Ginger Nuts of Horror
Continuing our series of companion articles where Iron Maiden virgins are exposed to their first taste of Maiden madness, George Illet Anderson pops his cherry with Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. You can read Steve Chapman's review of the album here
As I sit here and try and write my first impressions of hearing an Iron Maiden album the one thing I’ll probably say over and over again is how much I have reverted to being an adolescent. My head has been bobbing up and down, my feet pumping and my arms gesticulating wildly whilst I mouth vaguely formed words and sentences. I’m acutely aware of this phenomenon occurring the more and more I try and listen to the lyrics. There’s something just so gloriously freeing about letting caution fly and prancing around as if I’m Bruce Dickinson wailing about portents, signs and seals whilst alternately doing screeching air guitar solos legs akimbo and flailing my arms at the same time as my feet tap out a persistent beat. I haven’t done this sort of thing in an age. There’s an old saying, “dance like no one’s watching” and I think based on my experience with this album you can also add sing like no one’s listening.
The trouble is that I just can’t help myself. There’s something almost theatrical in the music of Iron Maiden’s “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” that just begs me to wave caution to the wind and behave like a complete twat. I’m pretty sure that I can’t be the only person to have done this so I’ll rest a bit easier ‘fessing up to this. I’ll also be honest and say that I still don’t have a Scooby as to what the album as a whole is actually about. It has something to do with the supernatural powers, choice and destiny of the title character but I have been somewhat distracted. Every time I think “what did he say?” and have gone to put the track back to its start I’ve ended up doing exactly the same thing, plucking my imaginary bass guitar, air drumming and miming operatic wails in between scrabbling down thoughts. Lord knows I’ve just tried to listen to the album without becoming a wannabe metal god but damn, this album is just too good not to!
So, what have I written down then? Well, things open with “Moonchild” with Bruce taking about seven deadly sins, wins, paths, hopes, fires and bloody desires. He’s backed by this weaving synth line which goes into this roaring guitar riff and then this dum dum dum dummm of drums crashes in and rationality and sense go flying out the window. The song, to me, sounds like The Devil singing a lullaby to some poor kid’s soul. There’s some stuff about the moon, breaking seals, a prophecy and some such but to be honest my notes seem to solely consist of “beware the moon” written over and over again in a spidery scrawl. I think that’s probably I’ve been too engrossed in either head banging, doing one of my many bad mime musician routines or shrieking “Moonchild, hear the mandrake scream. Moonchiiiild, open the seventh seal”. Take my hand tonight…..yeah, I’ll grasp it lets’ see where we go…….
Well, based on initial listens of the second track’s intro, in my mind’s eye I was watching some soft focus framed video of swirling mists like a Clannad video. An illusion shattered within about 30 seconds or so as Bruce Dickenson’s vocals and the combined sonic arsenal of Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Nicko McBrain comes blasting in through my speakers. It starts off vaguely prog rock sounding but then Dickenson suddenly goes “YEAHHHHHHHWOAHHHHH” and we are off at this galloping pace that leaves little time for thought. Sooooo, what’s this song about then? Well, it is called “Infinite Dreams” and appears to be about some bloke thinking about choice and how we are shaped by our experiences. Interspersed amongst the amazing musicianship on display are cries of “Help me” and “save me” as his dreams appear to consist of hell, demons and nightmarish visions. I’m not entirely sure as the overwhelming thing I’ve been doing is faffing around with a imaginary mic stand/guitar/bass that just happens to function as a handy broom in the real world. I am sure that I look like a complete dick in full flow.
Which to be honest was brought home to me the other day when listening to “Can I Play with Madness?” It was one of those moments where I just got completely lost in the music and didn’t give a monkey’s about anything. You remember how I was talking about sing like no one’s listening? Well that’s all well and good if you are doing it in the right environment. Enjoying the hell out of a song is great but there is an unspoken etiquette as to when and where you should indulge your proclivities to sing, or attempt at singing. Or maybe I just need a bit more spatial awareness. If you are at a concert, doing karaoke or at a party it is positively encouraged. Give it loads of welly and extra oomph for effect. Be as tone deaf or in tune as you like. Just go for it. The same, alas, cannot be said for being on public transport. I don’t know if it is a uniquely London thing or not but most people when they have their headphones in just sit there in silence staring ahead. You might get the occasional finger tapping or head nod but that’s pretty much it. Me? Ummmm.....I couldn’t help myself.
That opening line “Can I play with Madness??” accompanied by the strident rush of music and highly quotable lyrics was just too much for me. Maybe if I’d been a bit more aware of the time and place I’d have been a bit more circumspect in my affectations. But, having listened to this song before I knew what was coming so can understand the sheer WTF?? reaction of my fellow travellers when a hitherto quiet and unassuming large bloke suddenly started shou…errr, singing about madness, wonder, blindness and breaking out of bad places followed by what would appear to be a conversation with himself whilst gesticulating with his hands. I have to admit I wasn’t consciously aware of anything wrong as I had my eyes closed and was a bit off in la-la land. It was only when the bus stopped that I found myself in a scene not a million miles away from something out of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, just loads of people staring at me in this “you are NOT one of us” disapproving/concerned sort of way. What can I say? This is just a stonkingly good sing-a-long-a-maiden song that it begs to be given a bit of laldy.
And so onto the next song, “The Evil That Men Do”. It’s about men being evil evilly, possibly. I’ve kind of been listening to the lyrics yet at the same time haven’t been studying them that closely. I’m probably going to get Maiden fans screaming “sacrilege!” if I describe this album as theatrical and bombastic but from my perspective that’s exactly what is pummelling my ears. Since starting this, I’ve listened to the album multiple times and I irrevocably end up behaving like an absolute twit with whatever household object is to hand that can serve as a microphone or instrument. Probably a more appropriate description would be to describe this album would be “epic.” This song, like the rest of the album, is an absolute blast. Again, I can’t really provide a constructive deconstruction of the song as my notes for this is lots of ticks and “fuck yeah, metal!” next to the song title.
And so on to the title track, “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”. There’s lots of wailing about waiting, sons and such though a favourite lyric in this seems to be “Ohhhhhh” in different lengths and scales. I think I may have cracked it but this album may be about the mythical attributes of the seventh son and which path he is going to take for good or evil. Then suddenly it goes all cod hammer horror voiceover, “Today is born the seventh one…” and this mystic meg type music starts off in the background which thankfully is supplanted by some furious fret twiddling, string plucking and skin bashing interspersed with this “ohhhhahhhh” type sound in the background. That description sounds somewhat Freudian but seeing as I have pretty much devolved into being a teenager again we’ll let it slide. Time to stride and gesture!
“The Prophecy” is the next song and again, I don’t have a real sense of what this song is about as yet again I’ve been off in la la land, imagining what visions are conjured up by the music. My overriding sense from the song is of a magician swishing his cape and wildly gesticulating with a staff on a dark and fog enshrouded night before melting into the wispy air like a ghost. God knows why. Perhaps I’ve had far too many Jaffa Cakes by this point and my sugar saturated mind is starting to short circuit and I’m hallucinating. A noodling bass line heralds the arrival of “The Clairvoyant” which appears to be about paths and the destiny of the title character. Hmmmm, it’s a somewhat recurrent theme here isn’t it? Something about a time to live and a time to die and how he will be born again. Once more I’m not entirely sure what’s the gist of the song is as my time has either been spent tripping the light fantastic on sugar or strutting around shouting into a broom, head banging and generally behaving like a prize turkey.
Unsurprisingly a repeat performance was on the cards for the grand finale, “Only the Good Die Young.” It, like many other Maiden songs, has this uncanny ability to make me sing a few key lines loudly. Well, “sing” is a relative term to be honest. Bellow tunelessly is probably a more apt description but “Only the good die young. All the evil seems to last forever” is stuck in my head. As for the rest of the song, I can only reference what I have written down in the brief moments I thought to write something down. There’s stuff about blood, moon and black suns and a phrase that just says “horse galloping music.” Once again caffeine and sugar has fuddled my brain but I do distinctly remember this section where the bass and guitar made me think of some bloke charging along on a mighty steed whilst thunder crashes and lightning scorches the dark night. Then it all seems to come to a rather abrupt fade with Dickinson reiterating the seven sins, hopes, desires, etc that started off this whole shebang.
And what do I actually think? Can you not tell? Seventh Son of a Seventh Son is pretty damn boss by my reckoning. Any album that can reduce me to behaving like a complete twit and confessing to it publicly is pretty damn good in my opinion. Time to check out some more of Iron Maiden’s catalogue methinks!