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Review: Iron Maiden - The X-Factor
Iron Maiden
The X-Factor

Label: EMI
Year released: 1995
Duration: 71:01
Tracks: 11
Genre: Heavy Metal

Rating: 3.5/5

Review online: March 27, 2003
Reviewed by: Michel Renaud
Readers Rating
The X-Factor

Rated 3.63/5 (72.5%) (80 Votes)

This album was recorded at Barnyard Studios, and that's pretty much what it sounds like. One really has to dig to find the hidden gems on this album. The combination of the very dark mood of this album with a production that's a bit on the sterile side really hurts the end result. I'm usually not too picky on the production side of things, but in this case, not using a professional, experienced producer was a big mistake. Just listen to live versions of these songs to see how much better they can come out. Anyway, enough of that and let's get to the music side of things.

The album follows the usual Maiden formula of a majority of real good songs and a couple of not-so-good songs - in other words, fillers. No surprises there. But not only did this album feature the replacement of their most successful vocalist and go in a much darker mood than their previous material, the opener is the long epic "Sign of the Cross" - an excellent song by all means, but maybe a little too much to introduce all these changes to the listener - maybe "Man on the Edge", a good rocking song closer to the proven Maiden formula -and much shorter- would have been better to open up the album. Anyway, once you get used to it it's not that bad, but I remember being overwhelmed by this epic opener when I first listened to the album - an epic that with time proved to be on par with many of their classic epics. The two songs that follow, "Lord of the Flies" (weird name...) and "Man on the Edge" makes the seasoned Maiden fan feel more at home, good rockers, although "Lord of the Flies" feels a bit bland (partly due to the production), while "Man on the Edge" is much more in the kick-ass category.

"Fortunes of War" has a bit of the Seventh Son sound on it, but drags on a bit too much at the beginning before getting to the "meat", and it lacks a bit of conviction overall. It still has some good moments, but you have to wait almost 5 minutes into the song for it to take off. "Look for the Truth" follows, not too bad but I'd consider it filler material if it wasn't for a few good moments here and there - it sounds a bit half-baked at times. The little slightly medieval-sounding part around the 3:30 mark is pretty cool and begins a good instrumental part. "The Aftermath" is one of my favourites on this album despite a shaky beginning. The song really takes off around the 3:35 mark following a somewhat slow-paced first half, it gets into a much faster pace and I like the vocal lines from then on. "Judgement of Heaven" is one of the most upbeat songs here, with a much lighter mood than most of the other songs and I find it's well-placed in the track order so lighten things up a bit. It's not the best song here but it it a good mix of a rocker and more solemn-sounding material. Next is the one song I really can't stand, "Blood on the World's Hands", very annoying intro (that stuff may work for some bands in other genres, but here it feels really out of place.) The beat is boring and repetitive, the vocal lines are boring, I really don't have any good comments for this one. This doesn't even qualify as a filler, this one should just have been left out (which would have shortened the length of the album to something more reasonable..)

"The Edge of Darkness" is slow and boring at the beginning and eventually starts rocking a bit - definitely a common occurrence on this album. :) Still, it's easily forgettable and qualifies more as filler material (but I've heard a lot worse filler songs so..) "2 A.M." is a very slow-paced song, not too bad but more for the vocal melodies than the music itself. This one's pretty much filler material, really, simply too forgettable. "The Unbeliever" closes the album and not on a very good note, with really passable vocals and the music is nothing to write home about.

This album would have benefitted from a number of things: A better production, a shorter length (chop a good 15-20 minutes - just get rid of the fillers) and a little more work on the vocals. Blaze does a good job overall but in some instances he shows no conviction in his voice or is simply out of tune.

Not so long ago I would have given a much lower rating to this album but then again I had never given it much of a chance to begin with. The fact is that when you take the time to let it sink in, in the end this is a very good album - that would benefit from a re-recording.

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