Blaze Bayley, good or bad?

Which was the better album; The X-Factor or Virtual XI


  • Total voters
    86

Infinite17

Invader
I'm going to amend my comment above... Been listening to alot of X Factor the past few days and Blaze's voice is actually beginning to grow on me a bit. Been giving the album multiple full through listens, with headphones, and enjoying it.
 
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Wästed The Great

Minister Of Chicks, Metal&Beer; Cool & Froody Dude
Staff member
I'm gonna go Mod for a minute. I know there is a lot of joking going on here, but Forum Rules do require that you post something of meaning. I'd accept the 'jaw drop' with something following it. This isn't going to develop into madness or it will live there.
 

2Mins

Educated Fool
I'm gonna go Mod for a minute. I know there is a lot of joking going on here, but Forum Rules do require that you post something of meaning. I'd accept the 'jaw drop' with something following it. This isn't going to develop into madness or it will live there.

Apologies. I find it jaw-droppingly surprising that anyone could think X Factor and VXI are better than DoD, AMOLAD and TFF. I like Blaze's voice when it's used on material that is written for/with/by him. But it is more limited than Bruce's. I also like Janick's playing, but find it more limited than H's. I like Steve's songwriting, but find it more limited than the combined songwriting of Steve, Bruce and H. The variety, creativity, musicianship, songwriting, production and energy of the post-reunion stuff, to me, blows away the two Blaze albums. And I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking that.
 

Wästed The Great

Minister Of Chicks, Metal&Beer; Cool & Froody Dude
Staff member
Merci. :)

And I agree with you on your statements. Personally, I would have said that SSOASS was the peak of awesome in Maiden's catalog. Until a couple years back when AMOLAD hit my face. The last four albums, to me, have been an amazing run of awesome from a band that started it's career with an amazing run of awesome.
 

Forostar

Ancient Mariner
I find that the songwriting and creativity on The X-Factor was less limited than on most songs from subsequent albums. I find the album more original, less predictable. It's deep, dark and atmospheric.

I think that the album should be judged by its own merits. When I listen to TXF or VXI I totally don't think of Bruce, nor Adrian. I don't need to, I don't even want to compare with them. These albums were made without them, and that's it. I guess I had the urge to compare with Bruce in 1995 (not Adrian, since he was gone for a long time already) when TXF came out, but hey, we're 19 years further now.

Was Blaze a bad performer?
No

Was Blaze a bad singer?
No

Was Blaze a bad singer when it comes to 1980s Bruce era songs and other high parts in some other songs?
Yes

If interested: a full account of how I experienced Blaze live:
I have seen Blaze solo thrice, but also two times with Maiden, in 1995 and 1998.

What was it like? Well, back in 1995, it was only the second Maiden concert I visited. I had seen the band one time before that, and that was in 1992. I didn't see the band in the eighties, so I didn't have a huge "Bruce concert past" as many older people around that time. I was 20, and I was just terribly excited to see the band, and -in a time without internet- I was mighty curious about the songs. So the whole thing was more about the gig and the music, than about Blaze. To be honest, I'd seen Blaze on MTV (Ray Cokes!) doing Man On The Edge and Wrathchild and that went very good. Blaze had a different voice, maybe even a different approach than the other singers but as long as it sounded good, it was OK for me. The Di'Anno material certainly fitted his voice well. Also his own songs went pretty good. Someone earlier in this topic said that the TXF songs sounded so much better live than the studio versions. This was true, but believe me: this is the case with most Maiden songs.

Blaze came across as a humble and motivated person, with as much fire in the eyes as Bruce.
It showed he was in a band he loved and he respected the audience very much. I liked his performance, but the 1980s Bruce-era songs were hard to do for him. Too high for his range. Why do I say 1980s Bruce-era, and not just Bruce-era? You'll see that later*. During the concert it didn't show that much (I was at least as focused on the other guys, and very in awe to see Maiden again), but listening to bootlegs it's easier to focus on it.

From the regular TXF-tour setlist the following songs went not that good or even very bad:

Heaven Can Wait
The Evil That Men Do
2 Minutes to Midnight
The Clairvoyant
The Number of the Beast
Hallowed Be Thy Name

These songs went from pretty OK to very good:

Man On The Edge
Wrathchild
Lord of the Flies
Fortunes of War
Blood on the World's Hands
Afraid to Shoot Strangers
The Aftermath
Sign of the Cross
The Edge of Darkness
Fear of the Dark
Iron Maiden
Running Free

From the non-Blaze era songs I particularly remember that he was very good in Wrathchild, Fear of the Dark* and also Afraid to Shoot Strangers*. From the TXF songs, I thought he did Man on the Edge and Blood on the World's Hands the best.

Three years later, Maiden was back. This time I stood closer to the stage and had a very good view on Blaze and the other moving band members. Blaze looked much more comfortable in his role as frontman and the band was (as always) on fire. I remember a particular awesome part in the set where Sign of the Cross, Afraid to Shoot Strangers and Hallowed Be Thy Name were played in a row! :blink:

This time I'll focus on the songs which went not good, or (very) bad:

Lightning Strikes Twice (he couldn't do the chorus)
Heaven Can Wait
2 Minutes To Midnight
Hallowed Be Thy Name
The Evil That Men Do

Of course, in other songs he had some edgy moments, but such things are only notable on bootlegs. Again I was in awe of seeing the band, and I swear, that even though I realized that Blaze didn't do some songs that well, I was still happy with the performance and I didn't mind he was in the band. At the time I liked both Blaze albums, but now I am more critical with VXI.

Judgement:

Was Blaze a bad performer?
No

Was Blaze a bad singer?
No

Was Blaze a bad singer when it comes to 1980s Bruce era songs and other high parts in some other songs?
Yes

The setlist didn't do much good. Even though these difficult songs were less than the half of the set, these were the moments many people remember. Especially the people who only compared Blaze with Bruce and who didn't want to accept Blaze as a new singer, joining Maiden in a new chapter of the book.

Other aspects (taken from Blaze's official biography) Blaze had to deal with: failing techniques (soundwise), short rehearsing time, and he had to deal with an annoying roady, I think it was a monitor man.

Blaze himself did his utter best but he had to work in difficult circumstances and he had to deal with an enormous legacy. I really wish people would read his biography. It gives honest insight into his world at the time.

Despite all the criticism, right before and after he was replaced, the first time I saw Blaze solo, after his debut, I was immediately convinced that he was a good performer, and singer.

More on The X-Factor:
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!

On Virtual XI:
Virtual XI
According to Blaze's biography Maiden waited long with recording this album and when it finally happened they didn't take much time. He felt it was done in a rush.

Maybe this is why the songs don't contain as many details as in other songs. Big disappointment is Nicko. Nicko's drums are the dullest from all the records (he touches his toms 4 or 5 times on the whole album). I remember he said in an interview that he did that on purpose to give the music more room. But it didn't make the music more attractive. People have made some funny comments about it: Steve Harris had done the drums himself. ;-)
Nonsense of course, but when I was in Stockholm I actually saw an album by an artist called Steve Harris and he was the drummer!
Speaking of drums, Nicko's Muppet drums in the fast part of the instrumental section in Don't Look to Eyes of a Stranger are unforgivable.

Another critic of the time was that the album sounded like a demo, and not even one that was recorded well. In the album review I read the album's sound was compared with Helloween's Better Than Raw album, and it was trashed. I don't have much of a problem with the production sound. It's a warm sound, especially the rhythm guitars are roaring nicely from the speakers (or headphones).

I feel that there is a number of unoriginal moments on the album. A bit too easily Maiden fell back on things they did before. This happened on most of the later records as well but this was the start of it.

Remarkably this album only features one song by Janick Gers. Perhaps he had a writing block of some sort, but looking at his impact on the previous records (especially The X-Factor), I feel that the album might have suffered from the lack of his input. Thank God his playing was not blocked: He did one of his best guitar solos on The Clansman.

Virtual XI also contains some spellbinding moments. Take for instance the intros of Lightning Strikes Twice and The Educated Fool!

In 1998 Blaze looked comfortable in his role as frontman and the band was on fire. Apart from the chorus of Lightning, the rest of the VXI-material went down very well.

I can enjoy the album (a few years back I gave a 7,4 for it!) but I simply do not find it as striking as most other stuff Maiden has done.

And if you're in for some more jawdropping, check how high some TXF songs score in my top 50 (song reviews included in the topic):
http://forum.maidenfans.com/threads/forostars-top-50-iron-maiden-songs.22023/
 
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Mosh

Winner of the 2020 Dumbest Comment Ever Award
Staff member
Even when not comparing Blaze to Bruce, I don't find Blaze to be a particularly good singer. In fact, the only reason I listen to him anyway is because he was in Iron Maiden and I like the songwriting on his early solo albums. So if anything, his time in Maiden has made me more of a fan of his than I'd be otherwise. I don't compare the two much anyway, besides when Blaze is singing Bruce's material or vice versa. Because what's the point otherwise?

That said, Bruce set a really high standard when he was with Maiden. For many, Blaze didn't even meet that standard. Obviously there is going to be some disappointment. Honestly I don't consider hiring Blaze to be a smart move. I respect them for not going the easy route and getting a Bruce clone, but they could've still found a unique singer who at least had the range and maybe stage presence (which is more important than it seems made out to be).
 

Crimson Idol

Caveman
Even when not comparing Blaze to Bruce, I don't find Blaze to be a particularly good singer. In fact, the only reason I listen to him anyway is because he was in Iron Maiden and I like the songwriting on his early solo albums. So if anything, his time in Maiden has made me more of a fan of his than I'd be otherwise. I don't compare the two much anyway, besides when Blaze is singing Bruce's material or vice versa. Because what's the point otherwise?

That said, Bruce set a really high standard when he was with Maiden. For many, Blaze didn't even meet that standard. Obviously there is going to be some disappointment. Honestly I don't consider hiring Blaze to be a smart move. I respect them for not going the easy route and getting a Bruce clone, but they could've still found a unique singer who at least had the range and maybe stage presence (which is more important than it seems made out to be).

Agreed. I first checked out Blaze when I was still very fresh into Maiden and didn't know much beyond the contents of Eddie the Great, and I liked Silicon Messiah quite a bit. I'd heard the majority of Maiden's work at that point but the only things from their time with Blaze was Man on the Edge and Futureal.

He really was a terrible choice for Maiden though, whilst a Bruce clone may have been the easier option it's also the more sensible, the single best option would be to get someone who sounded similar to Bruce but with enough of a difference that you could tell it wasn't the same person. That way people who were concerned when Bruce left could've checked out new Maiden - live or otherwise - and found it felt familiar but still with that something new... like Coke with lemon! No one seems to be insulting Queensryche for getting a Tate clone (yes yes, old Tate), because it makes sense to get someone who sings the existing material well, although personally I do think he's a bit TOO much of a clone that it almost feels they are reluctant to move forward. Thing is, had Maiden had a more suitable singer they might have remained successful through the 90's, kept the singer, and we'd not have the last 4 awesome albums... but who knows, perhaps the alternatives would've been better :eek: We'll never know!

As for creativity on the two Blaze albums, the reins may have been looser but (although I am in the minority on this here) I don't find that additional variation helped much. It's not Blaze that puts me off those albums, I just don't find the vast majority of it to be memorable, the production doesn't help either but ultimately the song writing - creative or not - just doesn't agree with me.
 

Mosh

Winner of the 2020 Dumbest Comment Ever Award
Staff member
The problem with Queensryche though is they've essentially become a nostalgia act. Which works for them since none of their recent material (s/t included) is any good.But I'm glad Maiden never went that route, hiring a clone and trying to recapture old glories. TXF and VXI are good albums and you have to give them credit for moving forward and experimenting. I just think they could've picked a better singer.

A better example would be Judas Priest I think. I know a lot of people say Ripper is a Halford clone but I really disagree. The Ripper has a very different sounding voice and the only real similarity is their range, which makes sense. You should get someone who can sing the past singer's material. The Ripper was the perfect replacement IMO and Jugulator was pretty much them continuing what they were doing with Painkiller, so they didn't become a nostalgia act either the way QR did.
 

Forostar

Ancient Mariner
Even when not comparing Blaze to Bruce, I don't find Blaze to be a particularly good singer.
If I have to choose between the topic options then I'd say I find his singing good. This for example:

Whole album:
Not the best singer out there but what he does fits so well to the music he's on. Listen to him on Lightning Strikes Twice or The Educated Fool. What he does in the beginnings of those songs I find it very good, honestly. Also on Virus, The Unbeliever and Blood on the World's Hands (this one is imo his best in Maiden), Sign of the Cross, Lord of the Flies, Fortunes of War, The Aftermath, Futureal.... Some great singing out there.
 
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Crimson Idol

Caveman
A better example would be Judas Priest I think. I know a lot of people say Ripper is a Halford clone but I really disagree. The Ripper has a very different sounding voice and the only real similarity is their range, which makes sense. You should get someone who can sing the past singer's material. The Ripper was the perfect replacement IMO and Jugulator was pretty much them continuing what they were doing with Painkiller, so they didn't become a nostalgia act either the way QR did.

I agree, I think Ripper was a fantastic fit. The change in writing was a mix of them trying a new direction to fit with the vocalist (tuning down included) and that their previous writing team had always been Tipton/Downing/Halford, and had now lost a part of that. I've always been surprised that Jugulator did so bad comercially, Demolition was worse but even that I find better than people give it credit for.
 

Mosh

Winner of the 2020 Dumbest Comment Ever Award
Staff member
Jugulator would've been greatly received if it had Halford on vocals. It sucks that people wrote off Priest because that record lived up to Painkiller in every way IMO.
 

THESEVENTHMARINER

Ancient Mariner
I have to say, in the three years I've been listening to Maiden, I've neglected the Blaze era a lot. Until only recently I only listened to Sign of the Cross from Rock In Rio.

But about a month or two ago, I decided to give Virtual XI and The X-Factor a listen. And it struck me how much of a fool I was being in the past three years. The two albums he did with Maiden are incredible albums in their own right, yeah even Virtual XI.

The tracks that really stand out to me has to be, The Clansman, When Two Worlds Collide, Sign of the Cross, Lord of the Flies, Look For The Truth, The Aftermath and Judgement of Heaven.

Blaze is massively underrated and doesn't get the praise he deserves. So yeah, he's definitely good!

:)
 
Apologies. I find it jaw-droppingly surprising that anyone could think X Factor and VXI are better than DoD, AMOLAD and TFF. I like Blaze's voice when it's used on material that is written for/with/by him. But it is more limited than Bruce's. I also like Janick's playing, but find it more limited than H's. I like Steve's songwriting, but find it more limited than the combined songwriting of Steve, Bruce and H. The variety, creativity, musicianship, songwriting, production and energy of the post-reunion stuff, to me, blows away the two Blaze albums. And I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking that.

I like DOD. I find the melodies on AMOLAD & TFF incredibly dull and lifeless. I also think the solos on VXI clobber any on the last two albums, as I find very few of them memorable. I do wish Bruce would write more lyrics, as Starblind is incredible in that regard.
 

JackKnife

A Vivid example of masculine pulchritude
I wouldn't say that Virus is bad, but it's too long and it lacks energy. The production far too poor for a Maiden track. It's a pity because compositions involving all band members are not common.
 
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