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Review: Iron Maiden - Virtual XI
Iron Maiden
Virtual XI

Label: EMI
Year released: 1998
Duration: 53:10
Tracks: 8
Genre: Heavy Metal


Review online: March 23, 2003
Reviewed by: Michel Renaud
Readers' Rating
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Rated 3.1/5 (61.95%) (82 Votes)

Second album of the so-called "Blaze era", Virtual XI has many detractors, and not without reason. One thing we can probably all agree on is that it is definitely the one with the worst cover art. :) While The X-Factor was a very dark album, Virtual XI showcases a much lighter mood, definitely accessible to a larger audience. The album also sounds more "alive", which helps in showcasing Blaze's talent. It takes a few listens to get into this album, in fact I had not listened to it in over three years, having given up on it a bit too quickly. Of the eight songs featured here, the last three could be considered fillers, definitely not up to par with the first five - compare that to an average of one or two fillers on the classic Maiden albums. ;) The last two, "Don't Look To The Eyes of a Stranger" and "Como Estais Amigos" have some redeeming qualities, but no matter how much I tried to get "The Educated Fool", I couldn't believe Harris had written it, much less that it was included on the album.

Let's get more to the positive side of things.. "Futureal" is an OK "quickie" (at 3 minutes in length), a fast-paced rocker with guitar work that is reminescent of early 80s Maiden, and a much safer album starter than the 11 minute epic that started The X-Factor. "The Angel and the Gambler" is a very up-beat, positive-sounding rocker with a slightly pop-ish beat - you tap your foot listening to this one, come on, admit it! ;) At nearly 10 minutes, it could have been shortened a little bit because overall there's a bit too much repetition - still a good song. "Lightning Strikes Now" sounds to me like a mix of classic Maiden with some early 80s Judas Priest, another good no-frills rocker with a catchy chorus. The next one is one of the best Maiden songs: "The Clansman", it's no surprise that they included it in their live set when Bruce returned... A classic mix of acoustic intro that turns into a full-speed ahead rocker, with great vocal lines. Many will say that Steve probably had Bruce's voice in mind when he wrote this, but I find that Blaze also does a great job performing it, better so than he did on "Sign of the Cross" where he seemed to fall short on some of the higher notes. Great song, it's worth having the album for this one alone. The next song, which is also the last good song on the album, "When Two Worlds Collide" is very up-beat, kind of classic Maiden with a modern touch to it. It could have used a bit of refinement but it came out pretty good anyway.

This album really benefitted from me letting it gather dust on the shelves for a few years. :) Approaching it with a more open mind helps rediscover some hidden gem on it.. Still probably my least favourite of the Maiden albums because of the filler material, but no longer the stinker I used to think it was....

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