the two solos, which are the highlight musically. The song slows down again and fads out with Bruce chanting "and again, and again, and agaaaaain."
The album continues with one of Iron Maiden's most popular songs, Can I Play With Madness
. This was the first single off the album, and reached #3. Honestly, I can't really say I'm a fan. It isn't a bad song by any means, but it reeks of pop-metal. Can I Play With Madness is an energetic song, but its happy sound doesn't suit the lyrics at all. The music is simple and repetitive. The solo is short and the chorus is quite weak, yet somehow catchy. Fortunately, the song doesn't rely on synths, and it still sounds like an Iron Maiden song. Can I Play With Madness isn't a bad song, but by Maiden's standards, is pretty mediocre.
The fourth track on the album is yet another single, The Evil That Men Do
, which reached #5 on the charts. Another favourite of Maiden fans, the Evil That Men Do is a better effort than the previous track. The music is repeated a lot, but it seems to be focused. The song features galloping bass lines and excellent vocals from Bruce. The rhythm guitar isn't anything to write home about, however the lead sections are very melodic and follow Bruce's vocal lines very well when needed. The song features a harmony section and a short solo from Adrian, before the chorus is repeated yet again. Over all, The Evil That Men Do is a good song that could have been so much better if it wasn't so repetitive.
Here we go. This is the song that elevates the album from a good album to a great one. The title track, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
is quite easily the best song on the album. Around ten minutes in length, the band shows its creativity, especially when the long instrumental part begins. The song uses synths effectively to create a mystical feeling in the song. Bruce's singing is top notch in the song, though the song only contains 3 short verses and 2 choruses. As the last chorus fades out, the first interlude is played, before quiet, eerie bass lines leads up to the song's spoken part. Here, Bruce describes the seventh son of a seventh son, his powers, and his significance to the story. At the end of Bruce's speech, the synths start up again, again adding that mystical touch to the song, before a melodic bridge is played. Finally, the listener is greeted by the first solo, and all hell breaks loose. The solo is followed up by a short bridge and then another begins. The dueling guitars are a welcome change from the repetitive verse - chorus - verse - chorus method used in the previous two songs. Easily a masterpiece and one of Iron Maiden's best songs.
Unfortunately, the next song cannot keep the momentum going. The Prophecy
is a slower, sadder sounding song. The lyrics are the highlight here, as they not only move the story's plot along, but also reflects on how society refuses to listen to explicit warnings, and its refusal to take the blame when needed. The music is excellent and fits the theme of the song, but fails to keep the listener interested for a long period of time. The song flies by, and leaves a lot to be desired after the amazing title track.
The seventh song on seventh son of a seventh son begins with a cool bass intro from Steve, before the focus shifts over to Murray and Smith. The Clairvoyant
was the third single from the album, and yet another crowd favourite. A very up-tempo song, The Clairvoyant breathes life into the listener after the last song. The chorus is especially strong, and among the catchiest moments of the album. The song has very few flaws, the biggest one being the length of the solo. The lyrics are as strong as ever, and are well presented by Bruce.
The final song of the album is Only the Good Die Young
. The final chapter of the concept, Only the Good Die Young ties up the storyline. Musically, some parts of Only the Good Die Young are reminiscent to Killers (The song). Here, Bruce's vocals are again, top notch. The song ends with a fast solo from Dave Murray. As a concept album, it is fitting that it ends the way it starts. As it was in the beginning, Bruce wraps up the album with the very same verse he spoke before Moonchild began.
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was the end of an era for Iron Maiden. When Steve Harris announced that the band would be returning to its more raw roots, guitarist Adrian Smith left the band. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was also the last of Maiden's golden age albums, with both No Prayer For the Dying, and Fear of the Dark being substandard. Overall, this is an excellent album, and would be a welcomed addition into any metal fan's collection. However, the band has better releases, such as Powerslave and Somewhere in Time, which I would recommend over Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.