Classic Album Review – Iron Maiden “Seventh Son of Seventh Son” 1988

 It’s fashionable to rag on this album. For many Maiden fans 7th Son marks the beginning of a period in the wilderness, with a slide into mediocrity during the 90’s and a long march back from the Blaze years, necessitating  a lot of time and hard work before their reinstatement as one of the world’s premier touring bands in 2008. I think that’s a lot of blame to hang on 45-odd minutes of music, and that this record is getting short shrift in musical history.

1984’s World Slavery Tour was the pinnacle of Maiden’s success, and if there was a bit of a drop in quality with the follow-up Somewhere in Time, people were willing to let that slide. They forgave a very long record with rather prominent synthesizer elements due to savvy marketing and great Derek Riggs artwork that managed to successfully sell it as “the space record”. Having the inch in hand, Maiden decided to shoot for the mile and next recorded a darker, even synthier concept album about clairvoyance, alchemy and other stuff no one really figured out before going into the studio. We knew we were in trouble from the cover alone. Make no mistake, cover art really matters to metal fans, especially younger ones. The transformation of music’s coolest homicidal zombie mascot into the plaything of a Dali landscape, frozen into inactivity, filled us with dread.  

Even so, the music held inside still has a certain something. There’s a cohesion to the sound if not the ideas, and no shortage of catchy choruses sung in the last we’d hear of Bruce Dickinson’s full range for years to come. I keep coming back to this record, and I can’t be the only one. Three of these songs were in the set list of the 2008 reunion tour, taking up slots which could have been filled with any number of early treasures. Due to what happened afterwards, it’s easy to forget that this one debuted at #1 in the UK .

Maiden got bad for a while. It’s not 7th Son‘s fault. Fear of the Dark is far worse, they released about nine live records in the next five years, and the Blaze albums are solid slabs of Harris bass-wankery with no Smith/Dickinson melodies to temper the bloat. Right now they’re back on top, but who knows – if they fall off the rails again Seventh Son of a Seventh Son may rise to the relative position of forgotten gem. 7 out of 10

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One Response to “Classic Album Review – Iron Maiden “Seventh Son of Seventh Son” 1988”

  1. Still one of my fave Maiden albums to this day.

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