Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Iron Maiden - The X Factor (1995)

Iron Maiden's 10th album "The X Factor" is mostly recognized as the first record since the 1981 album "Killers" without Bruce Dickinson, who left the band to pursue a solo career. Instead, we have Blaze Bayley, who today is known as the singer of Wolfsbane, Blaze Bayley and the newly composed band The Foundry. A good replacement? Well, sadly no. No offense Blaze, you are a really good singer, but you do not have the same power and range like Dickinson have. So you would see that "The X Factor" was doomed from the very beginning.

Just by looking at the cover, where Eddie is being gruesomely tortured, you could already hint that "The X Factor" would become the darkest Maiden piece up to date. Just the fact that the band starts the album with the 11 minute epic "Sign of The Cross" is just dark and twisted. The song is good, but it is more suited as a closing song instead of a opener. And that song is a big proof that Bruce is a lot better on these epic and long notes then what Blaze will ever be.

"Sign of The Cross" is together with "Lord of The Flies" and "Man On The Edge" the most famous song on "The X Factor", and all of these three songs are first on this album. "Lord of The Flies" has a good riff and a catchy melody, while "Man On The Edge" emerges as a powder keg filled with a "Aces High" beat and a repetitive, but epic and great chorus.

So "The X Factor" is strong from the starting blocks, but it loses some of the momentum during the race. The sluggish "Fortunes of War" starts the downward slope, even if it picks up some speed in the end. The ride down continues with "Look For The Truth" and "The Aftermath", two very anonymous songs that needs heavy duty glue to stick onto my head.

But as the finish line is visible on the horizon, "The X Factor" picks up speed again and finally starts to deliver. First is "Judgement of Heaven" that impresses with its epic musicality and inspiring lyrical theme. Then we have the aggressive "Blood On The World's Hands" that has the best beat and the best vocal performance on this album, but the minute long slow start could have easily been skipped. The last song that leaves a standing impression on me is the emotional "2 AM" that has some of the best musical work on this album.

But the overall performance is weak. The darkness in this album weighs down the otherwise fantastic ingenuity that the band usually shows and Blaze's voice tries hard, but it cannot give the music that special dimension that Bruce's voice can. There are some bright spots in "Man On The Edge" and "Judgement of Heaven", but this album is just a very pale, dark rip off compared to the likes of "Powerslave" and "Seventh Son of A Seventh Son". If you are a Maiden fan or wish to look into the band's discography, take caution with this album. Because this is far from the Maiden that we know and love.

Songs worthy of recognition: Man On The Edge, Judgement of Heaven, Blood On The World's Hands

Rating: 4,5/10 Aftermaths

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