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Let me start off by saying, although Iron Maiden isn’t exactly the AC/DC of heavy metal (I give that title to Motorhead), despite all their experiments with synth, longer songs, darker atmospheres, and orchestras, the basis of Iron Maiden’s sound hasn’t truly changed much. If you think you’d be happy with anything with that general sound, you’ll probably be satisfied with this. That being said let me tell you why I wasn’t.
The second of the two Blaze Bayley albums, Virtual XI goes a different route than its predecessor. While The X Factor was a darker album to suit Blaze’s voice, this album seems to go a more tradition approach, and tries to ask Blaze to do his best Bruce Dickinson impression. This is part of the problem because that’s just not possible for him. The other issue is that many of the songs are longer than they need to be. “Don’t Look To The Eyes Of The Strange Educated Fool When Two Worlds Collide” just goes on longer than it needs to, and won’t be remembered within 5 minutes of the album ending. “Como Estais Amigos” (I thought it was Como Estas, but hell, I always got C’s in Spanish) is a ballad-like song that I just never found interesting.
The chorus for many of the songs here are repetitive, and most aren’t more than a line or two. Speaking of repetitive choruses, “The Angel and the Rambler,” as I call it, is a song that makes you almost capable of blowing your fucking head off in that department. Seriously, the first time I heard this song it gave me explosive diarrhea. Maybe you think that’s a joke but I was on the toilet before the fucking thing ended. It starts off with this annoying “boop boop boop boop” thing with the synth after the initial guitar intro that sounds like maybe it wanted to be “Wasted Years” if Wasted Years sucked. The synth throughout the song is cheesy, but far from unbearable. In fact the song is almost good until the chorus. First he sings it fast. Then slower. Then faster. This is very similar to my complaint about “Fortunes of War” on the previous Blaze album. However, this song is far more painful than “Fortunes of War,” because not only does the chorus suck, but after a verse or two, he sings it again. 22 times total he sings the fucking chorus. This is a terrible 10 minute song that could have been an all right 4 minute song.
But it’s not complete shit. It’s close, but this album does have “Futureal,” a good somewhat fast paced song that kicks the album off in a way similar to the classic Maiden songs “Aces High”, and you could easily see Bruce running around the stage like a maniac to this song. They’ve done songs similar to this, and usually better, so it’s not a buying point, but hell, it might be worth downloading for a buck. The other song worth hearing is “The Clansman,” and epic song about being Scottish or something. It’s by far the best song on the album. “When Lightning Strikes” is pretty forgettable, but its decent when it’s playing at least it’s not almost 7 minutes long. It’s the closest this album has to a third good song. I wouldn’t really go out and buy this album, but if maybe you feel the need to own this to complete your Maiden collection, it’s maybe worth a listen. That’s really the only reason to own this album anyways. If you feel the need to buy this to complete a Maiden collection, try to find it used. It’s not worth any more than $5.