Happy 30th birthday to Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son, an album that got many a metal fan into the genre and – in my case – my first heavy metal t-shirt. I remember picking up a “Can I Play With Madness” shirt in Makro, and that shirt was worn quite literally until it fell apart. I would have been 14, if my maths are correct. Thing is, thirty years on and I still listen to the album. I mean, who wouldn’t? It’s still classic Maiden.
Look at the singles alone that it spawned – the aforementioned “Can I Play With Madness” with its creepy video featuring the miserable school teacher who gets “Eddied”. It reached number three in the UK charts. “The Evil That Men Do“, “The Clairvoyant” and “Infinite Dreams” followed (reaching numbers 5, 6, and 6 again in the UK singles chart). The album itself was Maiden’s first number one since Bruce’s debut on Number of the Beast.
There was a differing of opinion regarding Maiden’s use of keyboards on the album. Some thought it a step too far into prog territory, others that it added that little something that gave the album’s sound a bit more polish. All I know is that I really, really liked it and – listening to it right this moment – it genuinely is a highlight in their impressive back-catalogue.
“Moonchild” is a wonderfully evil opener on this concept work, and the ending with Bruce’s evil cackle is spot on. “Infinite Dreams” follows on and is a complete change in pace, the two songs combined showing the opposite ends of Maiden’s musical range and the latter being a showcase for Steve Harris’s bass. So often the four-string is lost in the mix in rock and metal albums, but the production on pretty much everything Maiden have done keep these low notes audible with “Infinite Dreams” being a prime example.
Everyone knows “Madness” and “Evil”, but the opus that is the title track is grand from the opening chords through to the end of its almost 10-minute run. It just sounds big, partly due to those keyboards. The lyrics are enthralling and it’s a brilliant example of a song that actually tells a story. A great centrepiece for an album that revolves around this tale. Yes, it’s proggy, there’s absolutely no doubt about that… but when you’ve released six previous albums which have done so well, you’re entitled to stretch your legs a little.
“The Prophecy” starts off in a similar vein, sounding like it’s going to be another lighter track but ends up being pretty damn heavy with the usual trademark collection of memorable riffs and wailing solos. If there’s a song to get the goosebumps rising, it’s “The Clairvoyant” that just seems to build to an incredible crescendo. That opening riff has the hairs on my neck rising as I type this (absolutely no lie!) and once more the lyrics are amongst the best Maiden ever wrote with the little “…and be reborn again” kick at the end.
Rounding things off with the cantering pace of “Only The Good Die Young”, the album’s an instant candidate for use of the “repeat” button on the – at the time – new-fangled CD player. On the year of its release, Maiden headlined Donington for the first time. 107,000 people watched them – the largest crowd the festival had ever hosted. Hardly surprising.
I’m staggered that this is the 30th anniversary of its release. How come I feel so old when the album still feels so young and fresh?
“So, until the next time… have a good sin.”