On April 11, 1988, "Iron Maiden" released their seventh album, "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son".
This was the band's last album with the 'classical' lineup, since after its release, guitarist Adrian Smith left the band, until his return in 1999.
This is "Iron Maiden's" first concept album and also the first in which the influence of "progressive rock", which Bassist Steve Harris grew up on, is particularly noticeable. The album continues the musical diversity that began in the previous album "Somewhere in Time" and is mostly led by Adrian Smith and Steve Harris.
It is also the first album in which the band made full use of synthesizers, another sign of the "progressive rock" influence. Bruce Dickinson said in one of the interviews that the band was not interested in adding a full-time keyboardist so the synthesizer roles were played "with one finger" by Adrian Smith or Steve Harris, depending on which of them had a free finger. Admittedly, the previous album "Somewhere in Time" also included synthesizer sounds, but these were produced by electric guitar and bass guitar, using Guitar-Synth effects, while on this album it's full use of keyboards.
The idea for the band's seventh album was driven by Steve Harris, after reading Orson Scott Card's book "The Seventh Son". Harris shared the idea with Dickinson, who immediately became enthusiastic and began writing songs that would fit the overall theme of the story.
The album deals with a folklore legend about the life of the seventh son of the seventh son, which according to the legend has special qualities of healing and vision of the future, and it concentrates on philosophical questions, good versus evil, prophecy, reincarnation, and life after death.
The plot behind this concept album begins with the birth of the seventh son of the seventh son and describes his special powers and the danger behind them. The story continues with the child's inner struggle of choosing between good and evil as both sides try to use the child as a tool to achieve their goals. As the plot progresses it is described how Lucifer (the evil one) tries to drag the child into the evil path and the child realizes that choosing the good path will lead to his death. The ending of the plot describes the child's death and explains the choice made by the seventh son of the seventh son. The album ends the same way it opens, closing a cycle of the struggle between good and evil that will never end.
(Photo: Ilpo Musto)
And now for the album's sequence of songs:
The album opens with a classical guitar fret (not typical of Maiden) and is somewhat reminiscent of "Jethro Tull", one of the bands Harris grew up on. In the background, we hear a kind of Dickinson recitation designed to put the listener in the mood of the plot and explain the myth of the seventh son. The classical guitar and Dickinson's recitation will also end up the album, a kind of closing circle that reinforces the conclusion that this is a concept album.
The song "Moonchild", which officially begins immediately after the end of Dickinson's recitation, opens with a synthesizer sound, something not so typical of the band. In this song, we are introduced to the seventh son of the seventh son's parents. Later, Lucifer (the Evil One) warns the child's parents about the possibility that he is cursed before he was born and the destruction evil he may bring. Lucifer even tries to prevent his birth: "Do not you dare to save your son, Kill him now and save the young ones" Lucifer warns the child's parents.
We continue to a soft and melodic solo which opens the song “Infinite Dreams”. The main character in this song is the seventh son, the father of the second (chosen) seventh son, who also has special powers of foresight. The song tells of the father's fear of the visions he sees about the afterlife and of his fear of the fact that he will never awaken from these visions.
The third song on the album "Can I Play with Madness" is probably the most famous and perhaps the one that is most musically different. The song is about a young man, the seventh son of the seventh son, who is interested in learning what the future holds from an old prophet with a crystal ball. The young man thinks he's going crazy and asks the old prophet to help him deal with his visions.
We continue "The Evil That Men Do". One of the best songs on the album and a favorite track on the band's gigs. The title of the song was taken from the speech "Marcus Antonius" to the Roman audience after the assassination of "Julius Caesar" in Shakespeare's play "Julius Caesar", however, the content has nothing to do with the title. This is probably the only "love" song Maiden has written and it describes the intense love of the protagonist of the story (probably the seventh son's father) for a woman. It is also a kind of flashback to the moment of the birth of the second seventh son.
The next song on the album is the theme song "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" which is at the center of the album's plot. The song tells of the moment of the birth of the seventh son of the seventh son, the "chosen one," who has healing powers and foresight, though at first, he is not at all aware of his powers. The rest of the song describes the child's inner struggle with how to use his powers and the choice between good and evil. The song is an indication that the future cannot be changed "So It Shall Be Written, So It Shall Be Done", and there is also a hint of the difficult choice the child will have to make later in the plot. This is the longest and most complex song on the album and it includes a large number of styles and rhythms. Nicko McBrain's drumming in this song is phenomenal, the band members' playing is tight and polished. The second half of the song is a progressive and brilliant instrumental piece that begins quietly and softly and slowly builds and intensifies until the end.
The song "The Prophecy" is about the seventh son's attempts to get the villagers to hear his warnings about the disaster he is about to inflict upon them. The villagers do not hear his warnings and the song ends with the words: "No one believed in my true prophecy And now it's too late", after which the music fades slowly and ends with an acoustic, short, melodic, and beautiful guitar duet.
The song "The Clairvoyant" is a kind of introspection of the chosen seventh son over his life and deeds. In the song the seventh son describes how his strength grows stronger and how he fears he will not be able to control them. "I feel strength, an inner fire, But I'm scared I won't be able to control it anymore". The second part of the song is already from a third-part angle (probably after his death), in which the narrator notes that despite all his powers the seventh son could not have predicted his death. The cause of death is not explained and it is not clear whether it was his strengthening forces that led to his death or whether he committed suicide to prevent further disasters. Harris' bass line at the opening of the song is one of the strongest on the album. The chord passages in the song verses are among the most beautiful of Maiden. The combination of Maiden's typical riffs and synthesizer is perfect and Bruce's voice sounds vital and passionate.
Closing the album is "Only the Good Die Young", a fast-paced song that is also the least progressive song on the album. The song continues its search for the meaning of life and death, good and evil. The seventh son of the seventh son was just a game of chessboard between good and evil, a game neither of which won - "Some innocent pawn in an endgame, one more stalemate". The song also mocks Christianity and describes how the villagers preferred to believe in "walking on water" and "the bible" instead of listening to the chosen one. They did not heed the warnings of the seventh son and thus inflicted on themselves a disaster that could have been avoided. There is also a kind of hint in the song that history repeats itself because the human race does not learn from past mistakes.
In conclusion, this is a masterpiece and one of the best metal albums of all time, which unfortunately also turned out to be the pinnacle of the band's work. After its release, the band performed at the "Monsters Of Rock" Festival in front of an audience of over 100,000 people. Adrian Smith will then leave the band and from that point on the band's popularity will begin to decline. Although "Maiden" remained a tremendous band that maintained a very high level of writing and performance on subsequent albums, at the same time it was difficult for them to recreate the success and completeness of the classical 80s era.