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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