Review: Virtual XI

The late ’90s was an interesting time for Iron Maiden and their fans. With a huge amount of back lash to The X Factor, the band soldiered on with their follow up and second album with Blaze Bayley. The results whilst not perfect are no where near as bad as most fans will tell you.

If you’re to listen to any Iron Maiden fans out there, this album is hands down their worst record available. Personally speaking, this album is miles above the likes of A Matter of Life And Death, Dance of Death and Piece of Mind (*gasp* I did just say that). The only major problem that would make fans not like this album is the lack of Bruce Dickinson, who could never sing these songs properly anyway. When in fact they should dislike this album because it is horribly brick walled. Audio distortion is noticeable on some of the heavier moments and it is a bit off putting.

The selection of songs here are pretty good over all. There is the two classics Futureal and The Clansman. The latter has an extremely cringe worthy chorus and would make any true Scotsman screw up their face in embarrassment. There are some other great tracks like Lightning Strikes Twice, When Two Worlds Collide and Como Estais Amigos. Each track for the most part are very well written and played. If it wasn’t for the overly long The Angel and the Gambler, this album would have very good pacing. Unfortunately much like Iron Maiden’s more recent material, this song is a good track that is five minutes longer then it should be. It is a waste of a good song and shame on Steve Harris for letting it go on the album like that.

I also fail to see where Blaze Bayley makes problems for Iron Maiden here. If anything it was the bands unwillingness to lower their over all tone for his voice that is the issue. He sings his heart out on every song and they suit him to the point, I honestly couldn’t hear anyone else singing them. I have heard Bruce Dickinson singing a few tracks on recordings (and witnessed this in concert) but he really does not have the low range or the heart to sing them. Blaze is a man who has a strong low voice and uses it to his full potential on this album.

Stylistically this album is very similar to everything that came after it. The long extended numbers, some of which are drawn out much longer then they should be. An Iron Maiden fan can make all the excuses they want but this is a good solid effort that has a unique front man who puts on a career defining effort. Is it their best album? Not by a long shot, but it is a great follow up to the criminally under looked The X-Factor and itself deserved to be heard more.

Sadly the days of the band playing this material live even on CD is long gone. Iron Maiden have been trying to re-write their history for years now pretending that Blaze Bayley didn’t exist. Well I’ll tell you, if you compare their recent material to his previous solo material, it could possibly be the biggest creative mistake they’ve ever made.

(See Silicon Messiah ‎)

Rating : 8 / 10

Where to buy :

Track Listing :

  1. Futureal
  2. The Angel and the Gambler
  3. Lightning Strikes Twice
  4. The Clansman
  5. When Two Worlds Collide
  6. The Educated Fool
  7. Don't Look to the Eyes of a Stranger
  8. Como Estais Amigos