Iron Maiden
Virtual XI


3.0
good

Review

by PsychicChris USER (348 Reviews)
July 15th, 2020 | 21 replies


Release Date: 1998 | Tracklist

Review Summary: More of a mixed bag than an outright disaster

Perhaps best known as the second of the two albums featuring the oft-maligned Blaze Bayley on vocals, 1998’s Virtual XI saw Iron Maiden at an odd stage in their career. It’s a more upbeat listen compared to the brooding nature of 1995’s The X Factor and seemed to hearken back to the days of Somewhere in Time and Seventh Son with its heightened keyboards and sci-fi aesthetic. The resulting release is almost universally regarded as one of the worst under the Iron Maiden banner, but I would argue that it is more of a mixed bag than an outright disaster.

For what it’s worth, there are some great songs on here. “Futureal” and “The Clansman” in particular have since been deemed good enough to play with Bruce Dickinson singing them but are fantastic staples in themselves, the former predicting “The Wicker Man” with its rapid-fire delivery and the latter delivering a mix of rousing chants, charging gallops, and fluctuating atmospherics in classic Maiden epic fashion. “Lightning Strikes Twice,” “The Educated Fool,” and “Como Estais Amigo” are much more acquired tastes in comparison, but still manage to revisit that X Factor moroseness with an almost hopeful spirit.

But on the flip side, the album is frequently crippled by its compulsive repetition. “The Angel and the Gambler” is the most infamous and egregious instance of this in action, as the inherent cheesiness loses its sense of fun when the chorus is repeated over twenty times in a near ten-minute runtime. Elsewhere, “Don’t Look into the Eyes of a Stranger” plays like an evil twin with its heavy symphonics drawing tension that is ultimately exhausted by the stretched-out structure while “When Two Worlds Collide” has its anthemic quality undermined by its forced climax. The moods never feel too off-brand for Maiden, but the underlying hollowness in these structures is always noticeable.

The musicianship further reflects this sentiment as the signature Maiden tropes are all there but lacking their usual gumption. Steve Harris’s bass is at its usual level of prominence and there are plenty of the expected guitar harmonies, but they come with a sense of fatigue. Blaze ironically seems to be the one putting in the most effort, offering more energy compared to his performance on The X Factor though struggling with the higher range that has come with the adjustment. Thankfully, the solo albums that he’s released in the time since his departure demonstrate a greater mastery of the material of this range and tempo.

In hindsight, Virtual XI feels like a prototype of Brave New World and the other albums of the subsequent reunion era. Its style consists of a similar mix of old and new elements with songs ranging from upbeat anthems to contemplative epics, albeit with underdeveloped writing and a less fitting vocalist. Considering how several of BNW’s songs were allegedly written during these sessions and how the band has performed songs from this era with Bruce at the helm, one wonders how this material would’ve panned out with careful editing and more charismatic vocals behind it.

Virtual XI isn’t a St. Anger-level dumpster fire or an underrated classic, but it may have been the album that the band needed to make to stay afloat. It’s a very flawed album but in the right mood, I think it can be enjoyable.

Originally published at Metalhead World



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user ratings (1492)
2.4
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Casavir
July 15th 2020


4308 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Awful album but a good review. pos

Titan
July 15th 2020


22090 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

oh man facupm is going to have a fit

ReturnToRock
July 15th 2020


4227 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The Angel and the Gambler: I'm gonna beat the record for more chorus repetitions out of any Maiden song!

Rainmaker: Hold my beer...



Honestly, though, not a bad album at all - with Bruce, this would have been seen as a solid mid-table effort for the period. Futureal is an underrated banger. The ranking and review are actually pretty fair.

Casavir
July 15th 2020


4308 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

The fact that people think Bruce alone could improve this shows how overrated a lot of their reunion era stuff.

Mythodea
July 15th 2020


6002 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

it's an interesting take that this album is the new face of IM, as it would fully prosper in the '00s, and it's an idea that I hadn't thought of before, but I agree quite a lot. Great review and many solid arguments. Pos. Also, this might have the best cover IM had in the 90's

ChaoticVortex
July 15th 2020


1143 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

This album is flawed like a motherfucker, but I can't bring myself to hate it. Except The Angel and the Gambler going on for 10 minutes...that's insufferable.

LepreCon
July 15th 2020


5472 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Have a pos. Don't think I've listened to this in over a decade and I don't much care to again. Ever. But I remember it wasn't bad.

MrSirLordGentleman
July 16th 2020


13864 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

worst maiden by far

facupm
July 16th 2020


11713 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

underrated af album



only weak song is angel and the gambler, actually

Mythodea
July 16th 2020


6002 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Como Estais, Futureal and The Clansman are top IM. Maybe I should re--evaluate my rating.

facupm
July 17th 2020


11713 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

u should

lightning, dont look to and worlds also rule so hard

Mythodea
July 17th 2020


6002 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

dude I relistened to The Angel and the Gambler and that song wounded my ears.... Shame.

cotras
July 18th 2020


84 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

Always found this very uninspired, made me afraid band would call it quits soon.

facupm
July 18th 2020


11713 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

u shouldnt relisten the worst song on the album tbh

Mythodea
July 19th 2020


6002 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Apparently I had only listened to it once or twice, because I couldn't even remember how bad it is....I stayed with the songs I liked.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
July 19th 2020


9099 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

What a flop this was and while it wasn’t Bayley’s fault, he was the one fired from the band.

Digging: Vision Video - Inked in Red

PsychicChris
July 20th 2020


354 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Blaze tried his best like he always does. Blaze is best boi.

SymbolicInTime
July 20th 2020


7108 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Only great song here is Futureal



X factor stomps this

facupm
July 20th 2020


11713 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

clansman is much better

SymbolicInTime
July 20th 2020


7108 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I think its okay, definitely better than every other song here otherwise



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