“Seven deadly sins, seven ways to win, seven holy paths to hell and your trip begins. Seven downward slopes, seven bloodied hopes, seven are your burning fires. Seven your desires…” Cue the keyboards and the power chords. Anyone who knows this album and loves it knows exactly what I’m talking about. Possibly the coolest album intro of all time, to the best heavy metal record ever written: Iron Maiden – Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.
Of course, Maiden makes it onto everyone’s lists when you do those all encompassing lists that metalheads and music geeks are obsessed with. But it’s always Number of the Beast or Powerslave and everyone seems so content to just let that go. I guess if you were 16 or 17 at the time and these were your first Maiden records, that probably explains it. But as a huge Maiden fan who has extensively listened to every single one of their records hundreds of times (including the Blaze Bayley records), I have to report to you: Seventh Son of a Seventh Son is easily the best Iron Maiden album and, in this Angry Metal Guy’s angry, and not-even-remotely-humble opinion, the best heavy metal record ever written.
I’m actually not exaggerating. I really do believe that Seventh Son is the best album ever. And let me tell you why: first, these guys hit their musical peak with this album. Every Maiden album has filler, tracks which didn’t live up to the standard of the album they were on. The song “Quest for Fire” mars an otherwise amazing album in Piece of Mind. I find “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” to be absolutely tedious, and “22 Acacia Avenue” makes baby Jesus cry. And let’s not even talk about after Adrian left the band. But not on Seventh Son. Every single track on this album is amazing, and the one song I don’t think is just totally stellar was actually a hit single throughout the world (“Can I Play with Madness”)!
But whether or not these songs were hits or not, the composition on this album is perfect. Dickinson’s vocal performance is unparalleled (a rare feat in the early days), the writing was unique and amazingly layered and in-depth, and the concept seems to hold the album together thematically. Even the artwork is a step above the other stuff: grotesque, but not cheesy. That’s without having mentioned that this is the last album that Harris plays his unique lead-style of bass and shortly hereafter Adrian left, depriving the following albums of his textured, beautiful leads. But herein, everything came together into the perfect blend of musical virtuosity, pop sensibility and heavy, intelligent music.
Of course, everyone has different tracks that they think really embody the band, but I think for me that it’s “The Prophecy” that embodies what I love about Iron Maiden. It starts slowly, delicate and beautiful, and then builds.Â The guitar tone is very 80s, but very excellent before pounding into a fantastic syncopated riff, which may be one of the most powerful that was ever written for the band. Dickinson nails the vocals, which are layered and have amazing lyrics.. and the leads are tremendous. But what seals the deal for me is the final moments, the fading guitars and the beautiful acoustics that blended over top to the end. This kind of musical diversity and intelligence just doesn’t exist on Maiden’s other albums. This kind of perfection just doesn’t exist on any other record that I’ve ever listened to.
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son is truly a classic and if you don’t own it you are depriving yourself of the best heavy metal album ever written.