Iron Maiden
Virtual XI


3.5
great

Review

by Mike Stagno EMERITUS
June 11th, 2006 | 102 replies


Release Date: 1998 | Tracklist


In 1993, Iron Maiden and their popular vocalist, Bruce Dickinson, parted ways. Not going to be stopped by the loss of their 11 year singer, the band began the search for their new front man. They auditioned hundreds of vocalists including Doogie White, who at the time was in Rainbow, and even James LaBrie, of Dream Theater fame. Finally, in 1994, Iron Maiden decided that Wolfsbane singer, Blaze Bailey would be their next vocalist.

After Blaze was brought on board, the band began writing new material for their next album, and in 1995, they released The X Factor. The album was met with a mixed reaction from fans, but the band soldiered on and entered the studio in 1998 to record their eleventh album, Virtual XI.

Virtual XI met the same fate as The X Factor. It was even more unpopular among fans than its predecessor, and it suffered in sales, and is to this very day, the only Maiden album to not hit the 1 million mark. Despite this, the band still plays two songs off Virtual XI in their shows, Futureal and the 9 minute epic, The Clansmen.

Opening the album is one of the bandís shortest songs, Futureal. The opener is very energetic, fast, and upbeat. Blazeís voice works very well with this song, and the chorus is very catchy. The guitars are very melodic and stick out among the rest of the album. Dave has a great solo half way through the song to keep the listener interested. The lyrics describe a character who feels drawn into a virtual world, to the point where he cannot tell the difference between whatís real and what isnít. Futureal could be considered the title track, as the lyrical themes match the cover art, which depicts the same thing. Overall, Futureal is one of the bright spots on Virtual XI.

Up next is the 10 minute epic, The Angel and the Gambler. This is another upbeat, happy sounding song, and quite frankly, it doesnít deliver. Steve Harris must have hit a mental block while writing the song, as he repeats the chorus a total of 22 times, and 12 times before Janick and Dave play each of their solos which are both pretty bland and uninteresting. The music is quite boring, with none of the musicians really sticking out. Keyboards can be heard on the track, but they do not make the song any better than it would be without them. The lone highlight of The Angel and the Gambler is Blazeís singing, which is top notch, even after 22 choruses.

Now that weíve made it past the monstrosity of a song that was Angel and The Gambler, we come up to the albums third song, Lightning Strikes Twice. This song starts off slow, yet promising, with a melodic riff from the guitarists. Steve plays a slow, soft riff on his bass which is combined with synths to foreshadow a storm, as the songís title implies. Blazeís vocals are once again great, and while they donít carry the same melody as his Bruce, they do an amazing job to keep the listener interested. As we reach the fourth verse, the song gets faster and heavier. The chorus is very repetitive, as it is throughout most of the album. Dave Murrayís solo is interesting and well done, but Janickís sounds pretty sloppy, and isnít his best. Lightning Strikes Twice isnít Maidenís best song, but itís certainly a step up from the previous one.

Continuing the album is another Steve Harris epic, this one based off of the 1995 movie, Braveheart. Going by the title of The Clansman, its lyrics describe the need for freedom, and the fight against an oppressor. The opening riff is reminiscent to the one in Infinite Dreams off of the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album and has a Celtic flavour to it. Blazeís singing fits the song perfectly, and in my opinion, he does a much better job than Bruce does. The chorus is very powerful vocally, with Blaze crying out ďFreeeeedom!" The song features a nice instrumental with great harmonies played by Dave and Janick. Both solos are melodic and very Celtic sounding, with Janickís solo being the better one. The Clansman is easily the highlight of Virtual XI, and is one of the best songs that Maiden has written in the 90ís.

After The Clansman comes When Two Worlds Collide. This song progresses at an enjoyable pace, with Blazeís vocals stealing the spotlight from the rest of the band up until the instrumental, where Dave and Janickís talents shine through with a great harmony section. The song has one of the most memorable choruses of the album, and is one of the catchiest songs off Virtual XI. The only fault this song has is its repetitiveness, which is a problem every song on the album except Futureal and maybe The Clansman have.

The next song is The Educated Fool. About now, it becomes clear that while Virtual XI is a great album, the songs are really beginning to sound similar to each other. The Educated Fool, while an enjoyable song, is not very different from what the bandís been playing for the last 30 some minutes. Despite the irritatingly similar structure to the past four songs, The Educated Fool is still a good song, with Blazeís vocals as strong as ever.

By time the next song, Donít Look to the Eyes of a Stranger rolls around, the album is stagnating. Donít Look to the Eyes of a Stranger is incredibly repetitive, and at 8:11, it drags on. A lot. While it the chorus doesnít repeat as much as it does in The Angel and the Gambler, the way Blaze sings it combined with how many times he sings it will make you want to gouge your ears out. Fortunately, the song is pretty good musically, with a fast pace riff that leads the listener through the instrumental, and a shredded solo Dave Murray also makes things somewhat interesting. Donít Look to the Eyes of a Stranger is a song you can listen to every once and a while, but it gets old quite fast if you listen to it non-stop.

The albumís final song, Como Estais Amigos (roughly, ďhow are you my friends"), starts with Blaze singing the first verse at an incredibly low volume though his voice gradually gets louder as the song progresses. Como Estais Amigos has an emotional feeling about it and Blaze sings with his heart on his sleeve. This is one of the few moments on Virtual XI where the musical aspect carries the song. The musical aspect is lighter than the rest of the album, with synths being used in the background for effect. Como Estais Amigos is a very moving song, and is an excellent way to end the album.

Virtual XI was the end of another era for Iron Maiden. Following the Virtual XI World Tour, Blaze Bailey left Iron Maiden and two former members, Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith returned. Overall, Virtual XI is a very long album to listen to, despite being only 53 minutes long. The album is very repetitive, and listening to it takes a lot of patience. However, Virtual XI has a few gems, such as Futureal, The Clansman, and Como Estais Amigos. With a little more variety, it could have been something special, but as it is, Iron Maidenís eleventh offering will likely be found on your shelf more often than in your CD player.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Mikesn
Emeritus
June 11th 2006


3709 Comments

Album Rating: 2.7

My God, today is a slow day. Hopefully this doesn't get buried under tomorrows reviews. >>

Digging: Grimes - Visions

metallicaman8
June 11th 2006


4677 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nice review. Love the album art.

Mikesn
Emeritus
June 11th 2006


3709 Comments

Album Rating: 2.7

Thanks for the compliments.

met65
June 12th 2006


105 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

good review, good artwork, but there are two words that screw up the album:BLAZE BAYLEY.

pattern_recognition
June 12th 2006


950 Comments


He wasn't that bad, he just wasn't as good as Bruce.
Neither this nor The X Factor are particularly crappy albums, they're just average. They have their moments.
God review, too.

Bfhurricane
June 12th 2006


6197 Comments


I never knew Doogie White and James Labrie auditioned. Cant see either of them singing anything by maiden.

temporary
June 12th 2006


207 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I never knew Doogie White and James Labrie auditioned. Cant see either of them singing anything by maiden.


Labrie wasn't auditioned, but he was the first person Steve asked for the job. Anyways, great review of a very underrated album. People wouldn't through so much shit at Blaze if he wasn't replacing of the best singers in metal. Blaze's solo work is ace, too.

Mikesn
Emeritus
June 12th 2006


3709 Comments

Album Rating: 2.7

Blaze was great. His vocals were my favourite part of the ablum. The real problem is the repetitive-ness. It sounds like the band had a case of writers block or something.

If I ever hear "Don't look to the eyes of a stranger" or "Don't you think I'm a saviour/Don't your think I could save ya/Don't you think I could save your life" again I'm going to punch a hole in my wall.This Message Edited On 06.12.06

met65
June 14th 2006


105 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

It's not that blaze was a bad singer, i just don't think he fit Iron Maiden.

Mikesn
Emeritus
June 14th 2006


3709 Comments

Album Rating: 2.7

I won't argue with that. I would have prefered someone with a higher vocal range, but Blaze was still a good choice, considering the music that the band wrote for X Factor and Virtual XI. He tried.This Message Edited On 06.14.06

Guitar_King_666
June 28th 2006


13 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

again another blaze album. i didnt like this album much, the only track i liked is futureal since it has a good pace. blaze's vocals just don't fit with the iron maiden thrash sound.

south_of_heaven 11
June 30th 2006


5436 Comments


The Clansman is so amazing. It's easily becoming one of my favorite Maiden songs.

deflepp0925
August 7th 2006


213 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

great review BUT met65 was right, blaze is bad
it's not that he's good but doesnt compare, it's that he's not that great. Futureal is one of the worst sounding songs i have ever listened to from a good band.
blaze not only made iron maiden have a style change, it wasn't minor. they sounded COMPLETELY different and when bruce came back, they sounded better, proving my point of blaze having a negative overall effect on the band
good reveiw, though futureal still sucks

Sacrifice666
September 18th 2006


1 Comments


Futureal Maiden's worst song????????????

Shock
Shock
and Double Shock!!!!!!!!!!!!

It's one of the most awesome songs and definitely Blaze's best work.

BLAZE DOESN'T SUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mikesn
Emeritus
September 18th 2006


3709 Comments

Album Rating: 2.7

Enthusiastic aren't we?

Darkside18
October 17th 2006


20 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I pretty enjoy this cd, Futureal, The Clansman, Como Estais Amigos are the songs I like.


ZFighter142
January 6th 2007


205 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I dont know why... but I really like this album. Track 7, (dont look to the eyes of a stranger) is the best track.

FR33L0RD
September 5th 2007


1464 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Blaze voice is ruining the album.

SylentEcho
September 5th 2007


1573 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

yeah, I dont like his voice at all.

Mikesn
Emeritus
September 5th 2007


3709 Comments

Album Rating: 2.7

I've always felt that Blaze was one of the better parts of the album. His voice isn't as strong as Bruce's or Paul's but he does alright. It's the rest of the band that drags the album down. The song writing is some of the band's worst.



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