The X-Factor Never before and after, Maiden was disliked by so many people as in the period of 1995-1998: The Blaze years. For many young people this is perhaps strange to comprehend. They seem to appreciate this era, just like young people at that time, who grew up with Maiden in the nineties. Like me for instance. I didn’t understand so much disgust. So many people who loved them in the eighties turned their back on Maiden. There’s still some of them on this forum, I bet. Nothing terribly wrong with turning your back on a band, but I find it important to illustrate this, because in my mind it’s hard to separate it, when thinking about The X-Factor. People who knew Maiden since the eighties and who still liked the Blaze years at that time were rare species, especially on the internet (Baeleron had furious newsgroup battles with the worst haters, to defend Blaze and the band. Maverick also appreciated this era, which can be seen in the Commentary). A lof of (especially European and South American) gigs were still very crowded. Most people still cared to see a Maiden gig, which has always been a special experience. But a majority of the media and the fans didn’t like the Blaze albums, especially because of Blaze’s voice, the build-up of the songs, and the musical climate in these years. Looking back, Janick couldn’t illustrate it in a better way with the following words: “…X Factor I felt was a great album. Wasn’t well-received at the time. The grunge thing had happened, and every rock artist was canceling tours right across America. We went out and we played and we were the most unfashionable band at the time in the world, but we still went out and did the gigs and we enjoyed ourselves, and we thought we had a good album. See you go out and you play, and you make an album, and you hope the people like it, and if they do like it, got bless them, and the people that don’t, well, God bless them too." I remember that The X-Factor review in Aardschok magazine was very negative. It said that the songs were too long, started too slow with too long and calm intros. Nowadays those same reviewers don't seem to bother about other albums with long intros. They rave about Opeth and every band with long songs has suddenly become fantastic. Anyway, I never had a problem with longer intros. Afraid to Shoot Strangers and Fear of the Dark also contained these. On The X-Factor Nicko does a very nice job, and the drumsound is also good. Apart from Somewhere in Time and A Matter of Life or Death I even like this drumsound the most from all the Maiden albums. About the whole sound, I read often that people dislike the mix of the album. Everyone his own opinion, but I truly hear that the music (esp. guitars and drums) does not sound as thin as in Virtual IX, Fear of the Dark and even Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. I think it’s the 2nd best sounding album of the nineties (I prefer No Prayer for the Dying soundwise). The solos also have something special. This is the only studio album where you can hear Dave’s solos from the left speaker and Janick’s from the right. TXF's haunting, moody atmosphere was majorily caused by Steve who went through some hard times in his private life. It’s a big quality of this album, and makes it enjoyable to listen to it without a single pause. For such a long record (over 70 minutes!) that’s a rare thing these days, when loose songs are more important than whole albums. The second half of the album is very strong, and perhaps also most underrated. I have always liked two songs that haven't been mentioned much in the past: Judgement of Heaven & The Unbeliever. The mid-sections of The Educated Fool and No More Lies are in my ears clear rip-offs of the mid-section of Judgement of Heaven. I'd say The Unbeliever is one of the most interesting things Maiden have ever done! These acoustic guitars parts in the bridges, the instrumental mid-section with the boneshivering solos and almost tribal drumming, really superb! I was never a huge fan of the studio version of The Edge of Darkness, but I remember it was surprisingly nice and way heavier, hearing it live in concert, back in 1995, and the song has a nice acceleration (like in Hallowed Be Thy Name). 2 AM is a nice moody ballad with a typical Janick solo (a la Wasting Love & Como Estais Amigos) and I love the atmosphere and the solos in the strong Blood in the World's Hands. To end this in a more positive way than the beginning of this post: This album is getting more and more recognition, and I'm very glad about that. It took a while, but it has the potential to be one of the most loved Maiden records of their whole discography. I hope that Maiden will feel that as well. Let’s hope they will perform another track of it in the future!