IRON MAIDEN – Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son (Ryan Ranks #7)

IRON MAIDEN – Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son (Ryan Ranks #7)Welcome back! We have made it to the final Iron Maiden studio album of the 1980s, and one that caps off what is
considered by many to be their golden age. A lot of Maiden fans love Seventh Son to death and consider it their magnum opus. While I may prefer an album or two over it, this is still an extremely strong, consistent record that deserves the acclaim it’s received. The album is so wall-to-wall solid that I had a very hard time ranking these tracks. Even the bottom songs are still very, very good. Seriously, anyone can rank these songs in any order and it would make sense.

Unlike the previous album, Somewhere in Time, this one was deliberately written as a concept album. The concept, in this case, is the folkloric seventh son of a seventh son, the seventh male offspring in an unbroken line (no girls allowed!) born to a father who himself is the seventh son of a seventh son. The titular son is said to have mystical powers, including healing and clairvoyance. The album deals with the struggle between using such powers for good, which will lead to the child’s demise, or for evil. The protagonist foresees calamity for his village, but the residents are all like ‘lol nope’ and refuse to believe him, resulting in disaster.

The idea came to Steve Harris when he was reading Orson Scott Card’s Seventh Son, and the concept grew from there. Stylistically, Seventh Son leans heavily into a more ‘prog rock’ sound than previous efforts.

This is the final album to feature the “classic” Maiden line-up until 2000’s Brave New World. Guitarist Adrian Smith would leave the band in January 1990 as he wasn’t exactly into the direction of the upcoming No Prayer for the Dying album. Also, it’s the first album to feature the use of keyboards (Somewhere In Time used non-keyboard synthesizers).

Cover Art

This certainly takes the blue ribbon for the most bizarre cover art that Derek Riggs drew up, but it works with the surreal nature of the album. Riggs was told to just be weird, and he certainly delivered on that front. The singles covers would also follow suit, definitely going for a more abstract approach than usual. A bunch of other Eddies are encased in ice on the back cover, which is pretty cool. Pun intended.

8. “Only The Good Die Young”

On a ridiculously stacked album, “Only The Good Die Young” has some stiff competition from other strong tracks like “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)”, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”, and “She’s Always a Woman”, However, Billy Joel’s surprisingly controversial effort really does stand out due to an infectious rhythm and a memorable chorus…

…ah, crap. I played the wrong song, didn’t I?

Only The Good Die Young”, the closer of Seventh Son, kicks off the ranking, only because everything else just seemed to fare better for me. Unlike other tracks, this one starts off rather frantic, then ends softly with a reprise of the opening from “Moonchild”. It may not be the most memorable song here at the end of the day, but a strong rhythm and catchy chorus carry the action nicely.

7. “The Prophecy”

The Prophecy” is the part of the story where the protagonist unsuccessfully tries to warn the villagers of some really bad stuff that’s about to happen. The melodic opening gives way to hard-driving guitars and drums, and strong vocals from Bruce Dickinson really bring the concept home here. Not much more to say here; just another rock-solid track.

6. “Infinite Dreams”

This is another track that starts off softly with a fairly pleasing opening guitar riff, then picks up in gravity, tempo, and heft. Lyrically, the song explores the father of the titular figure experiencing apocalyptic visions in his nightmares, and the music accompanying them do a great job of conveying the theme. A live performance of “Infinite Dreams” from Maiden England was released as a single, marking the final single to be released before the aforementioned change in line-up.

5. “Can I Play With Madness”

Definitely one of the more “radio friendly” tracks you’ll hear from Maiden, “Madness” is a very catchy, riff-driven song that, at the right length, infectiousness, and punchiness, is one of the more accessible Iron Maiden songs. While I would play many Iron Maiden tracks over this one, it’s still a very solid, fun outing. Plus, the single cover art has Eddie getting punched through the head. Nothing wrong with that!

4. “Moonchild”

The album opener properly sets the table for what is to come, with a softer acoustic opening transitioning to a more frantic, harder beat and thematically appropriate, yet interpretive, lyrics. The vocals from Dickinson are generally subdued throughout, allowing the parts where he really lays into it to carry more weight. We have a lot of steady instrumentation and a blistering gee-tar solo in the latter half. It took me a while to warm up to “Moonchild”, but it definitely climbed a few spots upon repeated listens.

3. “The Evil That Men Do”

The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones” – WilliamBillShakespeare, Julius Caesar

One of the best tracks on the album, “Evil” presents a compelling gallop in its rhythm with powerful riffs and
percussion, and a truly standout vocal performance. This track, which explores the album’s core concept of “good vs. evil” via the seventh son and his lover, who is bearing his seventh son, gives the listener multiple mood shifts, strong pacing, and lyrics that welcome analysis.

2. “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”

An absolutely EPIC, complex-as-hell recording that acts as the centerpiece of the album’s storyline. The title track clocks in at just under ten minutes, but it’s expertly paced and uses its instrumentation, especially the keyboards, to create an ethereal sound befitting the concept. As this series marches on, we’ll see a lot of long tracks that didn’t need to be long, but this isn’t really one of them. A simple-yet-catchy chorus and crunchy guitars punctuate things well. This one reminds me a lot of “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in terms of being a long track that expertly builds atmosphere throughout.

1. “The Clairvoyant”

This one, to me, is the complete package and the track I always go back to from this album. From Steve Harris
memorable opening bass onward, it’s four and a half minutes of excellence. “Clairvoyant” has my favourite riffs on this album and what I feel is Bruce’s strongest vocal performance. Throw in a GREAT solo from Dave Murray and a memorable chorus, and you don’t have to be a “clairvoyant” to see why I put this at number one.

More of Ryan Ranks coming soon to CGCM Rock Radio/Website: Ryan Ranks


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