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And that's where the awesomeness of this album peaks and fades away. The long unawaited followup to the hopelessly banal X Factor album, I used to be inclined to give this album greater respect than its precursor, but one long and painful relisten later, it's clear that this is the absolute worst that Iron Maiden has to offer.
A lot of the reviews seem to hint that there's some truly deep musical ingenuity to be found on this album. Unfortunately I couldn't detect any of it. It's not a terrible metal album, but for a band of Iron Maiden's status, it's inexcusably bad. This is not totally on the part of Blaze Bailey. I don't consider him a good singer necessarily, and he's certainly no Bruce Dickinson (or even a Paul Di'anno), but he's far from the worst singer I've ever heard and his presence on the album would not be enough to ruin it unless the music was also critically flawed. Which it most certainly is. The Iron Maiden magic has pretty much died. Virtual XI is long-winded and inconsistent, but worst of all, it's just plain boring. Outside of a few nice moments in "Lightning Strikes Twice," there wasn't really a point over the course of listening to this album where I thought "Hey, that was a really cool melody line." or "Wow, that guitar solo kicked ass." Basically, it's unmemorable from beginning to end. It makes for decent background music while you're doing work or driving in your car I suppose, but this will never be one of those inspirational albums you just sit and listen to just for the sake of just sitting and listening to it. On another note, Janick Gers isn't half the player that Adrian Smith is. He doesn't have the skill as far as playing is concerned and he isn't even close to Adrian as far as songwriting.
This album is somewhat widely rated, with some loving it and some hating it, so it's hard to guarantee what any individual will think of it. If it helps at all, I've found something to like in every pre-Blaze and post-Blaze Iron Maiden album, but I can't stand this or its slightly less shitty big brother X Factor. Bruce Dickinson fans need not apply as well, as Janick did a much better job on his solo albums than on this gross misrepresentation of the Iron Maiden name. Suffice it to say, Virtual XI is a musical failure and should be duly avoided.