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Iron Maiden - Virtual XI CD (album) cover

VIRTUAL XI

Iron Maiden

 

Prog Related

2.35 | 207 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars When two worlds collide.

Iron Maiden have always had a very unique sound. As soon as an Adrian Smith riff rips through time and space to allow Bruce Dickinson's unearthly scream to fill the void you know that the Maiden is present. Through the ages Maiden has had two distinct styles, their street sound which borders on punk and their fantasy metal which borders on prog. Of course on this album the previously mentioned musicians who gave Maiden's music such life are not present, and at this point in the late 90s the musical styles of the time were obviously pressing in on Maiden making this record sound like they're trying to combine their old fantasy style with the work they'd been doing recently. The result? Cataclysm. This record is revered as Maiden's worst. Whether this be the work of a lack of Dickinson or simply the schizophrenic sound of the album as the band tries to pick a direction is unknown. In any case, this is an album that is not highly regarded.

But is all this flak warranted?

Not at all! The album is actually rather good as soon as you get over the lack of two key members. Instead we have permanent fixture Janick Gers and Blaze Bayley, the latter of which often gets shot down for fronting the group with his low pitched grumble as opposed to Dickinson's high wail. This makes a very different sound for Maiden, as clearly evident on the opener, the single FUTUREAL. The shortest track on the album, this one is a powerhouse that rocks, demanding heads to bang. Likely the only other simple rocker on the album would be LIGHTNING STRIKES with its cacophonistic chorus working more towards than against it and it's heavy riffs.

Other than those tracks the album is still heavy, but in a more drawn out way. Almost progressive, in fact. THE ANGEL AND THE GAMBLER is a great track clocking at around 9 minutes that shows that Maiden still knows what they're doing when they're not hammering on the guitar as is THE CLANSMAN (although this one is better performed by Dickinson). Other songs on the album tend to lead towards a darker subject manner like the apocalyptic WHEN TWO WORLDS COLLIDE and the eerie DON'T LOOK TO THE EYES OF A STRANGER.

Iron Maidens best album? No way no how. Iron Maiden's worst album? No, but it can be argued. A bad album? No, it's actually quite enjoyable if you know that Dickinson's gone. So what is this thing then? Well, it's a good album deserving of 3 stars. Recommended for people who don't mind if Maiden's signature front man is absent. However, if you have no desire to hear this legendary metal band without their main man then just skip this one because it won't make you a believer. Good but not great and not poor by any standard. Just enjoyable.

Queen By-Tor | 3/5 |

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