Iron Maiden
The X Factor


3.5
great

Review

by lostforwords USER (36 Reviews)
September 30th, 2012 | 20 replies | 1,273 views


Release Date: 1995 | Tracklist


8 of 8 thought this review was well written

The most common misconception about X-Factor is that it was a record more suited for Bruce Dickinson to sing. It wasn’t, neither was any of the previous two. Being forced to (or having chosen to) distance himself from his classic operatic style, Dickinson was less than spectacular in both No Prayer for the Dying and Fear of the Dark. In a way, Dickinson’s departure in 1993, couldn’t have been a surprise to anyone who followed the band closely, it only confirmed that he didn’t feel comfortable singing for Iron Maiden anymore. It probably wasn’t his fault either. Steve Harris was heading for a record like X-Factor since 1990, when he decided that it was time for Iron Maiden to go “back to basics” and rediscover the joy of writing rawer material, with references that went as far as Guns’n’Roses (yes, that’s what From Here to Eternity, Weekend Warrior and Chains of Misery sound like and so does Wasting Love). In an environment like that, Bruce Bruce, who needed the high speed, the galloping rhythms, the huge choruses, the constant tension and the equally challenging instrumental interplay between two extremely gifted guitar players, was a total stranger.

X-Factor retains many of the elements of Maiden’s new found sound. But Harris, who is a true artist, remains ambitious and brave. He found out that with Bailey, Maiden didn’t only have a more effective hard rock side, but also a more evil and atmospheric heavy metal one. As a result, X-Factor, without ever bringing to mind anything from the classic Iron Maiden, is an expansion on the band’s then recent sound (without the dreadful Guns’n’Roses influence) through punchy and, for the most part, mid-tempo, archetypical heavy metal that develops into long, dark songs. Diversity is probably not one of X-Factor’s strengths, but Maiden manage to remain interesting during the whole 70+minutes of this record’s music.

There is some kind of a pattern in X-Factor indeed. Most songs start off with Bailey singing softly over moody acoustic guitars; then Maiden get heavier, often with an impressively tight groove, and when the second (or third as is the case in Look for the Truth) chorus is sang, they often speed up during Gers’ and Murray’s leads, before returning to a last chorus and usually to the acoustic melody that started off the song. That way most tracks end up being relatively long without necessarily being complex. Fortunes of War and Aftermath are two examples of this pattern failing, where Maiden seem stale and repetitive, with a slowness that doesn’t derive from the music itself but from the strong sense that these songs drag for too long on purpose. And when you are about to give up on them, there come songs that use pretty much the same structure, like Judgement of Heaven, Edge of Darkness and 2 a.m. where in spite of the lack of a second guitar that would harmonize the first, the melodic leads are once again incredible; the galloping riffs are absent (well, to be honest Edge of Darkness has something of a gallop) but the pace does get faster at some point in every one of these songs and it is -surprisingly- equally effective; and with Bailey Maiden might sound like a different group, but at least he does justice to that rawer version of what used to be the world’s primal metal force.

As said before, X-Factor is ambitious in its own way. “Unbeliever” is incoherent, but it is something of a prog experiment, which at the time was quite unexpected from Maiden, while in Blood on the World’s Hands they sound restless, playing technically demanding stuff that would clearly be difficult to perform live. However X-Factor’s special moments are its most famous ones; Lord of the Flies is direct, flows nicely and is actually very memorable. Man on the Edge is X-Factor’s only truly fast track (with a somewhat NWOBHM quality), from start to finish, and it proves that speedy material suits Iron Maiden best. Finally, The Sign of the Cross is an absolute Maiden classic, 11 of the best minutes Maiden have composed since Seventh Son, a dark epic that can transform you into a Maiden maniac immediately.

Fans tend to relate periods of time, years of success or decline, to certain people. To any fan, Maiden’s heavenly godliness of years past just isn’t compatible with Bailey’s down to earth vocals- but X-Factor needed a voice with a natural strength and a lower register. Murray’s and Smith’s chemistry is irreplaceable- but the amazing melodic parts in this record are rarely harmonized, which is evidence that all X-Factor needed was a reliable guitar duet. Steve Harris can’t be consistent when he composes a whole record all alone - then again this album was the embodiment of what he had in mind since 1990 (the back to basics approach) and this is actually the key to understanding it. X-Factor is a glance towards everything that inspired and motivated Harris when he was a kid; a certain respect for early prog rock and Thin Lizzy, an admiration for raw hard rock in the process of becoming heavy metal, and a passion to discover/create the most beautiful melodies even in the dirtiest kinds of music. In this inconsistent and slightly repetitive record, Maiden’s primary elements are still dominant, not in the form of a masterpiece such as Powerslave or Seventh Son, but in the form of a record that is definitely worth your time.



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user ratings (902)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Voivod
Staff Reviewer
September 30th 2012



5906 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Correct rating, auto-pos.

Will read later.

Digging: The Golden Grass - The Golden Grass

YoYoMancuso
September 30th 2012



10828 Comments


I loathe this record but your review is very well-written. Pos'd

truekebabpower
September 30th 2012



639 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I seriously don't agree with some of the statements you make

"The most common misconception about X-Factor is that it was a record more suited for Bruce
Dickinson to sing."

It's not a misconception, I heard some of the songs being sang by Dickinson and they were amazing
(Sign of the cross at Rock in Rio for example), I don't know about all of the songs, but you can bet
he'd do a better job than Bailey

"In an environment like that, Bruce Bruce, who needed the high speed, the galloping rhythms, the
huge choruses, the constant tension and the equally challenging instrumental interplay between two
extremely gifted guitar players, was a total stranger."

idk about everything in here, but there are some HUGE choruses on this record, again Sign of the
Cross

I seriously believe this would be a much better record with Dickinson

YoYoMancuso
September 30th 2012



10828 Comments


sonic it's nothing special

truekebabpower
September 30th 2012



639 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

it's not bad though

Titan
September 30th 2012



4799 Comments


its still the rest of maiden jamming.....vocals are a little tough........SOTC is a great song (especially with Bruce singing it on Rio)

piroga84
September 30th 2012



119 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I give it a 3 (2.5 + 0.5 emotional value since it was the first iron maiden lp i listened to).
But boy you did a hell of a review. Pos'd because it is maybe the best review i read!
Good work!

lostforwords
September 30th 2012



443 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

@ truekebabpower

Sign of the Cross and The Clansman are two songs that are better suited for Dickinson indeed. Which doesn't mean that Dickinson's raspy voice of the 90s would fit X-Factor better than Bailey's. I mean Dickinson was perfect for Fear of the Dark(the track) and Afraid to Shoot Strangers, because he used his operatic voice there, his,let's say, 80s voice (which quite frankly is top 3 in the history of metal). For the rest of the record he was sub-par.
I never ever claimed that Bailey was better than Dickinson, I just said that any negative feelings towards this album shouldn't direct straight to Bailey. If Bruce stayed and used his raspy voice, X-Factor might have been worse.

lostforwords
September 30th 2012



443 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Btw thanks for the feedback everyone!

truekebabpower
September 30th 2012



639 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I guess we'll never really know for sure, the amount of positive reviews for this is lol, but yeah this was very well written

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
September 30th 2012



15785 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

dont like this much but well written, pos'd

Digging: Synaesthesia (UK) - Synaesthesia

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
September 30th 2012



19434 Comments


Yeah this is my favorite band but I haven't felt the need to check this album. Good review though.

Digging: Musk Ox - Woodfall

TheNotrap
September 30th 2012



7978 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Some good songs here but



ViperAces
September 30th 2012



12375 Comments


Id say its between 2.5 and 3 but the next one is better imo.

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
September 30th 2012



49770 Comments


I've never heard this all the way through


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JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
September 30th 2012



19939 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Album's not bad, better than Virtual XI.

BlackLlama
September 30th 2012



1610 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Ugh. Review - good. Album - blaghkjkfjsfl;sajdlfjsdlfj *barf*

Digging: Cinderella - Heartbreak Station

Detritivore
September 30th 2012



267 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I like so much this one, darker and slow rithyms but very enjoyable . Here, the solos of Janick are quiet simples but memorables (in comparison to the other albums in which he has participated), and Murray solos are very clear.

This needs more love....good review anyway.

scissorlocked
September 30th 2012



3508 Comments


nice review homie!

Digging: John Roberts - Ausio

facupm
September 30th 2012



7099 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

nice review, I really enjoy this, but not as much Virtual XI

Digging: Marillion - Misplaced Childhood



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