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3.22 | 114 ratings | 11 reviews
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Album · 1995

Filed under Heavy Metal


1. Sign Of The Cross (11:17)
2. Lord Of The Flies (5:03)
3. Man On The Edge (4:13)
4. Fortunes Of War (7:23)
5. Look For The Truth (5:10)
6. The Aftermath (6:20)
7. Judgement Of Heaven (5:12)
8. Blood On The World's Hands (5:57)
9. The Edge Of Darkness (6:39)
10. 2 A.M. (5:37)
11. The Unbeliever (8:10)

Total Time 71:07


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

- Michael Kenney / keyboards
- The Xpresion Choir / gregorian chant (track 1)

About this release

2 October 1995

Bonus Cd has the following tracklist:

1. Justice Of The Peace (3:34)
2. I Live My Way (3:48)
3. Judgement Day (4:02)

Total Time 11:26

The backside of the booklet featured an alternate, less graphic, cover art for retailers to use if they so chose. Some cassette editions came with the alternate cover as the default.

Thanks to Stooge, Pekka, UMUR, Lynx33 for the updates


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The 90s were a brutal time for established metal acts with almost all of them suffering a significant decline in popularity. It was both pathetic and amusing to see the most regal kings of the 1980s stumbling around like blind men as the alternative 90s swept away everything that the 80s had excelled at. While a few bands like Metallica adapted with some commercial success, most of the giants of the past were floundering about like fish out of water and so too was the case for one of the greatest of them all, IRON MAIDEN.

When asked which era is one’s favorite in the mighty MAIDEN history books, absolutely nobody will point to the Blaze Bayley years as their highlight. After an incredibly successful decade with one amazing album after another and incessant touring that no mere mortal could sustain, by the time IRON MAIDEN reached the eight album “No Prayer For The Dying,” it was beginning to be obvious that the band was burning out a bit and although that album had some excellent tracks on board, the album itself was much weaker than anything that came before. While “Fear of the Dark” was a bit of a step up, it too failed to reach the sheer perfection of the 80s output.

Frustrated and exhausted, guitarist Adrian Smith left all the way back before the “No Prayer For The Dying” album. He saw the writing on the wall and the next to depart was lead singer Bruce Dickinson who left after the “Fear of the Dark” tour in order to embark on a solo career. With such impossible boots to fill, Steve Harris was forced between breaking up the band or finding a replacement. After an incredible amount of searching the new singer was former Wolfbane vocalist Blaze Bayley who appeared on what many have deemed (including myself), the nadir of IRON MAIDEN’s otherwise stellar career. Yep, the 90s were not kind.

THE X-FACTOR was the first of two albums to feature Bayley behind the mic and appeared in 1995, three years after “Fear of the Dark.” The album was a departure in many ways. Longtime producer Martin Birch retired and left another void in the band’s status quo as well as the album cover art being the first not created by Derek Riggs. The band’s darkest days were reflected by the darker cover art and subject matter that was partially inspired by Steve Harris going through a divorce as well as an established 80s band suddenly losing its way in the alternative 90s wilderness.

THE X-FACTOR was released to lukewarm response and for great reason. The band simply was unable to adapt to the 90s and clung on to many of the aspects that made MAIDEN such an excellent 80s arena metal band. Only a few problems with that approach. First of all Bayley’s vocal style doesn’t quite have the range required to bring out the best of IRON MAIDEN’s musical approach and secondly the music which is excellent, heavily borrows from the “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” playbook and THAT was just not cool in the year 1995 when Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots were dominating the heavy metal world. It also didn’t help the band that more extreme forms of metal like death metal, black metal and doom metal were making MAIDEN sound a bit outdated.

This 10th album by IRON MAIDEN is somewhat of a mixed blessing. The band said that one of the singers they auditioned sounded shockingly identical to Bruce Dickinson but they wanted to find a different styled singer. Bad choice. MAIDEN sort of paralleled Judas Priest not only as the metal gods of the 1980s but also in the fact that both bands lost their lead singers about the same time and decided to replace them. While MAIDEN was a superior band in consistency, Priest actually made a better decision once they added The Ripper as their top screamer. Priest got the memo and learned how to adapt the music to the singer whereas MAIDEN simply added a singer and went back to the coffers to pad the music with ideas already presented.

Musically THE X-FACTOR is actually really, really good with the best tracks presented on the first half of the album and some weaker ones providing filler on the second half. Another problem with this album is that it is WAY too long and at almost 71 minutes could have been trimmed down by about 20 minutes. The opening “Sign of the Cross” is a powerhouse and by far the best track on the album with creepy keyboards and Gregorian chants ushering in a very progressive track that features dark lyrics and some of the most interesting instrumental workouts since “Seventh Son.”

The single “Lord Of The Flies” provided the catchy single but once again Bayley lacked the vocal dexterity and larger than life charisma that Dickinson exuded in abundance. Despite the weak vocal performances, musically this is an excellent album but due to the lack of a top dog like Dickinson at the helm feels woefully unbalanced due to MAIDEN’s failure to adapt the music to the singer’s ability. The fact that Harris dropped Paul Di’Anno due to his inability to keep up with the band makes it all the more surprising that this didn’t turn out so well. The rest of the album musically speaking is like the sequel to “Seventh Son” with keyboards provided by guest musician Michael Kenney adding eerie atmospheric backdrops to Harris’ idiosyncratic bass playing and the twin guitar harmonies of Dave Murray and Janick Gers.

For the seasoned MAIDEN fan, you will hear snippets of past ideas ranging from the intro of “Children of the Damned” providing a recycled riff on “Look For The Truth” and many other examples of MAIDEN mining their past however the band also offers some interesting new ideas to their roster such as the bizarre guitar riffs on “Judgement of Heaven” which sounds somewhat familiar but slightly different. The album is certainly not a waste of time on the music side of the equation and if this one happened to be rerecorded with Dickinson i would dare to say that this would be an excellent album and a major return to form. However as it is the incongruent nature of Bayley’s vocals not strong enough for MAIDEN material brings this down a lot.

Basically this album has 4 star music and 2 star vocals but it wasn’t really Bayley’s fault. His style just wasn’t compatible with this demanding music that needed an operatic singer to bring it to full life. What i would like to see happen is this album to be rerecorded with maybe a bunch of guest singers who could hit the higher notes. I rarely listen to this one due to the frustration of wanting Bayley to step up to the plate but alas it never happens! Any true MAIDEN will want this in their collection despite its flaws. It’s not unlistenable and is by far a better album than the absolutely awful “Virtual XI” that followed. All i can think of when i listen to this one is “Where was Ronnie James Dio when we needed him?” HA, if only :D
Maiden's best 90's album is also its darkest

After two average albums and Bruce Dickinson's departure in 1993, the survival of IRON MAIDEN was questionable. Despite the loss of their charismatic frontman, the band decided to pursue the adventure, by recruiting Blaze Bayley from WOLFSBANE. However, the new singer hasn't really the same vocal range as its predecessor as his high-pitched predecessor, his tone is a lot lower. How to solve the problem? Well, unfortunately for Steve Harris, but fortunately for us, the bassist was then facing personal issues in his life, so he will restranscribe his state of mind in the songwriting. Therefore the musical ambiance is somber, sinister, which is a novelty in the group's history, and perfectly fits Bayley's low tonality by allowing him to affirm his identity.

"The X Factor" simply features the darkest compositions ever written by IRON MAIDEN. At last, after several years, the band's music finally evolve and find their marks in the 90's. The tempo slows down, the songs are sometimes heavy, sometimes doomy, sometimes progy, but always with their own touch of epicness. Furthermore, despite a duration of more than 70 minutes, the longest studio opus ever recorded by the musicians back then, the quality is quite homogeneous. There are no genuine bad song. No title track either, the only other record making exception being "Piece of Mind". To sum up, even if you already know your 80's MAIDEN, you'll hear something different here... Don't worry though, this is still IRON MAIDEN, but with new clothes, for an unique result...

... Also unique in terms of cover art. For the first time, Derek Riggs was not collaborating, the well-known mascot is not hand-drawn but represented by a kind of model which looks like it's straight out from an horror movie. No cartoonesque Eddie here, the poor creature seems really tortured and suffering. This is getting serious! Some countries will even censor it and the artist will have to propose an alternative cover, with a wider angle of view. By the way, who is responsible for this disturbing gory picture? Hugh Syme, who usually takes care of... RUSH's. Not really in the same register...

The beginning of the disc is flawless. The more than 10 minutes duration of "Sign Of The Cross" haven't been seen since "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" from 1984's "Powerslave"! Best song of the disc, this progressive suite is simply a little gem! The slow overture with Gregorian chants distillates a somber ambiance, to then turn more aggressive, dark, and even haunting at times. Don't worry, the powerful bridge shows this is still Harris and co. at commands. Wow! THE 90's MAIDEN epic! The very good mid-tempo "Lord Of The Flies" possesses a cool bass, a catchy tune as well as a gloomy atmosphere. Last of the opening trio, and first single of the album to be released, "Man On The Edge" is a fast efficient punchy rocker. The delicate acoustic intro of "Fortunes Of War" can remind "Fear of the Dark", but the overall is quite different. In fact, without the galloping maidenien solo, it could nearly pass as doom metal! "Look For The Truth" is in a similar style than its predecessor, a bit more heroic.

"The Aftermath" displays a tragic atmosphere, while "Judgement Of Heaven" is a little less sinister. The only genuine average title of the record. On the contrary, "Blood On The World's Hands" one of the best moments of the second half. An unusual composition for MAIDEN with its surprising bass and doom tonality. Very nice! The cool and glorious "The Edge Of Darkness" and "2 A.M." are more typical. As the disc opened with a progressive track, it also concludes with another one. In addition to its different ambiances and numerous changes, "The Unbeliever" is quite in the style of 90's modern modern prog bands, with real pieces of maiden in it. A pretty good surprise at the end of the record!

This tenth studio release is an interesting mixture of dark, doom and progressive elements, done the IRON MAIDEN way. Don't expect fast-paced direct tunes here, nor fantasy prog, the leitmotiv here is "atmosphere". Sometimes the loss of an important member can result in unexpected welcomed consequences as the unknown offers also chances to renew. Although a bit lengthy, these 71 minutes of music proves that Harris and co. can evolve without losing their own identity. If only they could have done that again...

There are many ways to describe "The X-Factor": MAIDEN's darkest effort, one of their post-80's bests, their 90's best, in fact their only truly good studio opus from this decade and better than their 2000's albums. To be honest, the Englishs' last creative works since and for a long time...

So, is a new MAIDEN born? The band will unfortunately wear this dark outfit for this very unique representation. After 1996, the music will go "back to basic" (without 's')...
The X Factor (1995) is the tenth full-length studio album by UK heavy metal act Iron Maiden. It is the first of two albums, the other being Virtual XI (1998) to feature the voice of singer Blaze Bayley, who replaced Bruce Dickinson, the band's better known and more iconic frontman. After the two albums Blaze would ultimately be asked to leave the band again in 1999, which left the opening for Dickinson's return.

The Blaze Bayley era of Iron Maiden is certainly the least loved and regarded. A lot of the blame seems to be laid at Blaze Bayley's feet but I don't think that's completely fair. His voice isn't a bad one by any means but I do not think it works very well with Iron Maiden's style the way Bruce Dickinson's does, or even Paul Di'Anno on the first two albums. The bigger problem for me though is not the vocals on The X Factor, but the compositions themselves. They are so damn repetitive. Almost every song on the album follows a similar pattern, starting off light before turning heavy, single Man on the Edge being the notable exception. There's also a lack of energy in the band's performance, like the record was made when they were still feeling the blow of Dickinson's departure and haven't worked out how they're going to come back from it. It's a pretty long album too, over seventy minutes, and it's the only Iron Maiden album I find to drag on too long. While the music has its moments of greatness, it generally doesn't sound too inspired to me.

The funny thing is, I used to quite like this album. But it's an album that hasn't stood the test of time for me. I've not been listening to Iron Maiden since this album was first released, but it'll be nine years this year (2015) since I got my first Iron Maiden albums (I always remember the date as it was the 6th of June 2006, AKA 06/06/06) and started collecting their stuff, which included The X Factor I reckon sometime in late 2006 or early 2007. Back then it was something a bit different in their discography and I actually wrote a much more positive review for it some years ago, though it's never been an Iron Maiden release I've played that often. But people and tastes change and over the years I've heard a lot more music. As a reviewer the more music I hear the higher I seem to find my standards creeping, and The X Factor isn't the first album I've revisited after a long time and not been so impressed with as I remember being.

As a heavy metal album The X Factor is pretty bland, in desperate need of more tracks in the vein of Man on the Edge which really hit home with some heavy metal power. As an Iron Maiden album it seems even worse though. I don't think the nineties were the band's best period but any stretch of the imagination; neither No Prayer for the Dying (1990) or Fear of the Dark (1992) are really up to the high standards of the three releases before them, but The X Factor and it's follow-up Virtual XI are Iron Maiden's all time low. As I said, I don't blame Blaze, the band was clearly with the group as a whole. I'm going to go with 2.5 stars.
1995's The X Factor marks the start of what is undoubtedly the most unloved era of Iron Maiden: The Blaze Bayley years. It's not without good reason, as the 90's in general were not a good time for the band but at least No Prayer for the Dying and Fear of the Dark had Bruce Dickinson on them right? Well actually I think that The X Factor is slightly stronger than Fear of the Dark.

Blaze Bayley definitely isn't a bad singer, but he certainly isn't the right voice for Iron Maiden's music. This is more because Bruce Dickinson had by this point well established himself as the voice of Iron Maiden. Despite that Blaze does well enough here and The X Factor is a step back in the right direction. The music has a progressive edge again, though is not as progressive as Somewhere in Time or Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and there are more standout songs than Fear of the Dark had such as the opening epic Sign of the Cross and single Man of the Edge and overall does feel a bit more memorable. Some songs sound like they could use trimming down though, as the 71 minute length still tends to be hard to get through it one sitting.

"The X-Factor" is the 10th full-length studio album by UK heavy metal act Iron Maiden. The album was released through EMI Records in October 2nd, 1995. "The X-Factor" sees a major change in the lineup as Lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson had left the band to pursue a solo career (and study to become a pilot). During the tour supporting Iron Maiden´s 9th full-length studio album "Fear of the Dark (1992)", Bruce Dickinson announced his departure to the rest of the band and after the tour ended the rest of the members of Iron Maiden began searching for a replacement singer. After countless auditions with various singers, Blaze Bayley (Wolfsbane, Blaze) was chosen as the replacement for Bruce Dickinson. I remember reading an interview with bassist Steve Harris where he praised Blaze Bayley and said he felt that Blaze Bayley was the perfect replacement for Bruce Dickinson. Steve Harris emphasized that Iron Maiden had been searching for a vocalist that didn´t sound like Bruce Dickinson. Instead they had been searching for someone with a personal sound. I remember from the interview that Steve Harris said, that there had been one guy at the auditions that sounded so much like Bruce Dickinson that it was almost eerie, and they didn´t feel comfortable with that.

The instrumental side of the music on the album hasn´t changed much compared to earlier releases by Iron Maiden. The music is melodic heavy metal ranging from hard heavy rockers like "Man on the Edge" to more epic heavy metal songs like the 11:17 minutes long "Sign of The Cross". The vocal style of Blaze Bayley, while being in a somewhat similar vein to the vocal style of Bruce Dickinson, completely lacks the power and the conviction of the latter though. This is a major issue IMO and even after almost 17 years I still think it´s a major flaw and I feel that "The X-Factor" suffers greatly because of it. While I dislike Blaze Bayley´s vocal contributions and think they are a drag there´s also something wrong with the production. For the first time longtime producer Martin Birch (Deep Purple, Rainbow...etc.) didn´t produce an Iron Maiden album. Instead bassist Steve Harris and producer Nigel Green took on the task which gave "The X-Factor" a very different sound compared to the band´s earlier releases. It´s an aquired taste of course but I think the sound is flat and lacks power. It probably made Blaze Bayley sound even weaker than he already did.

I remember that back then I had my concerns about what this album would sound like but I hoped for the best. I was sadly very disappointed and that feeling remains after listening to the album again before writing this review. I may be sligthly harsh but I can´t give more than a 2.5 - 3 star (55%) rating and I wouldn´t recommend this album to anyone I know.
Time Signature
Band on the edge...

Genre: heavy metal

"The X-Factor" was the first album to feature Blaze Bayley on vocals, something which a lot of Iron Maiden fans have problems with. Don't blame Blaze though. While not as great a vocalist as Bruce Dickinson, Blaze Bayley handles the vocals fairly well, and his dark melancholic voice suits the darker music quite well. The music itself is somewhat lacking in energy, although it does retain aspects of the technicality and intricacy associated with Maiden. However, the lack of energy and the strange almost ethereal (in lack of a better word) guitar sound makes it difficult to appreciate this album fully. That, and the fact that whatever twin guitar appears on the album is either played in unison or octave harmonies rather than the intricate harmony patterns of earlier Maiden.

There are some good songs on this album, like the epic "Sign of the Cross", the energetic "Man on the Edge", the catchy "Lord of the Flies" and the unusual "Blood on the World's Hands" and "The Unbeliever", and I think these tunes are what carries the album through ("Sign of the Cross" and "Man on the Edge" being better than just good, in my opinion). In addition there are some okay but not really memorable tunes, such as "Edge of Darkness", "Fortunes of War" and "Judgment of Heaven". Apart from the latter, whose chorus is admittedly quite catchy, these tunes are, while okay, not really significant in any way other than being different from the style usually associated with Maiden.

"Look for the Truth" was, til "Virtual XI" got released, probably the worst Iron Maiden tune I'd ever heard. It pains me to say so, as I consider myself a loyal Maiden fan, but this song is not just bad, but also ridiculous.

"The X-Factor" is not a good album, but it's not a catastrophe either. It's just okay. I hasten to repeat that it's not Blaze's fault. He does a fine job. It's the music itself and the production that are somehow lacking something. I wouldn't recommend this album to any Maiden "noob", I think an 1980s or 2000s Bruce era album would probably be a more appealing introduction to the band. It's probably a collectors' only item.
I've become comfortably numb. That's why Bruce Dickinson left Iron Maiden, he said in an interview. He saw no challenge anymore, but with the iconic frontman gone the band faced one like they'd never known. Add to that the fact that Steve Harris was at the time losing his father and going through a divorce, and the murky feel of the eventual album should come as no surprise.

The band's vocalist of choice was Blaze Bayley from Wolfsbane, a very different type of singer than Bruce. A lot can be, and has been said about him, but no matter how inadequate his range was for some Bruce era tracks live, I think he did a very good job in studio most of the time. Choosing a vocalist so different was a courageous move, and for a band known for openers like Aces High and Be Quick Or Be Dead, starting an album with low humming and monks chanting is a courageous move as well. What the slow beginning evolves into is an eleven minute massive masterpiece called Sign of the Cross, a truly fantastic start to a new era.

Tempo is then picked up with a couple of faster rocking tracks following. Lord of the Flies is slightly hampered by the chorus that due to Blazes limited range doesn't really take off as it could, but Man on the Edge is classic Maiden with great riffs and a memorable chorus. But then the band takes it down again for most of the eight remaining tracks, showcasing them at their darkest and slowest, with lyrics dealing with subjects like war, suffering, war, desperation, war, emptiness and war. Here Maiden also got the sometimes over used habit of starting songs with extended calm intros that take their time and then lead to the verses.

For a long time it was difficult to tell the rest of the tracks from each other. This sameness is both a minus and a plus: though Judgement of Heaven comes close, the latter half of the album could use an uptempo rocking piece to give it a bit of variation, but on the other hand the mood established is incredibly strong and effective, and the tracks good enough to keep interest level high. My favourites would perhaps be Look for the Truth, Blood on the World's Hands which opens with an acoustic Steve Harris bass jam, 2 A.M. and The Unbeliever, all of which have some exceptional melodies relieving the darkness.

This is the dark, slow and heavy Maiden album, difficult to get into but ultimately very rewarding. Very recommended if you want to delve deep.

Members reviews

I know that this is not a very common or popular opinion, but for me, the X-Factor is my favourite Iron Maiden record. I have known the band with Bruce Dickinson as a singer and I really liked their classical records like "Powerslave" or "Somewhere in time" and even their early stuff with Paul Di'Anno. I discovered the Blaze Bayley era of the band quite late and had heard a lot of negative comments about him and the band's style and direction at the time when he was in it. When I first listened to the x-Factor, I really liked the dark and profound atmosphere but I found many songs on the album too long and too similar. Today, four years later, I have completely changed my point of view. This album has grown on me like no other album of the band. It is way more intense and atmospheric than any other stuff the band has ever tried. It is probably the best metal record of the whole nineties to me.

The album starts with one of my favourite Iron Maiden songs, "The sign of the cross". Many people say that this song is too long, too dark and too complicated to take it as an opener, but I don't think so. The album introduces perfectly to the dark atmosphere of this whole piece of art. It is courageous to put this song as an opener but this courage was worth the try. The song starts with monk choirs and some really dark vibes before Blaze Bayley introduces himself as the new singer of Iron Maiden. I think that it was an excellent choice of Steve Harris to not choose a similar singer to Bruce Dickinson and take the easy way out with high pitched voice singer. When Paul Di'Anno with his wild voice and punk attitude had left the band, Steve Harris had also chosen to not take a similar singer but to try something different with Bruce Dickinson's very particular voice and it has been the best choice at that time, too. It's the same thing here. Bruce Dickinson would have never been able to sing as dark, as melancholic, as angry and desperate as Blaze Bayley on the X-Factor. Bruce Dickinson does some great performances of some of the album's songs on later live releases, but he sings the songs way too emotional, way too positive.

"Sign of the cross" is a diversified, dark, melancholic masterpiece of eleven minutes with a great, long and surprising introdution with a very high tension and uneasy atmosphere, before Blaze Bayley literarily explodes and does a more than solid performance. Everything fits on this album. The guitar solos are emotional even if Adrian Smith isn't present here. Steve Harris is probably doing the job of his career on this album, you can very often hear his diversified and brilliant bass play and this dark tuned instruments fits perfectly to the atmosphere of the album and it sounds really fresh and surprising that this metal record is more based on the bass guitar than on the ordinary guitars. You've got all of this already in the first song and that's what makes him so innovative.

"Lord of the flies" has a very catchy and dark introductional riff and Blaze does a particular emotional and brilliant job here. The melody of the bridge and the chorus is really catchy and doesn't go out of your mind any more once you have listened to it.

"The man on the edge" is a surprisingly fast rocker and gives you a little break after more than fifteen minutes of melancholic atmosphere. It is a very fresh banger and welcome change in style in the very tension filled album.

"The fortunes of war" is probably my favourite song on this record. A very dark, sad Blaze Bayley gets you in a very dark and emotional mood, the bass introduction by Steve Harris is the best one he has ever done. The guitars that interrupt the brilliant plugged and unplugged bass play sound very melodic and remind me of Mike Oldfield. The bridge to the second part of the songs fits perfectly and the songs is very diversified with very slow and very fast parts, sing-along parts and storyteller parts, melodic guitar solos and brilliant bass guitar passages. The outro closes the circle perfectly to the beginning of this masterpiece.

"Look for the truth" has a very dark and eerie mood and the introduction gives me goose bumps every time I listen to it. Blaze Bayley sings in a stunning way after the intense introduction, you can really feel his desperate anger. He is not only a singer, he "lives" the lyrics and you get completely absorbed by his style. This song has great and atmospheric but very simple sing-along parts that fits perfectly with the rest of the song.

"The aftermath" is a song I didn't like really much when I heard it first but this one really grew on me. I really like the somehow dreamy and melancholic guitars in the introduction and the intelligent lyrics of this song. The chorus is really not what you are used to listen to when you listen to this band and this is what makes this song very special and interesting. Give this song the time it needs to convince you, but once it makes "click" in your head you will really be into its very particular style and atmosphere.

"Judgement of heaven" begins once again with a brilliant acoustic bass line before Blaze Bayley sings the introduction in his very particular style. The lyrics are so personal, so intense and so heavy that it really touches you. After the dark and desperate introduction and first verse, the chorus is so optimistic and the band makes you travel from hell to heaven and back. The melodic twin guitar parts are brilliant in the bridge are just amazing and the gallopping bumble bee bass guitar and Blaze's angry voice create a create contrast and an antithesis that fits with the lyrics. The screams in the outro are somehow a little bit inappropriate and strange but I take this as another surprise that underlines the emotions of the song.

"Blood on the world's hands" begins with a hypnotic and mysterious bass intro and sounds just amazing. Some people say that it just sounds as if Steve Harris was tuning his instrument and playing some simple chords, but I wouldn't say that. The bass guitar has almost some mysterious folk sounds and the transition to the body of the song is perfectly done. Blaze Bayley sings then in a stunning and very emotional way. The uneasy and unusual chorus fits with the atmosphere of the song and the melodic bridge of the song gives you a little break and even some chills. Some dark orchestrations or keyboards underline the atmosphere of the song like in the opening track and this is very well done.

"The edge of darkness" is a song that I didn't like in the beginning. It's introduction, with a helicopter sound and once again a very dominant bass guitar play and some simple guitar harmonies over it, seemed very long and unnecessary to me. Today, I realise that this part is necessary to create a very slow paced and depressive atmosphere that underlines the lyrics of the song. But it's worth waiting the time before the song gets heavier and has some very fast and stunning parts with a few melodic guitar solos. The song really grows more and more on me and has passed from the bottom to the top 3 songs of the album for me.

"2 AM" works a little bit like "Man on the edge". It gives you a little break from the dark and complicated songs but it contains a very melancholic atmosphere. The melodic guitars dominate the bass guitar for the first time on the album and Dave Murray and Janick Gers do a brilliant job here. The chorus is simple and melancholic and this song would also have been a good choice for a single. Many people say that this song is the weakest one of the album, but I think it is a melodic and melancholic masterpiece and a welcome little change in style.

"The unbeliever" is the most difficult song on the album. It is very long, very complicated, has many changes and breaks. Blaze is really on the loose and sings in a very particular style, once almost rapping, than angrily screaming or roaring. Almost folkloric bass interruptions, simple riffs, chill-out acoustic guitars and melodic guitar parts are all mixed together in this song and it is not easy to get an approach to that. Even after four years, I recognize the brilliant and innovating style of the songs but have some difficulties to really appreciate it. It is a very interesting experiment and I believe that this song still needs some time and that I will appreciate it even more in a couple of years. It is like a good wine that becomes better with its age and this song has already passed from the state of "too weird" to the state of "innovative" so that I'm sure that this song is even able to grow more and more within the next years.

All in all, you have eleven dark and melancholic masterpieces on this album. This album is intense and difficult, but it is worth waiting and trying to get an approach to it. I am sure that this album will be considered as a classic and heavily underrated album in one or two decades just like "Somewhere in time" that was criticized when it came out and is considered as a masterpiece nowadays by many fans. This album is the most intense and the most personal album of Iron Maiden. All the tragedy around the separation of Bruce Dickinson, the pressure and anger of the fans, Steve Harris' difficult divorce - all these things got combined and created an image of the band's surroundings and inner life that you can see and also listen to on this album.

The only negative point I see about this album is its average production (especially "The sign of the cross" should kick out a little bit more as an opener). I would also understand if some people would say that some songs of the album are too similar and that one or two songs less would have done a better job but on the other hand, I am very happy to have them all on an album and I would have even add the brilliant "Virus" to the album (which has been added on the "Best of the beast" greatest hits compilation one year later). Even the b-sides "Judgement day" and "Justice of the peace" are brilliant and one could have easily created two great albums with this material! That's what i think is a sad thing as many fans do not even now those three masterpieces.

Give this album a chance and let the band pull and drown you towards the edge of darkness!
The X Factor is an album which definitely deserved and deserves better. Obviously, many people reject this album because Bruce Dickinson is not here and Blaze did not rise to the high expectations that people have with Iron Maiden. Blaze has a different style and lacks the vocal range that Dickinson has; and the problem of the Bailey era Iron Maiden is that Harris & co did not use Blaze properly. He sounds like a guest vocalist than the band member he was supposed to be.

The good thing about this album lies in the fact that it's different, most of the songs are mid paced, a bit repetitive at times, but they do have a nice atmosphere (like the epic Sign of the Cross, Judgement of Heaven and Blood on the World's Hands, Unbeliever just to name a few).

Harris's bass playing is great, some nice intros; Murray and Jers complete each other nicely and cleverly, there are some nice riffs and guitar leads. Blaze did a good job believe it or not and last but not least, Nicko did some nice drumming. The album's got some competent songwriting and definitely good musicianship.

Overall, this is a good album, it was a successful attempt to survive after losing Bruce Dickinson; he is surely missed here, I too sometimes wonder how this album could have sounded if Bruce had sung on it (and I have listened to live versions of Sign of the Cross and Lord of the Flies).
Iron Maiden - The X-Factor (1995)

Former lead-singer Bruce Dickinson went of to become a pilot and the band had this use problem: how to replace the best metal frontman alive? Blaze Baily became new lead- singer and frontman. Iron Maiden has already shown the quality to get the best out of the personality out the lead-singer. During the Paul Di'Anno years they adopted a very suitable style and with the transition to the Dickinson era the sound of the band changed quite a lot to fit it to Dickinson vocal range and style. The same was done on the X-factor. The album art is less good then on other Maiden albums, but acceptable.

The sound of Iron Maiden had matured a bit and the recording differs a bit from all album of the Dickinson era. The sound is very professional and Maiden showed to be capable of reaching some innovative progression on this album. The album has less metal, instead it sounds like heavy art rock. On some tracks the full voice of Baily works quite nicely, but on other tracks his vocal qualities are a problem. His pitch isn't perfect and I think the band should have been more careful during the recording sessions when it comes to the vocals. The album has lot of quiet and sensitive moments for an Iron Maiden album.

I will now discuss some highlights.The opening track, The Sign of the Cross, is an amazing epic with an adventurous atmosphere and a demanding sound. The instrumental parts are very strong. Lord of the Flies is a shorter song with a good lyrical theme based on the novel. The refrain is catchy and the sound is professional. The best part is however the powerful couplet theme. Man on the Edge is an amazing up-tempo track with fierce guitars a great vocals of Baily. Fortunes of War has some progressive elements with quiet moments and technical instrumental parts. Blood on the World's Hands has a very sophisticated sounding refrain and demanding but good illogical vocals of Baily. The Unbeliever is a strong ending track, though some of the vocals of Baily aren't up to the challenge.

Conclusion. Iron Maiden had this long career and it's nice to see them exploring new grounds after all these years. This the album with an amazing mature Iron Maiden sound, it sounds experienced and sometimes it even sounds calm and relaxing. I like the recording, most of the songs are very good and it's and different album then all other Maiden albums. While I'm writing I listened to the album again for the first time in years. Before writing it I had a three rating in mind, but I was convinced otherwise. Four stars for this album. It's underrated even by fans of the band. New vocalist Baily isn't perfect, but some of his moments are brilliant, which compensates. The album would have been a bit better if two of the less essential songs were excluded, but there's still 55 minute of great material here!

P.S. I would like to add it's very interesting to look for a Maiden track called 'Virus", which is very likely to be a great addition to your music collection if you like this album.
This album was the beginning of the end for Maiden in the states, and cheap, lifeless production are at lest partially to blame. Coupled with Blaze Bailey's HORRIBLE voice the album never really stood a chance. While to song writing was interesting and dark, the above mentioned problems kept the album from becoming what it could have. I used to fantasize about Maiden re-recording the album with Bruce Dickinson, and real producer. Have said that. there are some songs that standout in spite of the album's limitations. Check out Sign of the Cross, The Aftermath, and The Unbeliever. If you don't know Maiden's music, don't start here.

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