IRON MAIDEN — Virtual XI (review)

IRON MAIDEN — Virtual XI album cover Album · 1998 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
2.5/5 ·
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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