Seventh Son of a Seventh Son by Iron Maiden

Seventh Son of a Seventh Son by Iron MaidenOne of Iron Maiden’s most popular albums, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son has the dual properties of being the last of their “classic” era and the first release to prominently feature a progressive metal arrangement and include keyboards. This concept album features lyrics that are based on supernatural mysticism and English folklore and the title and theme worked well as the group’s seventh overall album. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son reached the Top 20 in the U.S. and #1 on the U.K. Album Charts, their first to do so since 1982’s The Number of the Beast. The album also spawned four Top 10 singles on the U.K. charts.

Musically, the album is led by guitarist Adrian Smith and contains traditional prog-rock arrangements with stop/start transitions between riffs, tempos, and time signatures along with strong and memorable vocal hooks by lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson. They built on the guitar synths introduced on their previous album Somewhere in Time in 1986 towards full keyboard synthesizers.

Bassist Steve Harris came up with the album title and theme after he read Orson Scott Card’s Seventh Son and realized this was to be Iron Maiden’s seventh studio album. Dickinson revised his earlier role of providing most lyrics with much collaboration among the band members who “checked up on each other to see what everybody else was up to”.

 


Seventh Son of a Seventh Son by Iron Maiden
Released: April 11, 1988 (EMI)
Produced by: Martin Birch
Recorded: Musicland Studios, Munich, Germany, February-March 1988
Side One Side Two
Moonchild
Infinite Dreams
Can I Play With Madness
The Evil That Men Do
Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son
The Prophecy
The Clairvoyant
Only The Good Die Young
Band Musicians
Bruce Dickinson – Lead Vocals, Guitars  |  Adrian Smith – Guitars, Synths
Dave Murray – Guitars  |  Steve Harris – Bass  |  Nicko McBrain – Drums, Percussion

 

The opener “Moonchild” comes in almost like a Jethro Tull acoustic song entry before quickly turning to something a bit heavier and more dynamic. The focus on the number seven is immediate in the lyrics and this is the first in the conceptual sequence of the album. “Infinite Dreams” is introduced by a chorus guitars and later contains funky bass by Harris and choppy guitars by Dave Murray during first verse but the song evolves through many sections of differing sonic intensity, getting progressively heavier towards the song’s climax and the following final verse.

“Can I Play with Madness” is the most mainstream track on the album and contains a completely different vibe than the more melodramatic efforts elsewhere. The song originated as a ballad but evolved into a more upbeat track which became the album’s first single, peaking at #3 on the U.K. charts. The extremely poppy chorus would become a sore spot for many long time fans. The strong and melodic “The Evil That Men Do” concludes the first side as a classic Iron Maiden track, complete with a great guitar lead by Smith. The song’s title was taken from Marc Anthony’s speech following Julius Caesar’s assassination.
 

 
The title song “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” is a nearly ten minute extended piece which begins with a simple guitar/synth track but builds quickly. The interludes between the opening verses are excellent with Dickinson complementing the musical harmony. A long, prog rock middle instrumental has a consistent hi-hat by drummer Nicko McBrain guiding the way with some spoken lines at top of this section. It concludes by morphing into a full-fledge prog-influenced jam, not unlike “The Cinema Show” on Genesis’ Selling England by the Pound a decade and a half earlier.

After the tour-de-force title track, the album inevitably loses steam, although the final three tracks are all quality. “The Prophecy” begins with a softly picked guitar and long synth strings and a good, minute-long classical ending. “The Clairvoyant” begins with a raw bass by Harris, setting the pace for this enjoyable rocker, which was the catalyst for album’s concept as the first track written. “Only the Good Die Young” is an upbeat closer and, in a way, the most classic eighties metal song on the album (and therefore the least prog oriented). It contains another great harmonized guitar lead and ends with a reprise of the intro to “Moonchild” with the same “seven” theme revisited.

Following the release of Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, the band headlined the Monsters of Rock before a crowd of over 100,000. This would turn out to be the pinnacle of their success as Adrian Smith soon left the band and their fortunes and peak popularity began to deteriorate.

~

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1988 albums.


1988 Images

 

The Number Of the Beast
by Iron Maiden

Buy The Number Of the Beast

The Number of the Beast by Iron Maiden As we’ve mentioned before on this site, Classic Rock Review does not like to stray too far from mainstream rock and pop when selecting which albums we review. But in some exceptional cases, we feel compelled to explore albums which have had longstanding influence over the passage of time, especially when that influence transcends the specific genre of the artist. The Number Of the Beast is such an album by Iron Maiden. It has been routinely ranked among the greatest heavy metal albums of all time and topped the charts in the U.K., being one of the first albums to move into more commercial territory in a genre that got close to zero airplay at the time. A showcase for producer Martin Birch, the album possesses a crisp yet strong song that jived perfectly with the tastes of hard rock fans in 1982.

For those who were growing tired of the London punk scene by the end of the 1970s, a new wave of British heavy metal was being forged among several bands and championed by a publication called Sounds magazine. Aside from Iron Maiden, one of these bands was called Samson,  that band had a dynamic lead singer named Bruce Dickinson. As Iron Maiden was on the verge of international breakthrough following their second major label album,Killers in 1981, Dickinson was asked to join the band to replace lead vocalist Paul Di’Anno. This was an extremely bold move, as the band was well on their way to success, but Birch recognized the importance of a grandiose frontman for what the band was trying to achieve.

The primary songwriter for the band was bassist Steve Harris, who came up with many of the diverse themes on the album, including the controversial title and title song. With the addition of Dickinson and his wide range on vocals, Harris was also free to explore many different styles and genres sonically. Unlike previous albums, most of the material on Number Of the Beast was written in pre-production rather than worked out over a series of live gigs. Because of the complex nature of the songs, the band was left with only five weeks to record, mix, and, master the album after taking so long to rehearse.
 


The Number Of the Beast by Iron Maiden
Released: March 22, 1982 (EMI)
Produced by: Martin Birch
Recorded: Battery Studios, London, January-March 1982
Side One Side Two
Invaders
Children Of the Damned
The Prisoner
22 Acacia Avenue
The Number Of the Beast
Rin For the Hills
Gangland
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Band Musicians
Bruce Dickinson – Lead Vocals
Steve Harris – Bass, Vocals
Dave Murray – Guitars
Adrian Smith – Guitars, Vocals
Clive Burr – Drums, Percussion

 
The album’s opening track “Invaders” was actually one of the last songs constructed, hurridly to fill out the album. Although some in the band had lamented that this was not the strongest possible track to open up the album, it performs an adequate task for setting up the listener. For a doomier follow-up, “Children of the Damned” bridges a theme from the past which may have come from early era Black Sabbath, with music of the future like that of later era Metallica. The song is loosely based on the film of the same name.

The Prisoner television series“The Prisoner” was also inspired by previous pop culture, this time a British television show of the same name from the late 1960s. It features dialogue from that show in the song’s intro. The song was co-written by guitarist Adrian Smith and is one of the finest tracks on the album musically. It features integral guitar work and a very melodic vocal during the choruses. “22 Acacia Avenue” closes out the first side as the second song in the “Charlotte the Harlot” saga, which was originally written by Smith several years earlier, while playing in his old band, Urchin. According to Smith, Steve Harris remembered hearing the song at an Urchin concert in a local park, and modified it for The Number of the Beast album.

The title track was considered by some as evidence that Iron Maiden were a Satanic band, but Harris, the song’s author had long contended that was never the intention as it was inspired by a nightmare. The track opens with a spoken rendition of passages from the Biblical book of Revelations by actor Barry Clayton. The song itself employs and odd time signature, and one of the most famous “screams” in rock n’ roll history.
 

 
“Run to the Hills” was driven by a great rhythm led by drummer Clive Burr. It was released as a single prior to the album’s release and was a surprise top ten hit in the U.K. The song attempts to give a balanced view of the disputes that occurred between European settlers in the New World and American Indian tribes during the days of westward expansion, with different rhythms and tempos symbolizing the differing points of view. The closing song “Hallowed Be Thy Name” is one of the most celebrated pieces of the band’s catalog. It opens with a doomy atmosphere before breaking into a sequence of harmonized guitar riffs by Harris and Dave Murray and an strong performance by Dickinson.

Although some moments on the album are clearly stronger than others, the intensity of The Number Of the Beast never lets up. Peerless for its time, the album represented a high-water mark for this style of heavy metal, which would be replicated often throughout the rest of the decade but never quite equaled.

~

1982 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1982 albums.