|Iron Maiden - Seventh Son of the Seventh Son|
Now from memory rather coffee stained memory I seemed to have gone into their career a little backwards, or sideways or hub-wards. The first song I remember hearing was the phenomenal Aces High, the first album I owned was Live After Death (In cassette form!) but the first studio album I owned was Fear of the Dark. Which I really really liked, but it somehow didn't feel like the Iron Maiden I first knew. So I left it for a little bit. Sometime somewhere someone gave me a VHS copy of Made in England which was filmed during their Seventh Tour of the Seventh Tour. And boy, oh man did those spandex trousers left quite an impression and not in a good way. But the songs. The songs were so so very very very good. There isn't enough wax for me to wax lyrically or poetically about this album but I shall try my best.
|Bruce Dickinson and 80's spandex|
Then I got this single given:
|Can I Play With Madness|
Which had two songs from an album I had not listened to by Iron Maiden. That album? Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. The best and one of the perfect albums of heavy metal. It would not be unfair to say that their creative talents had peaked considerably when they put out this album. That is not to say that all the albums that followed were shit... just not as good. I know there are people now probably shouting at the screen mentioning various names but I would argue that they haven't released a bad album, they've done some awful songs but not whole album full of them. But Seventh Son of a Seventh Son is just completely different. It is the perfect mixture of Wow! and Woah!
For those who don't know. This was Iron Maiden's seventh studio album, they were at their peak in terms of albums sales and touring relentlessly. They were at the top of their game. These guys had been touring together for 6 years at this point. They had released the rather odd Somewhere in Time, which has their best album cover though, which had featured fairly heavily synthesizers but had not really fully incorporated them. But on this one they completely embraced them and put them to great use.
Apparently Steve Harris had been reading Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card. And with Bruce Dickinson's interest in history and Aleister Crowley in particular it was only a matter of time when this would collide. Them two spoke for a while and then decided to make a concept album about the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.
The story follows a boy who is the seventh son of the seventh son(Betcha didn't see that one coming). In Moonchild he is being born and there is a fight going on between the Devil and an Angel regarding who's path he will follow. Throughout his life he struggles with his dreams, his visions and generally his life seems to be going down the drain. Fast. He tries, but in the end can't live with the burden. So the album ends on a cheerful note called Only the Good Die Young.
To be honest the concept went right over my head, still does in fact, but the music is impeccable. As a concept album it is really rather weak, nowhere near like say Operation Mindcrime or Christ.O or Brave. But what it does have a common musical thread running through all of the songs. There are two songs that are blatantly commercial namely Can I Play With Madness and The Evil that Men Do, but they are great. And the former has a video that features Graham Chapman! Apparently the former also started of as a ballad, and listening to it I don't understand how, but the latter could have very easily been a power ballad. But both are equally hard rocking and headbangable.
Then you've got the prog element that has always been there. To be honest regarding long proggy songs the best one they've ever done is The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. But the title song is an atmospheric masterpiece, but it's by no means the only prog song there, the other contender for prog-metal song on here is Infinite Dreams which has one of the most interesting guitar playing and very unusual song structure, considering that most of the time when they write songs they try to make sure that that the audience can sing along. But that is pretty hard with this one. But it's a great song though and you can feel for the character and the psychosis that is plaguing him. It sorts of meanders from being a power ballad to a fully fledged metal song towards the end with those patented Iron Maiden dual guitar attacks that are just so so very wonderful to listen to.
With all of this you also get Steve Harris galloping bass playing. I've yet to hear anyone else play the bass like he does, it is quite wonderful to listen to especially when he goes off on one like on The Clairvoyant which for a long long time was my favourite song from this album. Not sure which is my favourite song right now because whenever I put this album on I have to listen to it from start to finish. Each song individually is ranging from great to greatness, but listening to them all in sequence from start to finish just adds that oh so extra special layer on top of all of them. Bit like a smear of Mr. Vikki's BBQ sauce does for ham sandwiches.
Bruce Dickinson goes out of his way to show why he is one of the best voices to come from that Heavy Metal Era (Still has one of the best voices in fact) and mesmerises completely throughout and keeps you captivated in the story that isn't all there. He shows why he's called the Air-Raid Siren with gusto and puts his history degree into good use when writing his lyrics.
The album ends with the same acoustic ditty and sinister words by Bruce Dickinson (Which he borrowed from the aforementioned Aleister Crowley) that it started with:
Seven deadly sins
Seven ways to win
Seven holy paths to hell
And your trip begins
Seven downward slopes
Seven bloodied hopes
Seven are your burning fires
Seven your desires
They still haven't bettered this album, though Dance of Death came pretty close.
So for people's enjoyments I'll share the album in two different formats.