Iron Maiden’s 1988 concept album SEVENTH SON OF A SEVENTH SON captures the metal legends at an artistic and commercial peak. Maiden has always had progressive elements in their music, especially on the epic tracks like “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” but by the time they released 7TH SON, they had become a full-blown progressive metal band. Certainly one of the originators of the genre, I might say (along with Rush and Queensryche).Don’t worry – the band’s galloping musical attack is still present, but Maiden is experimenting quite a bit with their trademark sound. The band began using synthesizers rather lightly on their 1986 release SOMEWHERE IN TIME, but on this album the synths were more noticeable and there’s even a couple of keyboards on there for good measure. I can’t understand why Maiden fans said the band “sold out” with the synths. They didn’t sell out. In fact, they enhanced their sound with the lush synth textures, which I found to be very creative. Also, this is the first Maiden album I’ve heard that has acoustic guitar in it. There’s even some bluesy guitar parts courtesy of Adrian Smith which gives greater feel to the album.Like many concept albums, SEVENTH SON tells a story. And what a compelling story it is! The plot focuses on a young man who keeps having strange prophetic visions in his dreams. It turns out that he was born with clairvoyant powers (a mix of psychic and healing powers) and has had them all his life. Angels and demons are having a power struggle with his soul, not knowing which route he will take. Apparently, the townspeople have known about his powers. That’s why they are frightened of him. When he has a vision that the town will be destroyed by dark forces, he tries to warn them but they ignore his pleas. Alas, the town is ruined and they automatically blame him for the disaster. Feeling shunned by the people, the man decides to let them suffer with their sins and guilt and faces an eternity in Hell. If that isn’t deep enough for you, I don’t know what is.Here’s a song-by-song overview:1. “Moonchild” – A solid energetic opener that starts out with gentle acoustic strums and Bruce Dickinson singing in a relaxed tone before the keyboard riff comes in and the band is off and running. Lots of attitude on this track. You gotta love Bruce’s evil laugh at the end!2. “Infinite Dreams”-One of Maiden’s best songs, this is the first track that combines the band’s melodic metal sound with progressive stylings. Brilliant lyrics from Steve Harris, great vocals from Bruce, and soaring guitar solos. A perfect song.3. “Can I Play with Madness?” – A lot of people seem to hate this track, but I like it. Sure, it’s commercial, but it’s also very complex for a 3-minute song. Reminds me of Rush’s early ’80s period.4. “The Evil That Men Do”-Another solid rocker with prog. stylings. Bruce’s voice soars really high on this one, and the chorus is impossibly catchy.5. “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”-At 10 minutes, this is the epic of the album. Musically, this is probably Maiden’s most sophisticated and versatile song. Great lyrics, a fantastic build-up, awesome synth inflections, and a wild instrumental section to close it out. Dave Murray and Adrian Smith show why they are the greatest guitar duo in metal.6. “The Prophecy” – A remarkably slower piece that gives you time to rest after the sprawl of “7th Son.” The blues influence really shines on this one and the tricky time changes are absorbing. The song ends with Murray doing a lovely, Jethro Tull-like acoustic solo. Buy this album just to hear the solo alone!7. “The Clairvoyant”-A speedy bass intro by Harris opens this one and a triumphant-sounding guitar riff follows. Haunting melodies abound in this track. Deep and meaningful. The most melodic song on the album. 8. “Only the Good Die Young” – Along with Dream Theater’s “Finally Free” and Transatlantic’s “Stranger in Your Soul,” this is one of the best grand finales ever recorded. The fastest song on here, with insane musicianship and a powerful chorus. It ends the way it begins.Armed with an intriguing tale, excellent music, plentiful melody, and that distinctive Dickinson voice, SEVENTH SON OF A SEVENTH SON is truly an unforgettable experience.