Image (c) Iron Maiden
Usually I know where an Iron Maiden album stands the first time I hear it. The one glaring exception was 1988’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.
I heard it shortly after it came out and I was not impressed. A large part of that initial reaction was due to the fact that between about 1986 and 1989 I was really into speed metal, so I expected all bands to become heavier and faster. If they didn’t then I wasn’t into it. So I wasn’t immediately impressed when Iron Maiden slowed things down some and took more time building up the song structure.
Even though I heard Seventh Son of a Seventh Son several times that year it never registered with me. It wasn’t until 1990 when I heard the very uneven No Prayer for the Dying that I even thought about Maiden’s 7th album again.
At that point I realized I owned everything except Seventh Son and decided to buy it. I was shocked that suddenly it sounded much better than I remembered it. It’s more subtle and the band took their time, but it’s a great album. Steve Harris has frequently stated that American audiences didn’t get this album. Indeed it sold very well in the UK and not as much on our side of the Atlantic.
Perhaps much of that was due to the rise in popularity of speed metal over here at the time. Whatever the reason, this was actually a huge step for Maiden. This is a much better album than Somewhere in Time and it’s a shame they didn’t follow up on the sound of Seventh Son as it would be well over a decade until Iron Maiden put out another great album.
Ray's note: I fell hook, line and sinker for Seventh Son and hold it on a same level of liking as Somewhere in Time. In fact, when Seventh Son came out, it was glued inside my Walkman at the cleaning job I held during senior year of high school. I played it mercilessly until the Walkman broke and then I brought in a standard radio and cassette player (tapes, ugh!) and still played Seventh Son every night while working. It got to the point I'd get pissed at the office workers who stayed late thus preventing me from booming some Maiden. I have to admit I was absolutely compelled by the songwriting on Seventh Son.
On a second note, during Maiden's recent Somewhere Back In Time tour, I took note of the audience's reaction to "Can I Play With Madness?" which was a big singalong event, however during the encore, looks of pleased astonishment went up as "Moonchild" and eventually "The Clairvoyant" were played. Guess this album stood up better than some figure.