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Hard time for anybody, having to replace Bruce Dickinson. But Mr Blaze did pretty okay here. But nothing more. The lack of variation in his vocals does damage the dynamics of the album. His darker lower voice resulted in the songs sounding less alive and more alike. The result is an album that has a lot of moments that feel interchangeable. The style is referring more to the eighties days than their last previous two efforts with Bruce but as said the over all feel is much darker.
The album starts off with an epic. And a pretty good one as well I must add. “Sign of the Cross” follows the dark epic path of an earlier classic such as “Seventh Son” and Blaze’s dark vocals give the song a slight medieval touch. (the later live version with Dickinson proved it would have easily sounded just as good with him though)
Now “Man On The Edge” sounds like remake from the earlier Be Quick or Be Dead since it has the same kind of main riff and song structure. Enjoyable song though. The real highlights however (apart from Sign of The Cross) are “Judgement of Heaven” and “The Edge of Darkness”. Now these are typical Maiden songs referring to the eighties with lots of changes in pace and dynamics. The songs are so good, the rather monotone vocals cannot harm them but it becomes obvious Dickinson is really missing here since with him these songs would’ve easily become Maiden classics. Also worth mentioning is “Blood on the World's Hands” which is powerful and ends on fifth place of best songs here.
On this album however the band began their nasty attitude of repeating titles and lyrics too many times within songs. “Fortunes of War” is a perfect example. They would overdo this even more on future albums. One wonders why they didn’t write some more lyrics. Hastiness? Anyway, this tendency has annoyed me ever since.
Unfortunately a lot of songs (pretty much the rest of them) are plain dull. Especially “Lord of the Flies” is a generic piece of rock and Blaze’s vocals on the verses are pathetic and harmless. Well, don’t get me wrong, my review is not about bashing Blaze. I like some songs he has done with Maiden and the next album would prove to be the real downfall of Maiden, but here on “The X-factor” he can be very good as well as horribly lacking.
What I really dislike about the album is the artwork. It looks like crap. Where are the brilliant paintings? This looks like second rate horror movie props and could be okay for a generic death metal band, but not the mighty Maiden.
The album was stylewise much more consistent than “Fear Of The Dark” yet fails to be as to-the-point as “No Prayer” was. In terms of quality the album falls between those albums. A lot of songs here just aren’t up to Maiden standards and fillers at best. So even though nobody really hates this album, it has become the Maiden album everybody thinks is okay but is collecting dust in the end.
“Sign Of The Cross”, “Judgement Of Heaven”, “The Edge Of Darkness”, “Blood On The World’s Hands” and “Man on the Edge”
Result: Now this is an album I’d give 70 points but the artwork, monotone vocals and the rather flat production take it down to 60 points.