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IRON MAIDEN - Virtual XI cover
2.64 | 107 ratings | 10 reviews
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Album · 1998

Filed under Heavy Metal


1. Futureal (2:55)
2. The Angel And The Gambler (9:52)
3. Lightning Strikes Twice (4:50)
4. The Clansman (8:59)
5. When Two Worlds Collide (6:17)
6. The Educated Fool (6:44)
7. Don't Look To The Eyes Of A Stranger (8:03)
8. Como Estais Amigos (5:30)

Total Time 53:14


- Blaze Bayley / vocals
- Dave Murray / guitar
- Janick Gers / guitar
- Steve Harris / bass guitar, vocals, keyboards
- Nicko McBrain / drums

About this release

23 March 1998

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Basic XI

With the dark and creative "The X-Factor", MAIDEN showed they can renew without betraying themselves. Despite all this, the fan-base was divided about this orientation, but especially about new singer Blaze Bayley, who couldn't match Bruce Dickinson's high-pitched vocals during concerts on old songs. Therefore the band decided to go back to basics.

"Virtual XI" abandons the controversial sinister atmosphere and doom incursions of its predecessor for typical IRON MAIDEN stuff. However, although more dynamic and classic, this eleventh studio album presents some major flaws. The first one is obvious. Bayley's low tone was well suited for somber and mid-tempo compositions, like on "The X-Factor", but, as mentioned before, not adapted to epic maidenien tunes. Second, some tracks do clearly not justify their 8-9 minutes duration. This disc contains too much repetitions and offers not enough variety. Finally, and most important, surely wanting to please the fans, the Englishs didn't take many risks on this one. Simplistic and averagely inspired music for an uneven result.

Nearly half of the material is good though. "Futureal" is quite pleasant, fast-paced and punchy, typically in the direct lineage of MAIDEN's openers. Beginning with delicate arpeggios, soft and heavy passages, "Lightning Strikes Twice" takes us by surprise with its ferocious riff and main theme. It rocks! Nonetheless, the memorable title from "Virtual XI" is undoubtedly "The Clansman". Inspired by the movie "Braveheart", this epic possesses is a powerful hymn, crafted for and still played at concerts. The tapping at the end is just gorgeous! Freeeedooooooom! "When Two Worlds Collide" is average but has enjoyable moments.

And... that's it. The other tracks are boring, too long and definitely repetitive. No memorable tunes, no breathtaking bridges. A good example is the longest track of the record, "The Angel And The Gambler", which does certainly not deserve its 10 minutes duration. A little originality is "Como Estais Amigos", soft and melancholic, but not really Spanish sounding and a bit deceiving.

As a return to the original recipe, "Virtual XI" is an half-failure. There are a few interesting tracks, more suited for the vocal range of Dickinson, however the rest is flavorless, basic, lengthy and not varied enough. Not too bad, not the worst MAIDEN album of the 90's, just unequal. So if you don't know this disc, do not skip it.

This eleventh opus will be the second and last recorded with Blaze Bayley. The band asked him to leave, and historical singer and guitarist Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith will come back. But was it worth it?
Virtual XI (1998) is the eleventh album by UK heavy metal act Iron Maiden. It is the second and final album with singer Blaze Bayley, who would be replaced in 1999 by the very singer he replaced in the band, Bruce Dickinson. As guitarist Adrian Smith also returned after this, Virtual XI is the last Iron Maiden album as a five piece. They've continued with a three guitar line-up ever since.

Though I personally once held some appreciation for Blaze Bayley's first outing with Iron Maiden, The X Factor (1995) my regard for the album has evaporated over the years. My experience with Virtual XI is a bit different. Out of the two from the Blaze Bayley era I initially liked Virtual XI a lot more, but quickly grew tired of it. Now years later after first getting them (circa late 2006/early 2007) and I actually find that while my views on Virtual XI haven't drastically changed in the manner that they did with The X Factor, I do in fact find this album to be a small improvement on its predessor after all.

While the band make a lot of the same mistakes, mostly to do with repetition (there's no way that a track like The Angel and the Gambler needs to be almost ten minutes long), it does actually sound to me as if they really were trying that bit harder to make their sound work with Blaze as their singer, and I think that there are more genuinely strong points to be found on the album, such as the instrumental section in Don't Look to the Eyes of a Stranger, which is pretty epic to my ears, while The Clansman is a great song, though I do prefer the later live version with Bruce Dickinson from Rock in Rio (2002).

Virtual XI is not exactly a recommendable heavy metal album or Iron Maiden album any more than The X Factor was, but it does slightly edge ahead for me to avoid me labelling it was their weakest release the way most fans seem to. Both the Blaze Bayley fronted Iron Maiden albums are, I think, for the completionists only. I'm going to go with 3 stars for this one.
Iron Maiden's last album released in the 90's see their creative downtime hit rock bottom, but fortunately also marks the end of this disappointing era. While I do enjoy The X Factor to a point on Virtual XI, which is the last album before, thankfully, the band reunited with both Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith, it seems to me that they took all the more negative aspects of The X Factor are amplified them up to 11. Pun very much intended.

There are only two songs I enjoy here: Futureal and The Clansman and the second I prefer the later live version with Bruce Dickinson from Rock in Rio. The rest feel drawn out and uninspired. Especially surprising single choice The Angel and the Gambler which is almost ten minutes long. Actually why the album track wasn't given heavy editing like the video version is beyond me, as it's probably the most repetitive thing Iron Maiden has ever done and this album is certainly their weakest and the only really below standard thing they've ever done.


"Virtual XI" is the 11th full-length studio album by UK heavy metal act Iron Maiden. The album was released through EMI Records in March 23rd, 1998. I was not very fond of Iron Maiden´s last album "The X-Factor (1995)" mainly because of the weak vocals by new frontman Blaze Bayley. Unfortunately Iron Maiden opted to keep him on as the lead vocalist for yet another album and that´s why I find one of my rare review headlines that says "Only Fools Make Mistakes Twice" so suiting (the quote is taken from the song "Unsuccessfully Coping with the Natural Beauty of Infidelity" from the Type O Negative album "Slow, Deep and Hard (1991)").

The music on the album is typical melodic heavy metal in true Iron Maiden style. Hard rockers and more epic heavy metal songs. As on the equally weak "The X-Factor" I have major issues with Blaze Bayley´s vocals and I´m finding it hard to enjoy the music with his forced and strained vocals in front. A track like the fast opening rocker "Futureal", which could have been a real treat with Bruce Dickinson on vocals, falls to the ground with a resounding smash because of Blaze Bayley´s vocal delivery. The production is fortunately a bit more enjoyable than was the case on the predecessor so there´s one minor plus. The tracks, while being of an acceptable quality most of the time, do seem rather uninspired (with the exception of "Futureal" and the great epic of the album "The Clansman"). Why for example "The Angel & the Gambler" is nearly 10 minutes long when there´s only quality material for a 4 minute track is beyond me. There´s way too much repetition and rehashing of ideas here to entertain me.

This album along with "The X-Factor" are by far the weakest albums by Iron Maiden. First and foremost because of a weak vocalist, but the compositions seem less inspired too. As I also said in my review of "The X-Factor" I wouldn´t recommend this album to anyone I know. Pick any other album by the band and they will be stronger and more inspired than these two albums. a 2.5 star (50%) rating might be slightly too high.
Time Signature
Lightning strikes once...

Genre: heavy metal

It took me ten years to get my acts together and buy this album. Only after the return of Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith did I have the nerve to buy it, knowing that Maiden had been saved.

"Virtual XI" is the worst Iron Maiden album ever, in my opinion. I simply can't listen to it from the first track to the last track. I can't; I have to turn it off, skip through songs or, at the very least, fast forward now and then. Otherwise, it's too painful:

- most of the tracks are totally void of energy

- there are hardly any catchy melodies

- the production is muddy and the guitars lack texture and substance

- whatever twin guitar melodies are there are uninteresting and hollow

- Blaze's performance is sub par on many of the quieter tracks (and sub par compared to the previous Maiden album and to his years in Wolfsbane)

- the tunes are generally weak (some sections bordering the pathetic, one section even sounding like polka played by old tired men)

- the album is uninteresting and uninspiring as whole

Okay, not everything sucks. I think "Futureal" is okay, and "Clansman" is good. Other tunes contain certain interesting parts, such as the unusual chorus of "Lightning Strikes Twice" and "Educated Fool" contains one or two okay sections. The rest of the album is simply too depressive.

Although his performance is not optimal on this album, we shouldn't blame Blaze Bayley. It's the empty music that is the problem, as it limps forth like a sick, old, dying mammoth. I thought this was the end of Maiden... but then Bruce and Adrian came back, and the band was reborn on "Brave New World".

I wouldn't recommend this album, well, only to completionists. It certainly is not a good first hand introduction to Iron Maiden.
Iron Maiden's popularity was at all time low during the late 90s following the loss of Bruce Dickinson and the acquisition of Blaze Bayley. Lots of fans jumped ship, but the band soldiered on like nothing happened. The X Factor was a difficult album born in a difficult time, and after the troubles had been overcome, Maiden continued in a more classic vein with a reasonably sized eight song album with highs, lows, fasts and slows.

Virtual XI has a couple of flaws, including the hideous album cover, a bit overlong repetition in a couple of songs, a rather hollow sound and very restrained playing by Nicko McBrain, but luckily the song material is strong enough to make up for most of it. Without an intro, without a drum fill or anything the band jumps right into Futureal, a fast opener of a very rare kind - a Maiden song lasting under three minutes. This track is a polar opposite to Sign of the Cross opening the previous album, and the next song polarizes opinions very strongly, the emphasis being on the negative side. Spiced with a rather silly synth sound, The Angel and the Gambler is a ten minute track made of five minutes of material. "Don't you think I'm a savior, don't you think I can save you, don't you think I can save your life" is a line repeated over and over and over and over and over yet again, but quite recently I've started to see that it's not necessarily boring, it's growing. Despite the seemingly endless repetition the music under it moves forward all the time. It could do it faster, but I'm developing a liking to this song to my big surprise.

Lightning Strikes Twice, When Two Worlds Collide and The Educated Fool are very solid material all of them, the first two featuring rare writing contributions from Dave Murray, and The Clansman is a classic Blaze era epic which they had the sense of keeping in the setlist when Bruce came back. Don't Look to the Eyes of the Stranger is the other track of the album which gets much flak for the repetition of its title, but in this case too it can be seen as boring or growing. In my opinion this song has a great, long build-up, but what it builds up to I'm not quite sure of. A furious melody to a hilarious "humppa" style beat (check Wikipedia if the word is weird) is quite a combination, and I haven't been able to decide yet during all these years if it's a bad part or a good part. Memorable at least. And as the Blaze era began with a masterpiece, it also ends with a masterpiece called Como Estais Amigos, a very emotional song about the men who fought in the Falklands conflict, Blaze giving a great performance and the band playing some brilliant melodies and solos in the instrumental section.

A grossly underrated album of high quality material, though with a few flaws. Recommended to open minded listeners.

Members reviews

"Virtual XI" is a truly unique album in the discography of Iron Maiden. It's an album with a very special mood and atmosphere that you can entirely adore for some special occasions. I would describe this mood as slow, progressive and really hypnotizing with many melancholic melodies, repetitive vocal lines and long instrumental parts. The production is as simplistic as the music and the lyrics and I think that the band or at least the leading parts of it were exactly looking for this kind of mood even if some people might call it a poor lack of creativity which I honestly can't entirely deny. The band wanted to sound different and unique on this album and from that point of view the album could be described as a success. The record fits most as background music on a grey autumn or winter morning and during those occasions this album opens before me like the pages of a book and I truly enjoy it. The album is not a heavy metal record but rather an experimental and sometimes spontaneous progressive jam surrounding the topic of melancholy. This all sounds very positive but I can't deny that there are many flaws on this record that rate the final judgement down.

First of all, some songs simply go too far in their monotonous attempts and the most quoted example is surely the chorus of "The Angel And The Gambler" which would be a great effort if the band would have chosen to put the much shorter and still atmospheric single version on the record. "The Educated Fool" has the same dumb problem and even the emotional and conceptual masterpiece "The Clansman" is spared from this. I prefer the shorter and still unique and melancholic tracks such as the underrated "When Two Worlds Collide" or the hypnotizing ballad "Como Estais Amigos" which presents maybe the best vocal effort done by Blaze Bayley when he was in Iron Maiden. The second thing that really harms the album is the rather poor lyrics. A part of the inspired and more traditional epic track "The Clansman" and Bayley's emotional farewell track which is the brilliant and underrated ballad "Como Estais Amigos", the topics are rather one dimensional and remain superficial which is the exact opposite of what the band has done with Bayley on the previous record which was very intense and profound. This fact underlines my idea that the band simply wanted to try out something new. The third negative point is the lack of inspired and emotional instrumental passages. The guitar work is somewhere between mediocre and good but the bass guitar sounds lame as never before and the drumming is lacking of power. One feels that Nicko McBrain wasn't that much into the new musical direction of the album and the continuous problems with Blaze Bayley and the lack of commercial success and popularity attached to this.

This album can only please to very patient and open minded fans that have no problems with slow, monotone and hypnotizing progressive music. Even if the band tried out something new in a surprisingly radical way, the previous two records had already a couple of signs that showed us the way in the direction that the band would take and anybody that liked the slow and dreamy passages of "Fear Of The Dark" or "The X-Factor" might appreciate this album and know what I mean. For the majority and those who liked the legendary works of the eighties, this release is a deception as it goes far away from the band's roots and no one would have ever thought that this band would sound like that one day. A part of the opener "Futureal" which is a good and straight song in the key of "Be quick or be dead" but which really doesn't fit at all on this record where the other songs are very coherent and homogeneous, the other seven songs of this record are dreamy, hypnotizing and cumbersome.

Even though I happen to be musically very open minded and even though I like the experimental flow of this record, I prefer the heavier and darker side of the band and must admit that I don't listen quite often to this disturbing and yet beautiful record. But when I'm listening to it, I do it with much more intensity than I listen to most of the other records of the band and I want to underline this unique status of the album. It really takes some time and a lot of patience before the record grows on you and maybe several years or decades. But if you happen to have listened to this record when it was initially released and if you have put it in some dusty corner of your collection after a few disappointing tries, I really suggest you to pull this album out of the shadows and appreciate it with a new distance and from a more objective point of view and you might finally discover at least an interesting gem. But I wouldn't be surprised if this procedure would still not work and you need another five or ten years to understand and appreciate this simplistic and yet complicated flawed masterpiece. After all, this record should really please much more to the progressive rock fans here than to heavy metal maniacs.
Iron Maiden's second album featuring Blaze Bayley on vocals is less inspired than the first one. Unfortunately. The problem is that Harris &co did not use Blaze properly again; he still seems to be the guest vocalist, not the full member that he was supposed to be.

I used to be more tolerant towards this album some years ago, but I dislike this album these days. To me, it's Iron Maiden's weakest effort. The songs are uninspired and repetitive and drag on for too long. The only decent songs are the opener Futureal (short and straight forward, to the point, I wish they tried making more songs like that) and The Clansman (a bit repetitive, but it's got a nice atmosphere). The other two longer songs are simply dreadful, especially the Angel and the Gambler. Had this song been shorter, it could have worked much better, but the repetition is annoying, simply pointless (at least I don't see it). Don't Look to the Eyes of a Stranger is less annoying, but goes on for too long as well and it got boring with repeated listens.

The songs sound rushed, like doing a sloppy job just to meet a deadline; did they make this album just for contractual reasons because the musicians sound like they did not have their hearts into it.

My first one star review; frustratingly poor and uninspired.
Iron Maiden - Virtual XI (1998)

This moment had to come...

Regression. I liked X factor, the album that introduced Blaze Bayly to the Iron Maiden fans. On follow-up Virtual XI Iron Maiden looses it's grip and slips. Most of the songs aren't that good, there are no innovative ideas and there aren't many memorable instrumental parts.

Futureal is good up-tempo opener. The Angel and the Gambler is more commercial, but not that interesting. Lightning strikes Twice is a standard Iron Maiden track with a catchy refrain, but again nothing new here. The Clansman is a stronger track, it became a good stage song. Still this isn't one of my favorite Maiden songs. When two World Collides is has a catchy refrain, but still nothing new. Actually.. all songs can be described like this, so I'm going to stop writing about the track on this album.

This is by no means a bad album, but it's just un-asked for. There is no innovation like on X- Factor and there are no great epics like on the older Maiden records. Therefore it can be seen as an album that is mainly interesting for fans of the band. Luckily things will be alright again on the next album: Brave New World. Two stars for this one.
This album marked former frontman Blaze Bayley's final outing with Maiden. A lot of speculation went around during the time of this release and the predecessor The X Factor. Many fans were unhappy with the shift from Golden-era Maiden rockers to slower, darker tracks, as seen on The X Factor. The only real difference between this and the last album is a much more clear production and a less gloomy atmosphere in song structure.

The Maiden legacy continues with many the cuts (again) being layered around Blaze's more mid-ranged vocal tenor. The song structures are similar to the previous album--starting off slowly and atmospheric, later building into a hard-hitting climax. Average vocals by Blaze this time; the man can really sing when he's not trying to sound like Bruce! The guitars sound very polished and well mixed, as the solos on this album are what make this album worth listening. "Futureal" opens with a pretty good upbeat rocker. "The Angel and the Gambler" has to be one of the worst (and longest) Maiden songs I've ever heard. Come on guys, there was no need to extend the chorus way beyond belief. "Lightning Strikes Twice" is an excellent cut featuring one of Dave Murray's best solos to date. "The Clansman" is hands-down the best effort here. The idea was inspired from the movie Braveheart, and if the "freedom!" vocal march doesn't make you feel like you were actually there on the battlefield, I don't know what will.. Great intro, great lyrics, great solo. Finally, "Como Estais Amigo" is a touching song that Janick and Dave wrote together, containing a very soft, emotional mood.

Virtual XI is worth the listen, but the purchase may depend on you. This is an album that will definitely take some time to fully enjoy. Not quite as innovating or exciting as earlier Maiden outings, but the stellar cuts "The Clansman" and "Lightning Strikes Twice" are sure to make this at least worthy of a listen. Now that Bruce is back and "Brave New World" is out, I'd most definitely recommend it over Virtual XI.

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