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Iron Maiden - The X Factor CD (album) cover


Iron Maiden


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3.23 | 339 ratings

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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!

AndyJ | 4/5 |


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