Wednesday, 18 April 2012

CD Review: Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, by Iron Maiden (1988)

An album that has grown in stature over the years, Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son stands unique in Iron Maiden's catalogue. Their first and only concept record, Maiden's seventh (!) album also hints at the band's ultimate evolution into progressive metal. The full transformation would take shape more than 15 years later, but the kernels make their initial appearance here.

The concept itself is vague at best and has something to do with the magical powers of the seventh son of a seventh son, battles between good and evil, life and death. At the time of its release, Seventh Son suffered in comparison to Queensryche's brilliant Operation: Mindcrime, released in the same year and probably metal's all-time best concept album, featuring a more straightforward and cinematic concept.

But Seventh Son yields its secrets slowly and on repeated listens. While it's true that the creative muse plays hard to get with the band, and they fail to nail a perfect track, they do work hard to assemble thoughtful metal. The result is a compact set of high quality, sophisticated tracks that conquer frequent peaks and rarely disappoint.

The Prophecy is the only clear mis-hit, a meandering theme that circles the drain and drips none too soon. At the opposite end of the spectrum the best tracks are confident, charge-ahead metal, The Evil That Men Do galloping with purpose, and Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son scoring 10 minutes of epic glory, blemished only by a slow portion ripped straight from Rime Of The Ancient Mariner.

The Clairvoyant soars with its chorus, by far Bruce Dickinson's finest moment on the album: There's a time to live and a time to die / When it's time to meet the maker / There's a time to live but isn't it strange / That as soon as you're born you're dying.  He almost recreates the magic on the closer Only The Good Die Young, but yields more readily to some classic guitar duelling between Dave Murray and Adrian Smith.

Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son achieved great commercial success in Europe but landed with a dull thud in North America, the peak of hair metal obscuring Maiden's attempt at a more sophisticated sound. Smith left the band soon thereafter, breaking up for 12 years the most celebrated guitar duo in metal.

Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son was never Maiden at their absolute best, but it did introduce the depth of the band's talent and the breadth of their ambition.


Bruce Dickinson - Vocals
Steve Harris - Bass
Nicko McBrain - Drums
Dave Murray - Guitars
Adrian Smith - Guitars

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Moonchild - 8
2. Infinite Dreams - 8
3. Can I Play With Madness - 8
4. The Evil That Men Do - 9
5. Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son - 9
6. The Prophecy - 6
7. The Clairvoyant - 9 *see below*
8. Only The Good Die Young - 9

Average: 8.25

Produced, Engineered and Mixed by Martin Birch.
Mastered by George Marino.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

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