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3.6 out of 5 stars70
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 30 September 2009
Well, if you're just beginning with the band, I'd recommend getting their 80s work first, then their 2000's albums - the 90's ones aren't their best. However, as someone who loves Iron Maiden, I found this one pretty enjoyable - in fact it's probably their 90s album I listen to most. To me it sounds more "Iron Maiden" than anything else they put out in that decade - the early 90s Bruce albums were drifting towards more of a rockish metal (as opposed to the grand, epic speed metal of their 80s heyday), and "The X Factor" was rather dirgy. Virtual XI is a little more fast and upbeat than it's predecessor. I kind of liked Blaze's singing - not as great as Bruce in the 80s, but Blaze had a dark, rich voice that was good in a different way (and Bruce's singing on the early 90's Maiden albums wasn't his best, either - and, if you check out Blaze's post-Maiden solo stuff, he sounds even better than he did with Maiden).
The biggest complaint about this album, which others have mentioned, is that some of the choruses (mainly on "Angel and the Gambler") are too repetitive. I rather like the song, but it's a rather Who-ish/classic 70s rock vibe, and they did this thing where they took it down and built it up while repeating the chorus over and over, so I can see why some metal fans don't like it. Musically it's kind of cool, but they probably should've written more lyrics! Honestly, it's probably something that would've been best saved for the live performance and a shorter, tighter arrangement would've suited the studio album better. "Don't Look To The Eyes of A Stranger" does a similar thing, but I think it works a little better. Aside from that, this album just FEELS more like Iron Maiden than their previous 3 - although, maybe a safer, more comfortable Maiden; songs like "Futureal" and "When Two Worlds Collide" give me a similar feel to "Somewhere In Time", for example. "Como Estais Amigos" is a kind of ballad-ish song, but nicely melodic and has a nice instrumental big in the middle I really like. "Lightning Strikes Twice" has a great moody feel, and "The Clansman" is a "Braveheart" inspired epic that goes over well with most fans (myself included).
Overall an enjoyable album, although not as fast, exciting, or dangerous as the band is known for (interestingly enough, at about this same time, former Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith joined ex-vocalist Bruce Dickenson for a couple albums entitled "Accident of Birth" and "Chemical Wedding" that should please any fan of 80s Iron Maiden).
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on 15 June 2008
Sure this album wasn't as good when Iron Maiden had Bruce Dickinson or Paul Dianno but on it's own it's awesome. My favourites are Futureal, The Angel And The Gambler, Lightning Strikes Twice, The Clansman & When Two Worlds Collide (the guitars are awesome in that). I have no problem with this album or The X Factor their both brilliant. Yeah this is pretty different to maiden's other album but you have to be open minded and dont just vhate this cause it doesnt have Bruce Dickinson cause that's stupid. My advice is if you are a maiden fan and dont have this or The X Factor then buy 'em both and ignore the negative reviews, and if you're starting to get into Iron Maiden start with albums Killers, The Number Of The Beast Or Powerslave and leave Virtual XI and The X Factor till last though they are awesome you may think different just start of with the classic albums i mentioned. UP THE IRONS.
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on 16 November 2001
While being grouped in the category of less successful and obviously less interesting Maiden albums, Virtual XI is not the worst they have written. The X-Factor, despite what I read in the reviews on these pages, is a bad album. Musically it is bland and feels like it has been stuck permanently in the 80's. No Prayer for the Dying was also not great but at least Bruce was singing. The inclusion of Blaze Bayley was, I'm afraid, one of the deciding factors in forming my opinion on the new material from the band. But I must say that although he started off badly, he found his footing with album no. 2 (or 11, whichever).

As a whole, Maiden seem to have gelled nicely. It feels as though they enjoy playing again, which is one of the reasons why their first 7 albums were all so good. Music should be enjoyed not only by the audience. Maiden make you feel as if they have returned from a long sabatical with Virtual XI.

Futureal is a classic Maiden track, as good and as exciting as The Trooper, Can I Play With Madness and The Prisoner all rolled into one. Possibly one of their best ever tracks. That is what was missing from post 7th son recordings, any sign of a true Maiden classic. It is short for a Maiden track, only 3 minutes, but it is a great opener to an album that is dotted with good songs although it does falter towards the middle. The Angel & the Gambler is far too long but, somehow, does not get tedious. Lightning Strikes Twice is a worthy track but is missing something. The Clansman is actually rather good, very overblown but a true Maiden saga track that just about ticks all the boxes. When Maiden do an epic, they usually do a good one. Just take Dream of Mirrors and The Nomad from Brave New World (a much more exhilarating return to form). The following three songs are very close in style and execution to Lightning Strikes....

What really sets this album apart from the X-Factor, No Prayer for the Dying etc is what holds it all together and makes you want to listen to it all the way through: the opening and the end track. Futureal and Como Estais Amigos are true Maiden classics that rise above anything they've produced on their previous 3 albums. And listening to Bruce sing Futureal live on the B-side of The Wicker Man suddenly makes you realise that it is a song that could have been written back in their Powerslave or Somewhere in Time era.

Not exactly vintage Iron Maiden but back-on-form Iron Maiden. Bruce is still far better suited to the frontman role but every effort is made with this album to forefront Blaze's vocals, which are very good.

If you want an album that is typical of Maiden, try Number of the Beast or Piece of Mind, or indeed 7th son. Virtual XI is purely for the die-hards. Nevertheless, a 4 star effort and a glimpse of their fabulous rebirth.
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on 17 April 2003
While Bayley didn't, in my opinion, ever top Paul or Bruce's vocals, he uses a wide vocal range on his second (and last) Maiden album. Opinions on this album are extremely varied as you can see by the below reviews, but I believe this album was a worthy purchase!
"Futureal" kicks off the album brilliantly, with 3 minutes of speed and power, and insanely fast bass playing by Mr Steve Harris.
Sadly, this is followed by "The Angel and the Gambler". 10 minutes of cheesy keyboard touches, a hazy subject matter and the most frustrating lines I've heard anyone sing in recent memory ("Don't you think I'm a saviour, Don't you think I could save ya, Don't you think I could save your life") all add up to the most disappointing Maiden song I've ever heard.
Things soon pick up though, with "Lightning Strikes Twice", a song which builds up from slow to fast, perhaps representing the gradual approach of a thunder storm. Decent song.
"The Clansman" is my favourite track on the album, and a tribute to my favourite film, Mel Gibson's "Braveheart". Based in the reign of power-hungry Edward Longshanks, the 9 minute song perfectly reflects the film it's based on, with a gob smacking rendition of the word "FREEDOM!" by Bayley. Guitars sound very Scottish, and a blistering solo will leave you doing traditional Scottish dances to this classic! :-P
The centrepiece of the album, "When Two Worlds Collide" is self-explanatory as to its subject matter. Nothing special, but a solid track nonetheless.
"The Educated Fool" talks about living life to the full, so indeed you should! Another good track, but one which I fear will be overlooked in comparison to "Futureal" or "The Clansman".
"Don't Look to the Eyes of a Stranger" sounds pretty lame at first, but you'll appreciate it after a few listens. It builds up with tension, and COULD be seen as the other person's point of view in the song "Prowler".
"Como Estais Amigos" mourns the war-dead, and is an emotional album-closer. This is the only song on "Virtual XI" that doesn't have Steve Harris in the writing credits, and is more evidence of the more emotional side of 90's Maiden.
This is indeed a good album with a few classics, and most of the rest are definitely worth listening to many times. However, "The Angel and the Gambler" is a real let-down, and stains the album for me, as I can't get any enjoyment out of that song. There are much better Maiden albums than "Virtual XI", and I'd only advise this to the long-term fan. To me it is much more than a space in my collection, but it's no "Powerslave" or "Seventh Son...".
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on 29 January 2015
I knew at the time of this albums release that their previous record, the X Factor was gonna be a hard act to follow. When I heard this cd for the 1st time, I found out I was right. The Educated Fool is a bit below par, as is When Two Worlds Collide. Nevertheless, I am still awarding this album 5 stars. Wanna know why?
It's cos Virtual XI has it's fair share of Maiden classics.
Futureal makes a good opening number, and if that does'nt get you going, then The Clansman will.This is an excellent epic track that has echoes of Braveheart about it, and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of number of the beast. Listening to Blazes cry of "freedom" in the chorus just makes you want to sing along. Dont Look To The Eyes of A Stranger has one of those galloping middle sections that greatly livens up what otherwise would have been a dull song. Lightning Strikes Twice is good too, as is the final track; Como Estais Amigos. (English translation is, I think, "How are you my friends"). Another Maiden masterpiece that is criminally underrated and is up there with the other classics.
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on 25 July 2012
I own every Iron Maiden studio album other than The X Factor and, until now, Virtual XI. I have deliberately avoided these two, as they were released during the time that the usual singer, Bruce Dickinson, left the band to pursue a solo career. They replaced him with Wolfsbane singer Blaze Bayley, who is regarded by most IM fans as a sub-par vocalist. I was one of those fans until recently. I decided to give this a chance, and actually Blaze is fantastic. The only problem is that everyone keeps comparing him to Bruce. He is not Bruce, and if you compare Blaze to anyone else you will see his vocal style really fits with Iron Maiden. Even if you still don't like his voice, it's still got the rest of the Iron Maiden lads (minus Adrian Smith), so you can still tell it's them. We have a lot to thank Blaze for anyway; Bruce left the band and made some great albums himself, and if Blaze hadn't been so unpopular, we might never have got Mr Dickinson back! Overall, a great album until you compare it to other Iron Maiden albums. But who cares? It's still IM, and therefore still one of the greatest albums of all time.
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on 22 September 2012
Yeah, the writing was on the wall right from the start, when Blaze Bayley took over vocal duty in Maiden.
When Paul DiAnno was singing in Maiden, they had more of an underground feel to their music (suiting the smaller venues they were performing at). But when DiAnno was replaced with Bruce Dickinson, Iron Maidens whole style changed to match his voice, injecting a much more epic & grandiose feel to their music.
So when Blaze joined the band, you would have thought Maiden would have again changed their style to accommodate Bayley's vocal (ironically he was closer to DiAnno's singing style), but they never, perhaps the rest of the band were too set in their ways to be able to change again.
Which addresses the main problem of Bayley stint with Maiden, which was his vocal range wasn't strong enough when trying to replicate Dickinson's epic vocal sweeps.
You have also go t to remember the time that the album was released; the rock world was still struggling in a metal landscape destroyed by Cobain, so trying to bed in a new singer was always going to be a tough job.
Saying all that, "Virtual XI" (yes I've final got to the Album) is a pretty decent record, more relaxed & confident than "X-factor" (which I felt Bayley was trying a bit to hard to impress), we the usual mix of sci-fi, medieval & paranoia.
It certainly not the weakest Maiden album ("No prayer for the Dying", "Fear of the Dark" I'm looking at you!) & when Brucey rejoined, they sang "The Clans man" on the "Brave new world" tour.
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on 23 February 2012
Maiden's second album with Blaze Bayley saw the band going back to a more traditional sounding Maiden album compared to their previous album, the very dark, yet still good 'the x factor'. This album in my opinion is no way near as bad as some of the reviews people give it, if your a maiden fan, then you need to give this a proper, honest listen. So here's my review of each track.
1.Futureal- This is a good way to open the album, a nice fast short maiden song, with a catchy chorus, a good song overall. The vocals are pretty powerful from blaze, they fit the music fine.

2.Angel and the gambler- A lot of people think this is one of maiden's worst songs, although I actually enjoy this song, it's catchy and shows the band are willing to experiment. The lyrics aren't too bad either, as well as the vocals. My only problem is that this song is probably twice as long as it needs to be, the three saviour lines are repeated way too much.

3.Lightning strikes twice- This song really shows what Bailey's voice can do, the chorus has some pretty high pitched vocals for their current singer. The guitars once again sound great, while this isn't the best track on the album, it's still a worthwhile maiden song.

4.The clansman- This track was the real classic to come out of this album, a proper maiden epic, the chorus is very memorable, the intro is nice and melodic, and the guitarwork is excellent, probably my favourite track on the album.

5.When two worlds collide- Once again, this is a very well written song, the chorus is melodic, although this isn't the most memorable track on the album, still good though.

6.The educated fool- Another epic track here, an excellent chorus, and a really cool intro, which really shows the occaisonal beauty in Blaze's vocals.

7.Don't look to the eyes of a stranger- Slightly repetitive intro to this track, very strange sounding track overall, especially in the early parts, although still enjoyable, and once again, shows maidens commitment to their experimenting.

8.Como estais amigos- Maiden couldn't have picked a better way to end this album, a simply beautiful and thought provoking track, not sure whether to call this a classic or not, yet an excellent track nonetheless.

So in conclusion, while this is far from being iron maiden's finest album, it is still a very well written set of songs, and are very interesting to hear as a new style for maiden, also a much more varied album than the slightly boring x factor. Some Dickinson era fanboys will hate this album, however if you have an open mind, can appreciate a band tweaking and changing their sound, and have heard all the important 80's maiden albums, then this album is definitely worth checking out.
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VINE VOICEon 20 October 2010
Iron Maiden: Virtual XI

Maiden's tenth album was relatively successful and a return to form of sorts for the band, though most fans and critics were still unconvinced that the band could pull off another hit. With Virtual XI (their 11th album) the group continued to experiment, many of the songs feature keyboards, many are long, and a few are written largely by Bayley. The album though became their lowest selling and like the previous tour their shows were cut short. After the brief success of their last album it looked like this really was the end. The band seemed more focused on releasing compilations, companion computer games, playing football, and generally having fun as they neared retirement. This shows through on the recording with no constant themes or sounds holding sway and many songs appearing to be filler or stretched to longer times for no other reason than they could be. Only really one song from this album would feature largely in subsequent tours showing that even the band would rather put this one behind them.

`Futureal' gives the album a much needed high paced start. After the mostly mid paced last album it is refreshing to hear the galloping return. This was one of the successful songs from the album with Bruce taking over vocal duties as it continued to be played live in later tours. A catchy riff, chaotic overlapping solos, and frenetic drums give us hope that the rest of the album will be strong.

`The Angel And The Gambler' was one of the singles from the band and is just strange in every way. We have cowboy violins, jaunty rhythms which wouldn't sound out of place at a barn dance, and too much repetition. The melodies are ok but simplistic. The song could easily have been half the length or even shorter and still had the same effect.

`The Clansman' is the most popular song from the album, a dedication to freedom based on the Scottish battle for independence. It has a long intro with some memorable parts, sounds equally good whether sung by Blaze or Bruce, and has a big chorus and shifting pace. Though it was not released as a single it became the only song from the album to be played live beyond 2000. The song is long but doesn't suffer from the repetition found on many other songs here.

`Don't Look To The Eyes Of A Stranger' opens strongly with stirring strings and a nice lead guitar line. The song again is overlong with much repetition but the melodies are strong enough to make it less noticeable. The main problem is that the lyrics are repeated ad nauseum but this can hint at the paranoia Harris is speaking of concerning being a parent in a world of danger. The middle section picks the pace up well and is a strong head-banging part (thanks to the double kicked style drums in parts) before returning to the lazy refrain again.

`When Two Worlds Collide' is a decent enough track if a little mid paced and uninspired. The vocals are ok, as are the melodies and lyrics, and the solos are fairly standard. There is nothing special here, nothing particularly bad either.

`The Educated Fool' opens strongly with warm tones and a feeling of darkness. The melodies are catchy and there feels like there is a bit more energy and force here which is lacking on other tracks.

`Lightning Strikes Twice' is another middling song- average lyrics, not much melody, a few nice shifts in pace, but nothing to mark it out as good or bad.

`Como Estais Amigos' closes the album strongly with a ballad dedicated to the victims of the Falkland's War. This is one of the best Blaze era songs beginning with great melodies and a moody tone. As this is Maiden the guitars are never far away and join in the second verse. The song can also be read as a dedication to the Maiden fanbase who would usually deal with the common hurdles of being a metal fan as well as being a goodbye of sorts to and from Blaze.

And so we come to the end of both the Blaze are and the lost period from Maiden. They made four albums in this period, each of which had great songs and things to be recommended, but each of which lacked the class which the other Maiden releases have. This album follows with darker toned songs and in many cases slower and more simply constructed songs, done both to experiment and to suit Blaze's vocal style. Many of the tracks here will be forgotten, or else remembered as lacking energy, good writing, or some special moment. It didn't look like the band were going to make another good record, or possibly if they would even return to the studio at all. A change was just around the corner.
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on 10 October 2014
Not much to say but I cant stop listening to this album. I dont care what people say I really like Blaze. His voice is perfect for these songs, the songs are great especially Lightning Strikes Twice, When Two Worlds Collide, The Clansman, Futureal and The Educated Fool. The riffs are awesome too. Even if you prefer Bruce this is still fantastic work. Blaze's voice is as close to Bruce as it could be without actually being him.

Dont listen to the low scores. If you are a massive Iron Maiden fan and you accept that Bruce is not singing this album you will certainly like this album. This is probably my favourite IM album.
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