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3.7 out of 5 stars
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3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 24 May 2017
Virtual XI is not as long as X Factor but the songs are really good. I missed out on this album for years. Perhaps I am the educated fool, or uneducated fool for missing out on this gem for years.
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on 12 August 2017
Blaze sounds great. Love Futureal.
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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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The late '90s was an interesting time for Iron Maiden and their fans. With a huge amount of back lash to The X Factor, the band soldiered on with their follow up and second album with Blaze Bayley. The results whilst not perfect are no where near as bad as most fans will tell you.

If you're to listen to any Iron Maiden fans out there, this album is hands down their worst record available. Personally speaking, this album is miles above the likes of A Matter of Life And Death, Dance of Death and Piece of Mind (*gasp* I did just say that). The only major problem that would make fans not like this album is the lack of Bruce Dickinson, who could never sing these songs properly anyway. When in fact they should dislike this album because it is horribly brick walled. Audio distortion is noticeable on some of the heavier moments and it is a bit off putting.

The selection of songs here are pretty good over all. There is the two classics Futureal and The Clansman. The latter has an extremely cringe worthy chorus and would make any true Scotsman screw up their face in embarrassment. There are some other great tracks like Lightning Strikes Twice, When Two Worlds Collide and Como Estais Amigos. Each track for the most part are very well written and played. If it wasn't for the overly long The Angel and the Gambler, this album would have very good pacing. Unfortunately much like Iron Maiden's more recent material, this song is a good track that is five minutes longer then it should be. It is a waste of a good song and shame on Steve Harris for letting it go on the album like that.

I also fail to see where Blaze Bayley makes problems for Iron Maiden here. If anything it was the bands unwillingness to lower their over all tone for his voice that is the issue. He sings his heart out on every song and they suit him to the point, I honestly couldn't hear anyone else singing them. I have heard Bruce Dickinson singing a few tracks on recordings (and witnessed this in concert) but he really does not have the low range or the heart to sing them. Blaze is a man who has a strong low voice and uses it to his full potential on this album.

Stylistically this album is very similar to everything that came after it. The long extended numbers, some of which are drawn out much longer then they should be. An Iron Maiden fan can make all the excuses they want but this is a good solid effort that has a unique front man who puts on a career defining effort. Is it their best album? Not by a long shot, but it is a great follow up to the criminally under looked The X-Factor and itself deserved to be heard more.

Sadly the days of the band playing this material live even on CD is long gone. Iron Maiden have been trying to re-write their history for years now pretending that Blaze Bayley didn't exist. Well I'll tell you, if you compare their recent material to his previous solo material, it could possibly be the biggest creative mistake they've ever made.

Published by Steven Lornie of Demonszone
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on 15 June 2017
‘Virtual XI’ came out when I was 15 and I was obsessed with Iron Maiden. Maiden were the first band I fell in love with and while I was too young to fully appreciate the X Factor, I was totally on board for ‘Virtual XI’. The album was, to my 15-year old ears, perfect. The songs were epic in length and scope, there were plenty of guitar licks and solos and I memorised all the lyrics. I didn't care that Blaze wasn't Bruce, all I cared was that Iron Maiden were making music.

Today I’m a grizzled old 35 year old cynic. I have enjoyed the direction Iron Maiden have taken since Bruce and Adrian rejoined in 1999, especially ‘Dance of Death’ and ‘A Matter of Life and Death’. Re-listening to ‘Virtual XI’ is always a little painful. It isn’t that Blaze is a bad singer, it’s simply that he is weaker than Bruce. Blaze cannot carry the cheesy choruses and anthems like ‘The Clansman’. To compound matters, far too many of the songs simply feature the same phrase repeated over and over and over again. This is certainly the most repetitive Maiden release. Each time Blaze repeats himself it is like he is trying to nail the delivery and for some reason they decided to include the outtakes. This is most noticeable on ‘The Angel and the Gambler’, which sounds like a band spending 10 minutes rehearsing a 3-minute song.

Other tracks have their own shortcomings. ‘Futureal’ is a mess. The lyrics are absolute gibberish and I’m always flabbergasted that people look on this as a highlight of the album. ‘Lightning Strikes Twice’ contains some interesting guitar work that points to the proggy direction Maiden would take on ‘A Matter of Life and Death’, but the lyrics are rubbish and the whole song feels like it is a few bpm too slow. ‘The Clansman’ is the obligatory Steve Harris anthem and is the obvious standout track here. ‘When Two Worlds Collide’ has some really interesting ideas – in places it sounds more like a rock tune and the clean guitar works really well. Though I doubt it was intended to be a reference to Seinfeld, I will forever associate the two (‘You’re killing independent George! The anger the pain!’) ‘The Educated Fool’ starts strong, but by about 2 and a half minutes is just a mess. ‘Don’t Look to the Eyes of a Stranger’ is very similar to ‘Lightning Strikes Twice’ – some interesting and gloomy guitars twist and turn while the song builds to a nice climax and some lengthy and satisfying guitar work ruined by lyrics that sound like they were written on the bag of a beer mat down the pub. ‘Como Estas Amigos’ is a lovely ballad to round out the album.

The loss of two key songwriters (Dickinson and Smith) who offered a different dynamic and sense of pacing to Harris meant that by 1998 the band were on life-support. ‘Virtual XI’ is testament to the fact that Harris could write decent music in his sleep and that his passion for the band got them through some really difficult times.

P.S. all the West Ham stuff in the insert – too cheesy, even by Maiden standards, come on!
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on 1 June 2016
Many fans felt disappointed with the X-Factor leading to a radical change in direction with the release of Virtual XI, and the results, even worse

Track 1: Futureal - A track that is actually a decent one, fast and frantic, Murray and Gers are given room to perform some furious riffs after such restraint on The X-Factor, Full of energy and punchy vocals from Blaze, Futureal is a strong start to the album

Track 2: The Angel and the Gambler - Oh how the might have fallen, The Angel and the Gambler is in my opinion the worst track Maiden have ever included in a studio release, the downright cringe inducing riffs introduce the track before Blaze butchers some already admittedly awful lyrics, feeling like the credits to a mid-2000's Adam Sandler comedy, The track goes on far too long and feels so cheap and tacky it's hard to believe it is Maiden

Track 3: Lightning Strikes Twice - An improvement from Angel and the Gambler, sure, however Lightning Strikes Twice is almost laughably bad, Blaze sounds like an over enthusiastic narrator from a radio serial, after a rather promising intro the track dips into mundanity and a quality rarely ever dipped into by Maiden

Track 4: The Clansman - A fantastic song that utilises an Acoustic Bass in the intro the forbode the vast nature of the song and it works beautifully, sounding like a song Maiden would later produce taking a lot of Proggressive inspiration, paced fantastically as mini mid-album epic, With Balze even doing a good job, and the duo of Murray and Gers stealing the show during their solos, some fantastic lyrics and an incredibly Rock in Rio version, The Clansman is a gem among rocks

Track 5: When Two Worlds Collide - Not on the level of Angel and the Gambler but the track lyrics often comes off as something from a small time indie band rather than Maiden, the intro is tough to get through and the chorus never really goes anyway despite some nice production and guitar work

Track 6: The Educated Fool - Slow and dare I say boring, the way Blaze sings the track is so easy to make fun of it's almost embarrassing to listen too, a lack of powerful lyrics and performance from blaze makes the seviceable production even more mundane than it would be regardless

Track 7: Don't Look into the Eyes of a Stranger - A strange intro leads to what is ultimately 8 minutes of tripe in which Blaze and the rest of the boys think of the songs own self importance higher than it actually is, a shame really, the production is impressive yet the song itself isn't good enough to be worth it

Track 8: Como Estais Amigos - Simmilar to 2 AM from The X-Factor, an absolutely mesmerising introduction riff compliments Blaze's best ever performance with Maiden and some truly heartfelt lyrics, while Murray and Gers show appreciable restraint leading to some very emotional chords, while McBrain's drumming compliments this all ramps up the tension, a standout amongst a poor album

Overall Virtual XI remains Maiden's worst ever output, 3 Great tracks can't salvage it from mediocrity, but with Blaze out, and the Return of Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith creating a 6 piece that Would define Maiden to this day, what was next?
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on 12 June 2017
This is probably the weakest Maiden album - still in my top 30 though!

'The Clansman' is a brilliant song - in Maiden's top 10 for me.

'Futureal' is full of energy and I would like it to be given another live outing.

'Como estais amigo' is another I really like

The 'angel and the gambler' is competing with 'the apparition' for the title of worst maiden song though.

Perhaps releasing 'Virus', 'justice of the peace' and 'judgement day' as non-album tracks was a luxury Maiden couldn't really afford - could have had them on here - all good songs.
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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 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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