Iron Maiden
Virtual XI


3.5
great

Review

by Scott M. Baldwin USER (90 Reviews)
September 3rd, 2013 | 28 replies | 1,036 views


Release Date: 1998 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Virtual XI is by no means a perfect album, but it sounds like Maiden and has some stellar material that should statisfy people still discovering Maiden's discography.

4 of 4 thought this review was well written

The nineties were, by and large, a weird time for heavy metal; its popularity had diminished and a lot of metal bands (namely, Metallica) had gone "pop" just to stay relevant. Bands who stuck to what they do best, namely Maiden, had suffered the wrath of the mainstream, and were playing to aging audiences in tiny venues. People were into grunge, and beginning in the mid-nineties, nu-metal, which would thankfully die the death it deserved in the early 2000s when traditional heavy metal came back. And why would Steve Harris care? Well, he didn't. He didn't give a flying rat's ass what people thought of Maiden in the nineties, let alone metal as a whole. And why should he?

The second and final album with Bayley Cook (known as "Blaze"), Virtual XI was released in 1998, and is considered by many to be Iron Maiden's "worst" album. But don't let that deter you from giving it a try, at least once. As someone who always had an easy-going attitude with regards to my idols, I've always given albums a chance in spite of whatever people credited for its supposed "shortcomings", and maybe I guess I was pre-determined to like the album, as I was taken aback by how much I really liked The X Factor, but even that aside, there are numerous songs on here that really do leave a lasting impression. If you didn't like Blaze's voice on The X Factor, this album won't do much to change your mind, but those of you willing to overlook Blaze's voice will find something to like in the album.

The song that gets the album its most flak is "The Angel and The Gambler", known by some as "The Angel and the Never-Ending Chorus". The song is indeed as repetitive as people say, but it isn't THAT bad. It's a pretty simple song instrumentation-wise, but it does have some ripping solos from Dave Murray and Janick Gers, and some meaty drum work from Nicko McBrain. Ultimately, it does get ruined by the rather repetitive chants of "Dont you think I'm a saviour? Don't you think I can save you? Don't you think I can save your life?", which at which one point, the song becomes theee entire minutes of that line. The radio version of the song does shorten it to half the song's length, which would have been a welcome replacement. The album does also suffer from a few too many "Whoooooaaaaah, ooooooooh" moments from Blaze, (but thankfully no lame "Yeah YEAH!!!!" moments like on "Judgment of Heaven" from The X-Factor"). They are a bit too frequent and can be found in at least half the tracks. Furthermore, the production is seriously awful; Steve Harris gave us a result that sounds like it was mixed in a coffee can; the drums sound like plastic cups at times and the guitars sound so synth-like (the middle of "Don't Look", for instance), and furthermore, it sounds like it's coming out of a computer speaker.

Now, that all aside, what really matters is the songs, and there's lots of good songs here. The song that will win everyone over is "The Clansman", which is one of Maiden's best epics to date, and a song that sums up what Maiden is all about. It begins peacefully with some soft acoustic bass, excellent vocals from Blaze and muted guitar-picking from Janick Gers, before exploding into a metal assault with the power of a bunch of Scottish knights marching into battle. The song feels very adventurous and is exciting from the first minute to last, even if it doesn't reach the nights of previous Maiden epics like "Alexander the Great". "Lightning Strikes Twice" is heavy, hard-hitting and powerful, with seemingly metaphorical lyrics about a storm and a sense of suspense and unease throughout, mostly thanks to Blaze's delivery of certain lines. "When Two Worlds Collide" is the "catchy" song on the album and has an excellent chorus, with even a "storm"-like feeling similar to that of "Lightning Strikes Twice". And face it, only Maiden can get away with a song as ridiculously bombastic as "Don't Look to the Eyes of a Stranger", which mixes synth strings and Maiden's usual metal gusto perfectly and lyrics about a stalker. There's even one moment of genius where Blaze whispers, "Don't look to, don't look to, don't look to the eyes of a stranger", and the second time he repeats it, if you listen closely, the sound of a floorboard creaking can be heard. And the album finishes with arguably Maiden's most depressing song yet: "Como Estais Amigos", a song about British soldiers feeling the shame and guilt for the crimes against the Argentines in the Falklands war. A sad, yet beautiful and gripping song with some emotional vocals from Blaze Bayley, once again showing what he's capable of.

Fortunately for most Maiden fans, Blaze's tenure would come to an end the following year, and Bruce and Adrian would rejoin the band. And who should we thank for it? Blaze, the man who kept Maiden going through the 90s. And though Maiden's material in the 90s has received a mixed reception at best, one thing that is certain is that no matter what your verdict on the Blaze era is, ther are some real gems in there. Virtual XI definitely has lots of flaws, but ultimately, those who listen to it and keep doing so will find something to love in it. While it obviously wouldn't make a good starting point, it still remains a satisfying end to a unique era in the band's history. I'd definitely recommend it, but at the same time, I also recommend you give yourself time to really grow to it. It does take more than a few listens to get into, but it's worth the effort in the long run.



Recent reviews by this author
Steely Dan Pretzel LogicSteely Dan Gaucho
Opeth Pale CommunionSoundtrack Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1
Hans Zimmer The Amazing Spider-Man 2Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker Advanced Basics
user ratings (920)
Chart.
2.5
average
other reviews of this album
DrJohn (1.5)
"IT"...

Kevin Williams (3)
Virtual XI is like a once muscular man that ate too much and got fat. There's still muscle underneat...

Mike Stagno EMERITUS (3.5)
...

Lukai (3)
...


Comments:Add a Comment 
TheMoonchild
September 3rd 2013



487 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Pretty hard album to review, admittedly.

NothingForSomething
September 3rd 2013



186 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

The Educated Fool is a jam

NothingForSomething
September 3rd 2013



186 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

oh yeah and FUTUREAL. WHAT IS REAL?

facupm
September 3rd 2013



7593 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

great album

ChopSuey
September 3rd 2013



2392 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

yup


HolidayKirk
Contributing Reviewer
September 3rd 2013



1624 Comments


Diggin the review

TheMoonchild
September 3rd 2013



487 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I listened to it again today and I've forgotten how great The Educated Fool was.

Millstone
September 3rd 2013



367 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

sucks

facupm
September 3rd 2013



7593 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

nope

Millstone
September 3rd 2013



367 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Not as bad as The X-Factor but it's bad.

facupm
September 3rd 2013



7593 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

its pretty good actually

facupm
September 3rd 2013



7593 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

i like it better than dance of death for example

pacedown
September 4th 2013



174 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

nu-metal, which would thankfully die the death it deserved
-hope you die too.

and its not 90s that heavy metal died, in fact, many cult metal albums are released in the beginning of 90s...
you might say the end of 90s . not the whole . why you talk like you know everything. WHO knows everything ?

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
September 4th 2013



20616 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Worst Maiden album. Some of the song's on here are so damn repetitive.

The Clansman is pretty good but it sounds 10 times better when sung live by Bruce.

Digging: Townes Van Zandt - Townes Van Zandt

Sciroccu
September 4th 2013



762 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great album indeed, good review !

linguist2011
Contributing Reviewer
September 4th 2013



1869 Comments


I remember listening to this album about ten years ago but can't quite memorize any of the songs in my head, so I'll give it another try sometime soon. Nice review, just a few suggestions below:

"which at which one point, the song becomes theee entire minutes of that line"

Take one "which" out, and I would change the second clause to "that line continues for three minutes"

"even if it doesn't reach the nights"

I think you meant "heights".

"ther are some real gems in there"

Add an 'e' on the end of "ther".

Digging: Pallbearer - Foundations of Burden

facupm
September 4th 2013



7593 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

The only songs which could get boring at some point are the angel and the gambler and como estais amigos

Sciroccu
September 4th 2013



762 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

that's true !

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
September 4th 2013



20616 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

The whole album is pretty boring imo. Even The Clansman gets a bit boring except when they play it live with Bruce (the Rock in Rio version is awesome).

Sciroccu
September 4th 2013



762 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Lol, you just don't like Bayley's singing that's all. IMO the original is better than the rock in rio version (but it's also true that I prefer Bayley's voice).



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy