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Seventh Son of a Seventh Son seems to be the most popular of the Maiden albums. But while it certainly is a great album, I don't really feel it deserves the endless praise it gets. There are several lower points obvious on the album, although as a whole it's another Maiden classic.
The sound and songwriting continues where Somewhere in Time left off, using lots of keyboards and synthesizers, but now pretty much only for atmospheric background effects and they don't use synthesizer guitars, like they did on Somewhere in Time.
This, along with the general tone on the guitars and also Bruce's vocal performance, gives the album a somewhat sharper and heavier edge, which still blends in perfectly with the mesmerizing melodies and memorable leads that are Maiden's trademark.
The overall atmosphere is in the classic vein, mixing together epic feelings with the intensity of classic, straightforward heavy metal in a flawless combination, only this puts even more focus on the epic side on most songs, another quality comparable to Somewhere in Time.
And the songwriting is, for the most part, top-notch. We begin with one hell of a ride, as the classic acoustic intro to Moonchild starts playing. "Seven deadly sins, seven ways to win, seven holy paths to hell and your trip begins..."
Then we are led into an atmospheric, almost spacey keyboard melody before kicking into the tumbling main riff, and from there it just rocks. Catchy and memorable vocals, classic melodies, very solid bass and guitarwork, and a crazy solo.
Infinite Dreams is the first weaker point of the album in my opinion, even though most people love it. It starts as a pretty soft ballad, and then speeds up into the solo section- and the speeded up part is really good, featuring some killer soloing and leadwork. But the balladic part is just really boring. Bruce's vocals manage to suck quite badly; he just doesn't fit for that softer material. His voice has got loads of power, and here it just seems like he's trying really hard to hold back all that power, and it just doesn't work.
Can I Play With Madness is a fun, catchy and straightforward rocker which is just solid all through- except for that godawful chorus. It's just so incredibly cheesy that it makes me sick. Nonetheless, it's a pretty decent song, though nothing spectacular.
The album's real masterpiece is The Evil That Men Do. We begin with that immortal melodic intro-lead, before the intensity and power is cranked up to a 110%. Bruce's vocals shine especially much on this track, where he sounds really sinister during the verses and then he just explodes with all of his power into one of Maiden's best choruses ever.
And musically, as well, this just screams heavy fucking metal. The riffwork is awesome, blending Maiden's heavy and melodic qualities perfectly, and the lead and solo section is absolutely divine. This is by far the best song on the album...
...although the title track is no slouch either. It kicks off with a huge keyboard intro before going into the midpaced verses, which is some of the most powerful stuff the band has ever written. The chorus is somewhat repetitive, but hey, when it's this great then who's complaining?
The second half of the song is an instrumental part with the exception for a very cool spoken part. And like pretty much any instrumental section written by Iron Maiden themselves, this is some good stuff. But the fact remains that it really doesn't get anywhere for about 7 minutes into the song, which is a slight problem. But when it does get going, it's completely awesome.
The Prophecy follows it up, and it is the weakest song on the album. The opening guitar melodies try to be emotional, but fails to capture any actual emotion.
The riffwork of the song feels really watered out, and it just leaves you very unimpressed. The vocal lines as well don't do much at all for me. Overall, despite a very cool solo it stands out as one of the weakest tracks of the classic Maiden era.
But we get right back on track with The Clairvoyant. We start with a subtle yet solid bass intro, the simple but effective riff kick in, a nice melody comes, and then Nicko McBrain gets things going.
The song is very nicely constructed, with the bass, one guitar and Nicko's drumming building a solid base, and Bruce's vocals remain on top together with the second guitar throwing out a couple of cool melodic licks here and there. It's overall less straightforward and more atmospheric, yet still goes on at a quite efficient pace, and also manages to be another of my personal favourite tracks on the album.
The closing track is another fast and catchy, melodic asskicker in the vein of Moonchild or The Evil That Men Do. With galloping riffs, infectious melodies and dark, powerful and atmospheric vocal lines, Only The Good Die Young rages on, closing the album in a majestic manner with the same acoustic lines that opened it.
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son is no doubt another essential record, but as several quite major flaws are evident throughout the album, it feels like it's not quite as good as it could be. Infinite Dreams, Can I Play With Madness and especially The Prophecy stand out as average or below average, and the weak spots on the album.
But otherwise, there's nothing but asskickers to be found here, with The Evil That Men Do and Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son standing out as the very best ones.