Iron Maiden – Virtual XI

February 7, 2014 in Artist Rewind, Reviews by Kylie

Virtual XIIron MaidenVirtual XI (1998)

Reviewed by Kylie McInnes

Ahh, the other misunderstood Blaze album. If ever there were an album that screamed “this would be so much better if half the songs were like half as long,” this is it (this is known as “Virtual XI syndrome”). But that doesn’t mean this is a bad album. Once you start digging through, this is almost as good as some 80s and 00s era Maiden. “Futureal” and “The Clansman”, for example, are undisputed classics, striking with the fury and grandeur you’d expect from a Maiden opener and a Maiden epic. The former being raw speed metal, the latter being among the best post-Seventh Son tracks (how can you not love crying out “FREEEEEEEEDOM!” during the chorus?!).

But (there’s always a “but”), the rest of the album needs a bit of work. “The Angel And The Gambler” is a potential great, fun rocker, but with the chorus repeated 21 times (symbolic, but overkill) in one stretch in the middle of the track, it runs about 5 minutes too long. There’s an edit for the music video that is only 4 minutes and some change, and is enjoyable, not excruciating! Yup, they made the song better by lopping off over half the song. And I hate edit versions as a rule.

“Don’t Look To The Eyes Of A Stranger” is in a similar situation; the buildup in the middle part of the song runs on about two minutes longer than it should, turning another potential classic into “MAKE IT STOP!” material. I personally love the riff set on the release after the “Don’t Look To…” monotony, but it’s hard to actually get to that point. “Lightning Strikes Twice” and “When Two Worlds Collide”, perfect as they are, are woefully unheralded gems. “The Educated Fool” is hit-or-miss. It’s not bad, but it tends to run on. Finally, the closer “Como Estáis Amigos,” is a bit dull and closes the album with too much of a thud than it should. It’s a not-quite-ballad that just doesn’t go anywhere.

All in all, there’s a lot of potential here, and again, Blaze does a great job behind the microphone (and his songwriting really took off here and continued into his first two solo albums, Silicon Messiah and The Tenth Dimension). It’s not as good as it could have been, but it’s also not as bad as most fans would have you think. Actually, this is pretty much the new respawn point for the Brave New World-era through the present, as not a lot has changed aside from trading out Blaze for a rejuvenated Bruce and bringing Adrian back into the fold for a bit more depth in songwriting. Brave New World will always sound like Virtual XI with Bruce on vocals (not a bad thing). So there is some significance to this album, and it’s actually worth checking out.

There aren’t any non-album tracks save for some live tracks from The X Factor and “The Evil That Men Do” with Blaze on vocals…unless you want to count “Virus” that was released in 1996 with the Best Of The Beast compilation (which is excellent). So, not much to talk about in the bonus portion.

3.25 // 5