Review of the Album Virtual XI by British Heavy Metal Band Iron Maiden
The Number 11 Representing That This Is Iron Maiden's 11th Studio Album
Virtual XI is a Much Better Album Than Many Fans of Iron Maiden Think
Virtual XI is one of those studio albums by British heavy metal band Iron Maiden that more than likely will be forgotten by the majority of the band's fans and basically swept under the rug. As a fan of this band since at least the middle of the 1990s I decided to give this one a listen, review, and analysis. This album is the return of vocalist Blaze Bayley and I heard a few of the album's songs LIVE when I saw Iron Maiden perform and at that time, Bayley was still the vocalist for Iron Maiden.
One Quality That Makes Virtual XI a Solid Album
This album at least for me shows a certain level of vocal maturity from Blaze Bayley and even though most of the songs are longer than 5 minutes, an avid heavy metal fan could sit through this album and manage. The sound is very modern yet there is the definite feel of this being a standard heavy metal sounding album. Just like “The X Factor” Virtual XI has a lot of interesting sounding soft parts such as in the song called The Clansman. The beginning of this song has a sort of resemblance musically to Infinite Dreams however it is not as good as that song obviously. There is a good, soft, contrast between the instruments. When the song gets heavy and Blaze shouts the word “freedom” that tells me that he is capable of singing high enough without straining himself.
Iron Maiden is a band that has been able to grow, adapt, and evolve successfully even without Bruce Dickinson
Iron Maiden has been able to evolve and adapt even when Bruce Dickinson left for the first time in 1993. They were able to manage without him pretty well, so that's why they are Iron Maiden. I personally prefer Iron Maiden's music over that of Judas Priest, another longtime British heavy metal band. They stuck to their roots and did not change their style of play to become trendy though they have gotten much commercial success.
Other Reasons to Give Virtual XI a Chance
“When Two Worlds Collide” is one of the songs from this album that I had not heard previously but as usual the album's style of having songs start off soft and then building up works just fine. Lyrically, the song tells us of a scenario where there may be a critical situation that may put the state of Planet Earth in grave danger. I like the era of Iron Maiden from 1994 through 1999 as well but it cannot compare to the time period of 1983 through 1992, a time period where I feel that Iron Maiden was at its peak even if there was much frustration expressed by Steve Harris about the album No Prayer for the Dying in 1990. Virtual XI has a very good modern sound, good vocals, and good songwriting for the time period which it was written. A true Iron Maiden fan will appreciate this album. Yes, Blaze Bayley will not be Bruce Dickinson but looking back, Iron Maiden needed a change of vocalists for a while to get their frustrations off of their chests so that the tension that ensued in the early 1990s with Bruce could cool down. Blaze Bayley does not whine or try to over strain himself and I can appreciate that for sure. He sings properly and he does a far better job than say Ozzy Osbourne for instance. Not everyone will be happy with Virtual XI so it is almost like how Metallica fans will resent load and Re-Load because they are different from other heavier releases. Even the repetition in the song Don't Look to the Eyes of a Stranger isn't annoying to drive you crazy. It is just how Iron Maiden constructed that song. Virtual XI is the band's 11th studio album and it would be the last one to have Bayley on vocals but he made a strong kind of exit from this band and he may be underappreciated but his talent is clear especially in the song Futureal.
Why the Song Futureal Makes Virtual XI Memorable
The song Futureal has a good riff that the band Machine Men would use throughout their career. Can we believe what we hear, see, or feel? What is real? What is fake? The song lyrically questions the validity of many things in this world. We cannot believe everything that we hear, see, or feel because it is not genuine. The song in terms of its length is the same as Wrathchild and that one is a classic song but Futureal is a great start to an album that will be overlooked and even despised but that is a real shame because this album is a solid one and one of Iron Maiden's best!
© 2020 Ara Vahanian