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Iron Maiden - The X Factor CD (album) cover


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3 stars This is one of Maiden's most underrated efforts. Mainly because Dickinson was not part of the band anymore and Bayley's voice is absolutely different than Bruce's. So, in general the songs are toned down to match Blaze's vocals. In addition there are various changes in terms of style and compositions, and Martin Birch was no longer the producer.... Obviously all of this facts turned this album into something drastically different from the band's previous albums.

Sign Of The Cross is one of Maiden's best songs ever, an epic, unique masterpiece. It never gets boring, with it's multiple melodies and tempo changes (progressive metal anyone?), and great lyrics by mr. Harris. The beginning with the whispering-like vocals is one of the elements that this album brought to the table, and has been used (and sometimes abused) ever since. Lord Of The Flies continues the album flawlessly, with great bass pedal work by Nicko, good melodies and solos, and again great lyrics (based on the novel of the same name). It rocks. Man On The Edge is classic Maiden, but without Dickinson. Is just good straight heavy metal. Fortunes Of War is a mini-epic with dark mood, nice guitar intro and strong melodies. We have the tipical galoping pace near the end. A good solid song. Look For The Truth begins again with calm vocals and then explodes into a mid tempo metal format. Nice, but becomes boring after a few listens. The Aftermath is a gem, not the tipical Maiden approach to a song, the instrumental section near the end is awesome. Judgmente Of Heaven is a somewhat tipical Maiden rocker, but with some soft guitar work at the beginning. Beatiful melodies and one of the best moments on this record. Blood On The World's Hands begins with a weird-but-so-cool bass intro, this song has a proggy feel and is quite experimental for a Maiden song, it grew on me over the years. The Edge Of Darkness is energetic and powerful once the calm intro (yes, again) ends. Another solid track containing various Maiden trademarks. One of Blaze's best performances too. 2AM begins (yet again) quietly then becomes a mid tempo tune, unusual song with some nice guitar work, but is the weakest track on the album imo. Below Maiden standards. The Unbeliever is a very underrated song and one of the proggiest moments on The X Factor. It sounds fresh, with nice rhythm changes and a very, very inspired instrumental section in the middle. Harris shines on this track. Unusual again, but great.

Almost all Maiden fans bash this album just for being different. But this album proves to be an important point in Maiden's musical development, note that several characteristic elements introduced in this album are present on following works. The X Factor should be appreciated for what it is, not for what is not.

3 stars in prog archives 4 stars in any metal site

Report this review (#93134)
Posted Tuesday, October 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I have no idea, why The X-Factor is not considered as one of IM best albums. It's my second best after Brave new world. First of all there's no Dickinson and Smith, which means it sounds completely different than previous records. Bailey's vocals are low, a bit theatrical and much less melodical than Dickinsons' but it works well with the music. Songs are no longer just simple fast rockers, but thought over compositions with great lyrics. All I can say is give X-Factor a try before you throw it away (because you're a Dickinsons' fan). Genesis performed well on 'Trick...' after Peter Gabriel's departure and so did Maiden after Bruce left the band. It's different IM, but not worser IM.
Report this review (#93194)
Posted Tuesday, October 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars You have to admire the cojones of Steve Harris... the long-adored singer of his band leaves, he hires a relative nobody (Blaze Bayley from defuct metallers Wolfsbane) and kicks off this album with a downbeat, depressingly brilliant 11 minute epic "Sign of the Cross." He may have alienated virtually everyone with this album, but I stubbornly argue that it's not only a great album, but one of Maiden's best. THE X-FACTOR is very much a reflection of Steve Harris' crumbling emotional state at the time, as he was going through a divorce with his wife. As such, this is unquestionably Maiden's darkest album, but it's also one of its most progressive! Whereas FEAR OF THE DARK clocked in at just under an hour and featured quite a bit of filler, this album is a whopping 71 minutes long and there's not a bad song on it! Blaze's vocals are a big departure from Dickinson's, and he spends most of this album singing in his low-tuned style. This is not an album to be listened to once or twice and, like all great albums, it's most certainly a grower. Over time, the nuances are revealed and one comes to appreciate just how much work went into this intricate and sophisticated collection of depressing stylings. The lyrics are culled from literature ("Lord of the Flies" and "The Edge of Darkness"), film ("Man on the Edge"), war angst ("Fortunes of War," "The Aftermath") and angst in general come to think of it ("2 AM"). Sonically, the album is almost intentionally gloomy, with the muddled guitars toned down in the mix and Harris' accentuated bass providing technicality... don't look for any overt metal stylings here... it's all texture and shading.
Report this review (#93247)
Posted Tuesday, October 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I've always been a fan of the albums bands made that were completely different from the rest of their catalogue. They are usually my favorite releases. Iron Maiden's The X Factor is no exception.

The X Factor is one of Maiden's most creative, different, and technical efforts. Many Maiden fans claim Seventh Son of a Seventh Son or Dance of Death to be Maiden's best Progressive efforts, but I disagree. The X Factor is the most if not the only Progressive album from Iron Maiden. The songs are rich and developed, the composing has an unbelieveable amount of variety, and many of the songs feature Maiden's most proficient techincal skill on display.

A sore spot for many fans is that this album doesn't have fan favorite vocalist Bruce Dickinson, Blaze Bayley takes care of the vocals. I don't see this as a negative at all. Blaze has a unique and interesting vocal style that completely changes the atmosphere of the album/band. I personally started to grow tired of the "formulatic" approach Dickinson used in his vocal phrasing, Blaze's style is something new and refreshing.

There are quite a few "gems" on this album. "Edge of Darkness", "The Aftermath", "Lord of the Flies", and "Sign of the Cross" are just a few. The top composition however may be the shorter "Blood On the World's Hands". This song is as different as Maiden gets with virtouso bass playing by Harris in the intro, and weaving guitar harmonies between Jannick Gers and Dave Murray. The lyrical aspect is one of the few "political" endeavours from Maiden.

Another aspect of this album is the variety of composers. Most of Maiden is composed by bass great Steve Harris, but with Murray and Gers more active in the composition, the band tapped into more creative sources than it ever has before.

X Factor is a winner for sure, it's Progressive, creative, different, and a breath of fresh air from Iron Maiden, an album sure to stand out in their catalogue.

Report this review (#93527)
Posted Thursday, October 5, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars Iron Maiden's first album without Bruce. That first of all doesn't make it a very good album to begin with. But that's not all that disapointed me enough to give it a two star rating. The music didn't apeal to me at all!! There wasn't anything good. Much like I said for Virtual XI, the X-Factor isn't any better. It's hollow and very emotionless. Give it a listen and see if you agree you Iron Maiden fans, but this album isn't desirable at all to me therefore I'd have to give it a 2/5. Sorry IM, but this album is a failure to the band, but also not good as it stands alone. None of the songs were liked, and the vocals for some reason drive me nuts. Plus the lack of musicianship in the album. Still, I don't have the heart to leave it with a 1 star, it does have a little bit of quality! iddy, biddy
Report this review (#94036)
Posted Wednesday, October 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
Crossover Team
3 stars 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).

Report this review (#94693)
Posted Monday, October 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
Tom Ozric
5 stars Been waiting ages for Maiden on the Archives. I have to say that I'll be quite biased when it comes to rating this album, my standout preference from IM, which I will try to explain.... Firstly, former vocalist extraodinaire, Bruce Dickinson, had left the fold by this time, only to be replaced by the seemingly less appropriate Blaze Bayley. (Now you think Steve Harris would've employed the singer from Helloween, who is very close to Dickinson, but he is German). Wow !! Blaze's voice suits the nature and vibe of the music perfectly!! He possesses a much lower range, a tad gruff/gritty, and he tries really hard, closer to Paul Di-Anno. Every song has something proggy on offer, be it varied tempo, occassional odd-time sigs, structural complexity, Harris' Bass playing, quiet passages, frantic passages etc., and I feel that the band really pushed themselves on this wonderful album, especially Steve, who seemed to given some of his unique clanky Bass playing extra boost, and a really cool solo intro to 'Blood on the World's Hands'. We still get the masterful twin-guitar assaults and Nicko's excellent Drumming, which has always been tasteful and more complex than original drummer Clive Burr could ever be. Too many songs to assess here, but notable winners are : Sign of the Cross, Fortunes of War, The Edge of Darkness - actually, all songs from the 6 minute mark and up are fantastic !! I own the beautiful gatefold, double clear vinyl LP with fold-out sleeve, which seems to enhance the power of the music contained within. The overall feel of the album is quite gloomy and dark, depressing at times, sometimes Gothic - and the music's denseness brings to mind (my mind anyway) what vibe Swedish bands Anekdoten and Anglagard were giving off with their albums. The X Factor is quite a different offering from Iron Maiden - and something of a Masterpiece - but I do see how lots of folks would be turned off by it.
Report this review (#96022)
Posted Friday, October 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars First of the two albums without Bruce Dickinson, I would say this one is the best of the two, and by far. Fairly underrated, "The X Factor" contains great compositions by main songwriter Steve Harris. Of course, I still find Blaze Bayley's vocals weak compared to Bruce's and most of Janick Gers's compositions annoying... but still this is a good effort from the band with let's say 7 out of 11 songs being great and 4 being weaker. And it's by far the most progressive Maiden album...

The album opens with an epic, "Sign Of The Cross", maybe one of the three best epics written by the band along with the Rime and Seventh Son. That's relatively odd for the band to start with and epic instead of the usual headbanging fast paced hit, but I'd say this song sets the mood perfectly for the rest of the album. A song on which Bruce's voice would have perfectly fit... "Lord Of The Flies" follows and it's a good rocking song without speed riffs - very catchy tune. "Man On The Edge" starts with a short quiet intro followed by some fast metal, very close to the "Be Quick Or Be Dead" song on Fear Of The Dark - one of the weak moments of the album. "Fortunes Of War" starts with a gorgeous intro, a mix of "Afraid To Shoot Strangers" and "Wasting Love". "Look For The Truth" is again a song with a beautiful quiet intro and mid paced tempo happy metal riff. "The Aftermath" is a total non Maiden song - very slow paced headbanging metal, almost doom, with only a short faster guitar solo towards the end. "Judgement Of Heaven" is classic Maiden - not a very original song and one of the weak moments again. Then comes "Blood On The World's Hands" - clearly the most original song on the album, very guitar/bass oriented, with a dark atmosphere. "The Edge Of Darkness" is another song with a quiet intro and fast paced main melody, but nothing new here. "2 A.M." is probably the quietest song on the album... not really a ballad but close to it for Maiden standards. "The Unbeliever" is the strangest song on the album - weird intro and verses, nice choruses, unconventional solos.

Rating: 80/100 (4 stars)

Report this review (#98426)
Posted Sunday, November 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars 2.7 Stars.

X Factor is a different album. Possibly their darkest and one of their most technical. The contrast between X Factor and the weaker and straightforward "No Prayer for the Dying" is huge. Many songs here are long, elaborated, and not very catchy. The main problem I have with this album is the singer, Bruce Dickinson is not here. Instead, we have the lower-ranged Blaze Bayley that is mediocre, and is especially bad on Sign of the Cross , a great epic which sounds better in "Live in Rio" due to Dickinson's return. It begins with creepy Gregorian chants, then a very memorable bass line introduces the song. It grows into a well-arranged instrumental section until the song gets really heavy with the verses/choruses which are good, but kind of ruined by terrible vocals. The chorus especially has a catchy refrain, but from Blaze's voice, it comes off being somewhat annoying. Luckily, he shuts up for five minutes and we have a complex and virtuosic instrumental with the Maiden musicians at their very best. The chorus is repeated again, and the song ends with the introductory bass line and Blaze's whispering.

Lord of the Flies is a rock song, but quite soft for Iron Maiden. It is quite a decent song with a good guitar solo, if only we had Bruce singing. Man on The Edge is better, has better riffs, and is energetic. Once again, vocals suck, and Bruce could have done a great job on the choruses, but the music is good. Fortunes of War has quite a good instrumental introduction that lasts for 3 minutes, with some good musical ideas on the rhythm section. The rest of the song is also quite good, with the guitar being once again the highlight, and the song being quite sing-along. Look for the Truth begins with a soft acoustic intro and turns into a catchy rocker. The ending is the song is different from the rest, changing the rhythm section and allowing the guitar to shine once again. The Aftermath is another dark song that starts softly and then turns a bit heavier. The second half makes this song one of the highlights of the album, it's faster paced and jeez, Am I tired of saying that the guitars are the highlights? Judgement ofHeaven is typical and sounds like anything from this album. Blood on the World's Hands is a highlight here and quite an experiment for Iron Maiden. It begins with a bass solo which sounds awfully dark and gloomy. The song is very inspired, with unconventional guitar riffs that sound very good. I especially like the guitar riff near the end, madee better thanks to the keyboards. The Edge of Darkness is again a typical song and after so much music, songs like these make you tired of listening to X Factor. 2 A.M is slow-paced and quite soft for Iron Maiden. It ha a good instrumental part, but this song as a whole is not a highlight. The Unbeliever is a prog song full of rhythm changes. I love the inspired instrumental break around the middle with possibly the best guitar solo in the album.

Overall, this is quite a good album that I could have given as much as 3.5 stars if Bruce Dickinson or Paul Di'ammo were singing instead. Musically, it is inspired and some of the songwriting is excellent and fresh, such as in "Sign of the Cross", "The Unbeliever" and "Blood on the World's Hands". I gave this album less than three stars because it suffers from having a few dull songs that sound very similar to each other and because the singer irritates me even more than James Labrie, and that says a lot.

Report this review (#104845)
Posted Friday, December 29, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars ok,the new singer with the maidens,i think that this is one of their best albums .... starting with the sign of the cross,the overture is amazing,so dark,so beatiful.. and the voices are perfect,talking about the music on this one is like a great symphony... is very mistic this one..and i think is the best track on the album..on this album the maidens start with a sound diferent,more progressive,the songs are more created with a base of more creativity..with more molody,more experience...thats the truth....with this album Iron maiden change...but to be a great band ever,who not are limited to a sound like many bands...bruce is out on this one,but blaze make a good job,really..the solos of dave and janick are very great,very sentimental things...the drummer is also touching on this one.. harris like allways...simply perfect...

the best on this one in my opinion are..

the sign of the cross

lord of the flies

man on the edge:i love this one!!!

fortunes of war:very epic...

keep on the good work...

Report this review (#127122)
Posted Friday, June 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
The T
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Even though this will be far from a popular opinion, I have to say it from the beginning: THE X-FACTOR is probably my favorite Iron Maiden album, and in my eyes, their most progressive to date.

The year was 1995 and The Beast had to face quite a challenge: they had to record and release an album without one of their most important and charismatic members: vocalist Bruce Dickinson, who left after the tour for FEAR OF THE DARK. If there was one member that every fan adored and regarded as, probably, the quintessential element for Maiden's true sound it was, (maybe besides Harris' bass), Bruce Dickinson and his over-powerful vocals. One of the most respected singers in the metal genre, right along names like Dio, Dickinson was surely quite a difficult act to follow, and quite a gigantic loss for the British metal machine. How could the group ever recover from the absence of their frontman? That question led many to believe that the immortal Eddie had finally been sent to Hell for good.

The solution to the problem was radical, no doubt about it. Instead of trying to find a Dickinson-sound-alike replacement, Harris and Co. chose a rather unknown vocalist with a very different style to that of the legendary front man, Wolfsbane's Blaze Bayley. With a far shorter range and far weaker throat, Bayley was a huge departure from the omnipresent thundering that Dickinson voice delivered for The Beast. And the fans were puzzled as to how would the experiment sound like, specially when the man chosen to fill their hero's shoes was not a big star nor was he regarded as one of the top performers in the metal world.

THE X-FACTOR, Maiden's tenth album, finally came out in 1995 and the response to it was mixed. Many loved the long songs, the dark mood, the amount of instrumental passages and more mid-tempo moments, while others vilified and hated the lack of more pure-metal, lightning-fast tracks, the generally weak voice of Bayley and, most of all, the absence of Dickinson. Ultimately, the album wasn't successful and many considered it the beginning of the end for Maiden. The next release, VIRTUAL XI (another favorite of mine, though not in the same level) helped only to confirm this idea, and it was only with Dickinson's return in the triumphant (and more typically Maiden-esque) BRAVE NEW WORLD, that faith in The Beast was restored again. That "resurrection" of sorts also helped, strangely, to somewhat restore the appreciation for THE X-FACTOR, as fans now viewed it without the fear that this was going to be Maiden's last opus, but more like an odd experiment that belonged to another era, long gone by.

I, for one, felt in love with this album from the beginning. Yes, Blaze Bayley's vocals are sub par; he just can't sing were lower volumes are need, his voice gets lost in the mix; yes, he has not much melodic creativity for the vocals, as they always seem to follow the guitar melody note-by-note; yes, even when he yells and sings at his best, he's nowhere near the level of crushing power that Dickinson is able to produce just by opening his mouth to speak; yes, there are no real lightning-fast, pure- energy songs in here (maybe with the exception of "Man on the Edge"). All of that is true. But I think Harris and the whole band chose a wise path to make up for their shortcomings in the vocal department. They wrote a more progressive album, darker, filled with instrumental sections, slower to differentiate it from traditional Dickinson-fronted Maiden albums; an album with a big focus on melody rather than on pyrotechnics; an album where the guitars get a chance to show their most atmospheric side instead of their most gravity-law-defying side; subtlety, tension over speed and energy. The album sounds so much different that any other by The Beast, but at the same time the usual characteristics CAN be found: great guitar melodies, good choruses, multi-sectional songs, Harris' superb bass-playing, that sense of "epic", of glory that some moments bring about. This is an odd Maiden album as much as it is a typical Maiden album. And I think, for that, it's a masterpiece, as it combines the elements of old with the new. In the end, Bayley' voice becomes less of a problem and more of another instrument, not a star but a participant, he joins the band in the back of the stage, leaving the front place deserted, integrating with all of them. In this perimeter-Maiden there are no stars. Out there they were like stones, immaculate (couldn't resist).

Just a word about the recording: it's MAGNIFICENT. I don't know how many people would agree with me but this is one of my favorite albums in terms of sound. The bass is just SO clear, in-your-face, the guitars are so easy to distinguish, their sound pure; the drums sound perfect, one of the best drum sounds I've ever heard; and Bayley.For his kind of voice, the recording is also spot-on: he's raised above the rest when he needs help, and only in the beginning of the album and of a couple short tracks the production couldn't help him to hide his shortcomings as a singer in lower volumes.

Sign of The Cross (10/10) An epic, THE epic, my favorite track ever from Iron Maiden. It starts ominously, with dark choirs over low pedals and murmurs; the main theme of the song is announced by the guitar and the bass, while a synth provided background, everything in the utmost quietude. Bayley joins the declamation, almost whispering. The eerie melody somehow tries to get more optimistic, some tension is built, we think we're near explosion but we go back, and in the next try we finally get to the main verse, and the first time ever that Bayley showed his true color. The music seems like a quest, like a quest with not much future, more like a quest to find something that would bring more doubt. Everything sounds crystal-clear. The guitars adorn everything with short melodies. After what could be called the chorus, the guitars and the bass join for a desperate short instrumental section when they announce a pessimistic, powerful but dark theme. Suddenly we get to another land. The choral chants return, everything is calm, but the kind of peace that one doesn't want to feel. Another them, odd signature, all the string electric instruments playing the same theme, the drums mark the march, a march towards doom, oblivion, the underworld. The tension grows. A guitar tries to escape, she flies with melody over the cascade of fire that tries to engulf it, to swallow it. But in the end it emerges, victorious, and a fast, energetic, optimistic, glorious riff of those that Maiden only can produce unfolds. Speed, glory, melody, everything intertwined. Defeat was not unavoidable after all. And the guitars join in chants of celebration. Bayley comes back with a slowed-down version of the chorus, no longer sounding defeatist but just like reminding bad times. Those times are gone now. As is this superb song. My favorite epic, my favorite song ever from The Beast. And one of my favorite tracks from any band altogether. And if every Maiden album had been opened by a great track, this time they finally made the first song the best in the album.

Lord of the Flies (9.5/10) Exactly like we needed, the mood is different now. A guitar riff opens this fast, if not quite lighting- fast, powerful track. This time Bayley sounds like a man in a battle, in a battle that he CAN win, speaking about how the world is, while trying to view it as how it should be. A song full of hope, speaks of the darkness of the soul but at the same times carries a hidden message, we don't have to be like that. A great song. A great solo with a passionate ending, a cry for hope. Fantastic.

Man on the Edge (9/10) The more "classical Maiden" track in the album, this is also the fastest. Bayley's lyrics are good, as is his performance. It seems he sung better when he was singing his own words. Pure energy, we truly feel like a man on the edge, everything goes so fast that the man gets caught in a whirlwind that ultimately absorbs him and leaves him ready for schizophrenia. All the band is at it: the guitars climbing ladders, the drums marking the precise rhythm, the bass providing the safe net so that the falling man doesn't actually reach the ground after he falls from a very tall skyscraper. Excellent.

Fortunes of War (9/10) An acoustic guitar and the bass; atmospheric guitars sing a lament for dying souls; wars that needn't be fought; lives that could've been spared. Bayley sings well here. He dares to show emotion, something that he should've done more. A rare bass-solo moment leads us to the main verse, a mid-tempo rhythm marked by guitar melodies. Bayley gets angrier (and his voice shows its shortcomings from time to time), and then a sudden change occurs, a faster section with great melodies and a bass that throttles overpowering everything underneath. A mini-chant near the end like those of old bring this great track to an end.

Look for The Truth (8/10) This one begins even quieter. The guitars at the lowest volume, they seem like they are praying for some unknown gift from heaven. Bayley sings very well here, one of his best moments. The main verse starts, again a mid-tempo one. Another dark introspection, the chorus is not really brilliant but good enough. The instrumental section sounds somewhat awkward but it works. A good song, if not up to par to the preceding ones.

Aftermath (8/10) Some arpeggios that sound like if they were brought straight from the 80's. The mid-tempo verse comes immediately, Bayley not at his best. He doesn't create a good melody with his voice, he follows the guitar lines exactly. The song is not going that well up until now, but the second main-section, that attacks suddenly after the first, is much better; an instrumental part starts, everything gets better, the solos are good, Bayley sings better, too. Finally, the mid-tempo is lay aside and the metal machine strikes back. Full speed, full force; Gers and Murray fingering like crazy, showing their mastery of the axe; after the brief explosion, we go back to the second section. The song concludes. It became a good song after all.

Judgement of Heaven (9/10) An odd optimistic, almost happy (not the usual mood for 1995's Maiden) riff in bass opens this song. Bayley sings along. The energy grows. The vocals are not great, but the music supports them pretty well. The main verse is fast, is Maiden. The chorus is good, like a ray of light. The solo doesn't start that well but then the guitars join and we get a fantastic pure-Maiden moment of glimmering hope. Even with the sub par vocals, the song is fantastic, thanks to everyone else who perform at their best. Another success.

Blood on the World's Hands (8/10) Quite the most unique start ever from Maiden, Harris has a chance to show-off (?!?) with a good bass introduction that shows what we already know: he's a master of his instrument. It's not only dexterity: it's atmosphere, created just by the bass. Then the whole band joins him in another riff that sounds like fight, like the quest to overcome a problem, a huge one like the stupidity of men. The chorus, like mankind's skills for causing chaos and destruction, goes up and down but doesn't show any signs of ever stopping. The last chorus is more like a resignation, it will always be like this. A good song.

Edge of Darkness (7.5/10) Some helicopters. It feels like "One" from Metallica. The opening lines are as quiet and sad, expressing sorry for what has happened and worry for what it's to come. When the main verse attacks, it feels too much like the one from the last song, so we don't love it immediately. But then another faster section starts and we forget what happened, The Beast punches us in the head, telling us never to mistrust her. The solo is lightly chaotic but also sounds like a solo from earlier days. The least successful song in the album, it's decent, almost good, enjoyable.

2 A.M. (7.5/10) Another quiet, slow start just with guitars and bass. Bayley's lyrics again, and just as last time, he sings with more emotion. The main verse is good, not great. The alternation is what enhances the track and doesn't let it fail. But near the end the guitar solo is good, and has some beautiful melodies, so "2 AM" doesn't become the dark hour for THE X FACTOR but another pleasant moment.

Unbeliever (8.5/10) We change mood. We get energetic. A very progressive passage. Bass, guitars, the ride cymbal join in a great intro. Then the main verse starts, great. It feels like a man trying very hard to go out and fight, but someone holds him back, saves him from himself. The chorus, very melodic, is sung over acoustic guitars. We get a brief instrumental recapitulation and then the same chorus but more powerful strikes back. Bayley sings at the top of his capacity. After a second chorus, the drums and the bass join in like feels like the final attack, the final charge, all the cavalry facing the enemy now and going after it, with no fear nor remorse. A short fast section leads to the return of the phrases from the beginning, the first verse, and the chorus. A great closer.

All in all, after every word has been said, THE X-FACTOR would've been a perfect album, in my opinion, if it had been trimmed a little and the two enjoyable but not very good tracks near the end had been eliminated. But, as it is, it gets a 4.5 from me. And the way I do my reviews, as I don't think an album has to be 100% perfect to earn the highest rating, I give it a 5, and specially having in mind that this, even though many people may not agree with it, is Iron Maiden's most progressive album. Even though Bayley's vocals are definitely average, his performance doesn't hurt the music which suits him well.

Recommended for: Iron Maiden fans; fans of good metal and good progressive metal, with dark overtones; fans of Blaze Bayley (if there are any).

.At times I wonder how this could've sounded with Dickinson holding the microphone. Maybe it would've been even better, and maybe it would've been more respected by the fans (that's for sure). But something inside me tells me that this music would've lost its magic, and that, in the end, Blaze Bayley was the imperfect-perfect vocalist for the Tenth by The Beast.

Report this review (#127224)
Posted Saturday, June 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album grows on you like a fungus basically. The 1st time I heard it, it was so different I didn't know what to think. One thing you can't complain about is the production which is top notch. The album sounds beautiful. It is hard to get used to Blazes style and many of the songs take awhile to sink in and aren't immediately likable. There is a lot of very good material on here though and it makes you wonder what the hell happened with Virtual 11.

Overall, it is a very respectable effort by Maiden in a uncertain period. I saw this tour in a small club in the USA and songs like Blood on the Worlds Hands and Edge of Darkness were unbelievable live. Plus it was great to see Maiden in a small setting like that which will never happen again. Now I have to see then in arenas and amphitheaters again which is cool, but not as cool as being able to reach out and shake Steve Harris hand.

I think if this album had been recorded with Bruce it would have been rated much higher and possibly regarded as one of Iron Maidens better albums.

I've never been a fan of the album cover though. It just doesn't look like a Maiden cover, but it's not as bad as that Virtual 11 artwork. That pretty lame!

Report this review (#130505)
Posted Saturday, July 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
2 stars I've got to have respect for Iron Maiden carrying on with such an ambitious record without their iconic front man, "X-Factor" being a dramatic shift in mood and tone for the band, featuring some good atmospheric work as well as occasionally creative guitar and group playing. However, everything good the band is doing is utterly sabotaged by the utterly lame Blaze Bayley-- who is at best tribute band material and carries NONE of the power, range, or emotion present in even Bruce's wimpiest delivery. His voice is stale, bland, and out of place, and in my opinion makes this album almost unlistenable. The band makes a good show though, and for those who can look past the uninspired vocals (which I can't) they'll likely find some of Maiden's most creative instrumental work. Maybe not even for committed fans, since Bruce's voice is such a huge part of the band's sound. Listen before you buy!

Songwriting 3 Instrumental Performances 3 Lyrics/Vocals 2 Style/Emotion/Replay 2

Report this review (#131419)
Posted Thursday, August 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars An okay album.

"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 intrictate 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 jos 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 significan 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 bood album, but it's not a catastrophe either. It's jusr 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.

Report this review (#142707)
Posted Monday, October 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Important change for this album. Bruce Dickinson who was the lead singer since "The Number Of The Beast" in 1982 has left the band and is (temporarily) replaced by Blaze Bayley.

His low-tone voice is rather different than Bruce's one. It is of course difficult to adapt to a new "voice" unless it is a little close to its predecessor (but it is not the case here).

I won't be as laudatory as most of the reviewers about this album even if there are of course some excellent songs which belong to the good Maiden repertoire. I particularly like "Lord Of The Flies" even if it is a simple and pure hard to heavy rock. "Fortunes Of War" as well. It is more elaborate, combining acoustic intro with great metal riffs. The crescendo part is catchy as well and will lead to a nice instrumental and upbeat guitar solo.

The same kind of structure applies for "Look For The Truth". When you listen to the chorus, there is no doubt that "Arena" listened to this one while writing "Crying For Help". I could not really enter into the "epic".

IMO, "Sing Of The Cross" is too monochord. The pace is set with the choir intro. Dark and intriguing, just as the second part. It takes almost three minutes for the song to actually start. But from then on, the same beat is reigning for four minutes. Slow and heavy for a big chunk ("Kashmir" oriented). Only the last section is seriously rocking. Great guitar, faster and fresher mood. It is only a pity that this song doesn't feature more of these moments.

I have the same feeling about "The Aftermath". Almost dull for over four minutes, and then the tempo changes dramatically and opens on a killer guitar break. But this only a short part of this song.

On the good side as well, "Judgement Of Heaven" has maybe a more commercial approach. Sustained beat, catchy melody and again superb guitar work. I also particularly like the passage during which guitar & vocals are fully in line. Opposite to the call / response : the guitar player doing exactly as the singer does, at the same time.

Some darker atmosphere during "Blood On The World's Hands" (no wonder, with such a title). It is also the heaviest song so far. I have never been keen on these slower beat and very heavy sounds. Almost doom actually.

The band will still produce a "running" song with "The Edge Of Darkness". Great and charging beat mix with some heavy metal riffs. You know, like some of Dream Theater's offering.

I am not transcendent about the rock ballad "2 A.M.". If it weren't for a guitar solo, it would be a very average song. But great songs are not that many on "The X Factor". The closing number "The Unbeliever" also belongs to the good musical moments of "The X-Factor".

It will peak at the 8th spot in the UK charts. Almost their worse position since their debut. This honour is incumbant to "Killers" (Nr 12). Three stars in my charts.

Report this review (#155052)
Posted Monday, December 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a dark, deep, violent and desperate album. Among the best songs here, Sign Of The Cross (the longest, 11 minutes) is probably the best Iron Maiden song ever. The other great tracks are The Aftermath, The Edge Of Darkness (inspired by 'Apocalypse Now' and the Joseph Conrad noval of the same name as the song), 2 A.M., Lord Of The Flies.

Some fillers too, some weak tracks : Blood On The World's Hands, Man On The Edge, The Unbeliever and Fortunes Of War ain't as good as what Maiden made before. And Blaze Bayley isn't as great as Bruce Dickinson or even Paul Di'Anno. He has a deep voice, a raw voice, and it fits sometimes well with the atmosphere of the album, but he's the weakest Maiden singer.

Anyway, I give 4 stars to this album because of its dark atmosphere, and because it's a good album in its way. And because I just adore Sign Of The Cross.

It's hard to appreciate this album when you first listen to it. After a few listenings, you begin to appreciate it, but it's a very 'hard-listening' record. Totally different from, for example, Powerslave.

Report this review (#165010)
Posted Wednesday, March 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars Listen without prejudice.

I was pretty sure the seventy minutes long album would be an endurance test. This, the first Blaze Bailey album is not particular loved by Iron Maiden fans. It was also totally ignored by myself on it's release and it is only now I have given it a fair hearing.

.....maybe not a bad thing because it is only music that should be the basis of my opinion. So music it is, then. The first track Sign of The Cross is actually not bad at all. It is very long, clocking in on around eleven minutes. Lord of the Flies is a straight rock'n'roll tune and nothing good. I do not understand why it is still on Iron Maiden's setlist. Man on the Edge is also OK. Fortunes of War is quickly forgotten. The same goes for Look for The Truth. Aftermath is horrible and going nowhere. Judgement Of Heaven is one of the worst songs Iron Maiden has ever recorded. The rest of the songs are pretty bad too. None of these songs deserves to be remembered.

The sound is off course dominated by Blaze Bailey. His voice never fitted Iron Maiden. That's not his mistake. He was wrong man at the wrong time for Iron Maiden and he has been made into a scapegoat for all the ills of this period of Iron Maiden's career. The lack of really good tunes is the one thing I notice on this album. There is nothing here that stands out, with the exception of Sign Of The Cross. At times, this album is a painful experience. Judgement Of Heaven is just sheer pain and I do not know if I should cry or just stare shamefully at the floor.

This is a poor Iron Maiden album. It is also a controversial album. What was Steve Harris & thinking when they released it ?

2 stars.

Report this review (#188531)
Posted Sunday, November 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars In 1993 Bruce Dickinson left Iron Maiden. Many fans were in shock. I couldn't imagine other singer in Iron Maiden. And I doubt members of the band could. Right, they couldn't. But Bruce didn't want to be part of the band anymore. Blaze Bayley's voice doesn't move me at all. Music saved this release. The guy sings with lower voice and he completely doesn't fit for Maiden. Before joining Iron Maiden Blaze was singer for the band Wolfsbane and he was kind of copy of David Lee Roth. So don't ask me if he was a good choice for Maiden. Fortunatelly it doesn't matter when me meet these surprisingly good tunes. First epic track Sign Of The Cross is excellent. 11 minutes of progressive metal work. It reminds me of Somewhere In Time album a bit and it's always a good feeling. Fortunes Of War, Aftermath and Judgement Of Heaven are also one of my favorites. In that last one Blaze even sings better (at least I believe he does). But those mentioned songs even if are very good can't be my ultimate favorites because last two songs are. 2 AM amazes me with those extremely melodic solos and very good arrangement (reminding me of Queensryche and their Empire album). The Unbeliever is a bitter reckoning song with great progressive section somewhere in the middle. Very emotional tune. The X- Factor is a very good piece of work and it doesn't fail at all. Even prog fans can be pleased with this album. Cos it is proggy.
Report this review (#217721)
Posted Saturday, May 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "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.

Report this review (#229666)
Posted Monday, August 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars I came to this album in order to defend it from the hatred and scorn it constantly recieves from fans of Iron Maiden. I was pleased to find that here on progarchives this is not the case, people see this release for what it is; a remarkable shift in sound and progressiveness of Iron Maiden.

For the life of me I cannot see why Iron Maiden has made it here to Progarchives. They are by all measures a metal band through and through, the small grains of progressivness you can find in their music hardly warrants their presence here. I could stretch so far that with The X-Factor they might deserve a honorary mention at least. But make no mistake prog-rock lovers, this is not the record for you if you do not like Iron Maiden. This is just Iron Maiden with a twist, not a revelation of their sound and musical approach.

All in all what can be said about this album is that if you are both fond of Iron Maiden and progressive metal, this is the most interesting album they've made. Go get it if you fit into this criteria-- If you don't, just skip it like all their other releases.


Report this review (#253285)
Posted Saturday, November 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars 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.

Report this review (#284576)
Posted Wednesday, June 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars New frontman?? and who else but the wonderful Blaze Bailey... Iron Maiden enter this new 'phase' with style why?? because they actually make a great album, darker, moodier and sometimes heavier, we open with the wonderful SIGN OF THE CROSS an epic 11 minute track that has a great middle section the next few songs are great as well and really build the album up but it is the amazing JUDGMENT OF HEAVEN that really makes this album for me, theres just something great about it and the chorus is fantastic, the bad news on the album? well there really isn't any...really (just my opinion) well maybe one or two songs FORTUNES OF WAR could have been cut down and mayybe the final song UNBELIEVER but apart from that, this is a great album, not 100% perfect but still a much bigger improvement from their last 2 albums;

Sign of The Cross - 10/10 Lord of the Flies - 9/10 Man on the Edge - 8/10 Fortunes of War - 8/10 Look for The Truth - 7/10 Aftermath - 8/10 Judgment of Heaven - 10/10 Blood on the World's Hands -9/10 Edge of Darkness - 9/10 2 A.M. -8/10 Unbeliever - 8/10

CONCLUSION: A big improvement, a great album :)

Report this review (#305610)
Posted Tuesday, October 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars 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!

Originally published on on October 12th of the year 2010.

Report this review (#379084)
Posted Wednesday, January 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars The four albums between "Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son" and "Brave New World" are regarded as MAIDEN's worst recordings by the majority of fans. This particular album is included in there and it was the first without Bruce Dickinson, and to be perfectly honest those are huge shoes to fill. Harris and the band decided to go with someone who didn't sound like Bruce at all in Blaze Bayley. It's weird hearing IRON MAIDEN without those amazing and familiar pipes. Being such a big fan that I am I really think that only Ronnie James Dio would have satified me. So yes it's not fair to dump on Blaze but I just don't like his style within one of my all time favourite band's music. And why make it 71 minutes long ? Anyway the instrumental music here is classic MAIDEN and i'd have loved it if this was all instrumental.

"Sign Of The Cross" is kind of strange in that it takes so long to get going. I mean those who were interested in hearing what Blaze sounded like would have to wait around 3 minutes. Anyway it's fairly catchy once it gets going and some nice guitar around 8 1/2 minutes. "Lord Of The Flies" opens with guitar that doesn't do much for me but it's better when the song kicks in. Some vocal melodies on this one too. "Man On The Edge" kicks in quickly followed by vocals. An uptempo track with that trade mark galloping rhythm.The guitar lights it up 2 1/2 minutes in. "Fortunes Of War" is laid back early then it kicks in at 2 minutes. A native vibe here. Good track. "Look For The Truth" is mellow with almost spoken vocals until it kicks in after 1 1/2 minutes.Vocal melodies come and go.

"Aftermath" is my favourite. Love the intro then it kicks in as contrasts continue. I like when the tempo picks up 4 1/2 minutes in and the guitar rips it up for almost a minute. "Judgement Of Heaven" doesn't start so well but it gets better when it turns fuller. "Blood On The World's Hands" is my second favourite track on here. Some crazy bass from Harris to start before the song kicks in. I really like the guitar after 3 minutes too. "Edge Of Darkness" opens with samples of a hellicopter and relaxed music, then reserved vocals join in. It kicks in after 2 minutes and the tempo picks up 3 minutes in. Ripping guitar 4 1/2 minutes in then the song starts to wind down a minute later. "2 AM" contrasts the mellow and heavier sections well. "Unbeliever" has these fast paced vocals that just don't sound very good.They do come and go. It's better 2 1/2 minutes in but I can't help but wish Bruce was singing here. A good instrumental section follows then the vocals return.

It was interesting to hear this album and it is a good one but for me it pales when compared to most of MAIDEN's albums.

Report this review (#435853)
Posted Tuesday, April 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
1 stars i cant believe there are Maiden fans who like this album, i really cant. its unthinkable.

not that its a terrible album, its quite allright - its even got some good songs like The Edge of Darkness, it just doesnt sound like IRON MAIDEN.

the X factor (with, incidentally, just the 1 band-member change from the previous album) was kinda like that, totally confusing. there is a noticable lack of cohesion in the music, sounding like each member did what he wanted to do and didn't listen to the others. while Harris has always been the key writing influence in Maiden, on The X Factor, it sounds like he felt lonely without Smith and now, Dickinson. the songs, one after the other, are weak and uninspired, with the exception of the above-mentioned The Edge of Darkness. Sign of The Cross and The Unbeliever are worth listening to and are the only saving graces on an otherwise lacklustre effort.

i tried to tell myself that this album was by a different band, like back in the 70's and early 80s where members of different bands played on different records and called themselves several different names and it all became very confusing, so one just listened to the music and tried to forget who was in the band.

this time, i didn't turn the tape around (CDs were still rare and expensive for me back then) for another listen...

truly forgettable...

Report this review (#468575)
Posted Friday, June 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Iron Maiden's 'The X-Factor' is certainly a contentious album amongst Iron Maiden fans, and is generally seen among metal-heads as one of their worst records. Luckily, I've never been one to be swayed by the opinions of others, nor do I really consider myself a metal-head these-days. I'm a prog fan first and foremost. And let me tell you something - this album is absolutely prog-tastic! 'The X-Factor' might just be the best thing The Beast has ever put out, and it pains me to see it get such a slating from all corners. This is an album I've defended since I first heard it some fifteen years ago, and I'll continue to defend it to my grave! I've gotten a lot of stick over the years for defending this album, people think I'm joking when I tell them this is my favourite Maiden record. But I don't care what anyone else thinks!

All of the things that the traditional metal-head disliked about this album are the things that I think make it so special and interesting. 'The X-Factor' was such a departure for Maiden, not least of all because long-time vocalist Bruce Dickinson had left the band and the relatively unheard of Blaze Bayley stepped in to takes his place. And they were big shoes to fill. But Bruce's departure gave Maiden a new opportunity to completely re-discover themselves and re-invent their image. Bruce Dickinson leaving was the best thing that could ever of happened to Maiden, not least of all because this album wouldn't have existed without him going.

Steve Harris was going through a divorce at the time of writing this, and the music on offer shows a much darker and moodier side of Maiden that we hadn't seen before. It also shows a real human side to Maiden, you can feel in the song writing, of which Steve Harris is the principle composer, the man's pain and anger at the time. The album cover for 'The X-Factor' is dark and gritty, and boy does it match the music contained within!

The short and punchy (and oh-so boring) mediocre metal songs of the previous two Maiden albums are mostly long gone, and make way on this album for longer, creative, more inspired, and most importantly, progressive pieces of music. From the opening opus, 'Sign Of The Cross', you know you are in for something glorious. The opening track is ten minutes of pure unadulterated prog-metal. Dynamic time changes, progressive and long instrumental passages, epic lyrics - its all here in the first track. But perhaps one of the most progressive songs comes with the album closer, 'The Unbeliever', which, along with the opening track, is the stand-out performance in this highly underrated album.

Of course it wouldn't be a Maiden album without a few shorter, punchier songs, but even those are tempered with progressive styling. Now, to try and be fair in reviewing this album there are some moments where it does feel a little bit drawn out. There is a little bit of flab around the edges, particularly in songs such as 'Judgement Of Heaven' and '2 A.M.'. With a running time of over 70 minutes Maiden could certainly have trimmed back a bit here and there which might have helped the ratings. Something I haven't touched on yet are the vocals of Blaze Bayley. This is where a lot of the criticism comes from, that Blaze doesn't sound like Bruce and just isn't as good. For the record I love Blaze Bayley's vocals - they fit the darker more sinister Maiden perfectly. I'm going out on a limb here to say this is the best record Maiden ever put out, with 'Seventh Son' a close second. I wouldn't change anything about this album - a very respectable 4-stars!

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Posted Friday, July 3, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars 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')...

Report this review (#1677805)
Posted Monday, January 9, 2017 | Review Permalink

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