Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son

Iron Maiden

Raw Power Records, 1988

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


By 1988, Iron Maiden began to take themselves a little too seriously.

Always a band who were able to take obscure material (such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Rime Of The Ancient Mariner," the boon of sophomore English students across America) and turn it into songs you could happily bang your head to, Steve Harris and crew decided to try their hands at a concept album.

The end result, Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, is an album you either love or hate. Me? When I first heard this record (bought it the day it came out), I absolutely hated it. Even today, I have problems sitting through this one (though I'm now working off of the 1998 CD reissue). I can't say I hate the album, but it sure as hell isn't the masterpiece some fans want to make it out to be.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The disc marked the final appearance of guitarist Adrian Smith (at least until the recent reunion), and one had to wonder even then if his departure (the first in the Iron Maiden camp since drummer Clive Burr jumped ship five years prior) was a sign of things to come.

The concept itself - the legendary powers of the "seventh son of the seventh son" and the tragedy they cause him - isn't terrible, but the band tries to cram too much information into too little time. Maybe, had the story been expanded and the disc gone to a two-record set, the story line would be much clearer. As it is now, it feels like we're listening to the Cliff's Notes version.

Musically, the band doesn't always have the crispness they'd been come to known for. The use of synthesizers - introduced an album earlier - seems to take more of a starring role, though the twin guitar attack of Dave Murray and Smith is always right at the forefront as well. The title track seems to have hints of the old ways, as does "The Clairvoyant," but it makes you wonder why the bulk of the disc doesn't have this kind of freshness.

In terms of songwriting, Iron Maiden sounds tired, and many of these songs have the feeling of "going through the motions" rather than trying to make an album of equivalent quality to some of their earlier works. "Can I Play With Madness," despite being a successful single for the band, is hardly on the same par as, say, "Aces High" or "Wasted Years," and set a dangerous precedent for future Iron Maiden singles - namely, the weaker the track, the better the chance it would be released as a single.

Yet I do have to admit, parts of Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son have grown on me, especially as I've been exposed to live versions of these tracks. As individual songs go, tracks like "The Clairvoyant" turn out to be pretty good, but lump them in with the whole scene, and it's kind of like watching a car wreck.

Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son is sure to continually divide Iron Maiden fans into two camps: those who love the album, and those who loathe it. Fact is, Iron Maiden had done better work, and this was a step down in quality for them.

Rating: C

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2004 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Raw Power Records, and is used for informational purposes only.