Album Review no.10: the X Factor - Iron Maiden

kempokid
The last time I talked about Iron Maiden, it was about the most overrated album that they ever made. This time, I'm going for what I consider to be one of the most underrated metal albums ever. I personally never saw much of a reason to hate Blaze, sure he isn't as good as Bruce, but he's still decent, and the music had a tone that I honestly preferred compared to the classic albums.

Sign of the Cross:
In a strange turn of events, a Maiden album begins with its epic. The buildup to the moment where Blaze bursts in is majestic, with the choir in the background as Steve Harris brings in a great bassline and Blaze sings softly. Once the main section of the song begins, the difference between old and new Maiden is apparent. This song feels much more restrained and tone focused than most of the songs from the previous albums (there are obviously exceptions, but in general, I feel like this point is fair). Once everything becomes quiet, the song becomes even better, as the haunting bassline and riffs kick in as the tempo shifts multiple times, with great solos and ever changing riffs take centre stage. This is definitely one of the better Maiden songs out there, and I feel that even if you don't like Blaze that much, you'll still get something out of this song.
10/10

Lord of the Flies:
After the complex, massive song that was Sign of the Cross, we get one of the simpler songs on the album. My immediate thoughts about this song were that it sounded quite different, with the more heavily distorted guitars in the intro. After this little oddity, the song becomes much more like a classic Maiden song. I absolutely adore this song, as Lord of the Flies is one of my favourite books ever written, and Blaze has some of his best vocal performance here. The riffs might be simplistic, but they definitely sound great. My favourite part of this song is the chorus, as well as Blaze sounding great, it's extremely catchy and fairly powerful. I definitely think that this was a great song to be included in the Rock in Rio album as well, because Bruce takes this song to a whole other level, but even as it stands, it is still an absolutely amazing song, and definitely the one I listen to most from this album.
10/10

Man on the Edge:
My immediate impressions on this song were how much it reminded me of Aces High. Even now, I still can't shake that comparison off completely. While the chorus doesn't sound anything like the one from Aces high, the vocal patterns in the verses bear a strong resemblance, at least to me. I find the solo to be decent, and the chorus to also be great, but I find the mastering of this song to be somewhat off, as I find the instruments to be slightly too loud. All in all, this is a pretty great song.
8/10

Fortunes of War:
The dark tone of this song honestly fits Blaze 50 times better than it does with Bruce. I can't see Bruce pulling off this song as well, and it honestly makes me want a version of Afraid to Shoot Strangers with Blaze. The song is extremely emotional and generally well done, but I have one concern with it, and that's the minute or so of the same riff and solo repeated, I think that you could have halved the amount of repeats of that section and make the song sound just as good. After that, the song is generally good, as Blaze beautifully sings and the rest of the instruments play amazingly. The other issue I have is how the second half of the song gets a tiny bit repetitive, but it only overstays its welcome by a small amount, so the song still ends up being great, as the positives greatly outweigh the negatives.
8/10

Look for the Truth:
The intro reminds me about the main riff in Fade to Black, which I find quite funny. The song shifts really nicely between the slow intro and the riff heavy, louder main section. Once again, Blaze sounds really good and full of emotion and the guitar solos stop anything from getting too repetitive.
9/10

The Aftermath:
I find this to be a more average song than the previous ones, there is nowhere near as much emotion in the song, and I find the consisent pace to be quite a drawback, because I found it to be a bit too slow. I don't mind the chorus, but I still think that it could have been done much better. The instrumental side of the track is very good and has a much darker sound compared to earlier Maiden, which is something that can be noticed all through this album. The latter half of the song is definitely better, but Blaze still lacks the power or emotion to make it great.
7/10

Judgement of Heaven:
This is much happier sounding song, despite the lyrical content. I find this to be a great breath of fresh air after the gloomier songs that came before this one. Also, this song sounds like a prototype version of the Thin Line Between Love and Hate, which I find to be interesting. The solos are great, the bass is really good, and the drumming is adequate. This song is definitely driven by the instrumentals, which is when I feel like this album shines most.
10/10

Blood on the World's Hands:
I really love the intro to this song, which sounds like what could be the start of a purely instrumental song, which is something that I miss from Iron Maiden. I find the riffs to be good and vocals to be of a high level of quality as well. There isn't anything in this song that I can really criticise.
10/10

The Edge of Darkness:
This is a personal favourite of mine, the song structure is very similar to that of Hallowed be Thy Name, the slow start, the explosion into a riff that sounds incredibly similar, the relative lack of other instrumentals when Blaze sings the main verses etc. Despite this comparison, I still find this song to make itself its own, for one thing, this is one of the few songs that has an incredible amount of energy put into it in the album, others being Sign of the Cross and Lord of the Flies. The solo filled second half is great, and the outro is amazing as well, with the song slowing back down until it eventually becomes quiet and ends.
10/10

2AM:
I find this to be one of the most memorable songs on the album, as well as one of the saddest. In an interesting twist of fate, the sad song in an Iron Maiden album isn't one about war. I find the lyrical content if this song to be great, as it focuses on a more down to earth topic compared to some of the grandiose epics of the past. The riffs are amazing, with a nice solo and great vocals to boot.
10/10

The Unbeliever:
The intro is nice and fun, and the first part that is sung uses some very bizarre rhythms.Despite the passion put into this song, I can't help but notice the occasional voice break by Blaze during certain sections of the song, namely "all my life". The solo is my favourite on the album except for some of the instrumental stuff in Sign of the Cross.This is definitely a time where the lack of Bruce is sorely felt, as I believe that his vocals would turn this song into an absolute masterpiece, rather than a great song. This was still the second best song to end the album on (Sign of the Cross would still work better).
8/10

6*10 + 2*9 +2* 8 + 7 - 9.3 = 92/100

Final Thoughts:
I honestly love this album, both for its individual merits and the way the sound of Iron Maiden was shaped past this point. From this point onwards, (Virtual XI not included) Iron Maiden evolved into an even more musically proficient band, songs became more atmospheric, more emotional, more epic. The album itself is also great, and I believe that it is one of the best flowing albums by Maiden. I recommend that you listen to it without the thoughts of Blaze replacing Bruce for a couple of albums, and instead listen to it as if it's a separate band entirely, more enjoyment will be found this way.

Comments

I actually love every Iron Maiden album, which does include Virtual XI. And I do agree that Sign Of The Cross would have worked much better as the closing track. - visitor

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