The Problem with the X-Factor?

Murder of Rue Morgue

Educated Fool
Is there really a problem with The X Factor? Let's see.
The vocals? No, Blaze did a great job singing those dark songs. Bruce is technically better but the emotion Blaze puts in there is just perfect.
The songs? No, apart from Look For The Truth (which is just a good song, nothing more, nothing less) every song featured here is either very good, great or amazing.
The production? No, it fits the dark theme very well.
You have very low standards.
 

Ascendingthethrone

Educated Fool
I think it is a brilliant album. It is best enjoyed listening from start to finish. The atmosphere sucks you in. I find that the songs are best enjoyed this way rather than being in the middle of a playlist. I think it is the only Maiden album like this (possibly AMOLAD).
 

Diesel 11

As you scream into the web of silence...
TXF is a perfect album to me. It’s about the experience, not about the recording. If I were to look at things objectively, I could make a case against the production, aspects to Blaze’s voice, Steve’s lyricism, etc. Yet I listen to music for the experience it gives me, and TXF has helped me a lot in some dark moments. I can’t see it as anything but a perfect album, and second only to Powerslave in my rankings. So subjectively, no, there’s nothing I would change about it.

To @karljant ‘s point: Bruce adds a new dynamic to the songs live, but I wouldn’t trade Blaze for him on the studio album. Blaze’s voice adds to the whole experience.
 

karljant

Ancient Mariner
TXF is a perfect album to me. It’s about the experience, not about the recording. If I were to look at things objectively, I could make a case against the production, aspects to Blaze’s voice, Steve’s lyricism, etc. Yet I listen to music for the experience it gives me, and TXF has helped me a lot in some dark moments. I can’t see it as anything but a perfect album, and second only to Powerslave in my rankings. So subjectively, no, there’s nothing I would change about it.

To @karljant ‘s point: Bruce adds a new dynamic to the songs live, but I wouldn’t trade Blaze for him on the studio album. Blaze’s voice adds to the whole experience.
I must reiterate that I can´t see anything wrong with the production (not on par with several others such as Killers, Somewhere In Time and Seventh Son but still pretty damn good) and can't see how Blaze and Steve's lyrics can be overlooked. There's some really good stuff there (either the movie/ books takes either original lyrics... perhaps the only exception being the somehow simplistic approach of BOTWA but nothing to be ashamed of).
When it comes to Bruce singing TXF material... well... agree to disagree. Not only I think Bruce can pull the somber undertones but also could bring something more that wouldn't break the album's atmosphere but empower it even more.
 

karljant

Ancient Mariner
I think it is a brilliant album. It is best enjoyed listening from start to finish. The atmosphere sucks you in. I find that the songs are best enjoyed this way rather than being in the middle of a playlist. I think it is the only Maiden album like this (possibly AMOLAD).
Yup. AMOLAD is definitely the other dark album from the band. Not as somber as TXF but songs like These Colors Don't Run, The Legacy and especially Benjamin Breeg and Thousand Suns are really dark portraits of human nature.
 

MindRuler

Ancient Mariner
I must reiterate that I can´t see anything wrong with the production (not on par with several others such as Killers, Somewhere In Time and Seventh Son but still pretty damn good) and can't see how Blaze and Steve's lyrics can be overlooked. There's some really good stuff there (either the movie/ books takes either original lyrics... perhaps the only exception being the somehow simplistic approach of BOTWA but nothing to be ashamed of).
When it comes to Bruce singing TXF material... well... agree to disagree. Not only I think Bruce can pull the somber undertones but also could bring something more that wouldn't break the album's atmosphere but empower it even more.
I'd take the production of The X Factor over almost any album they did afterwards.
 

Black Bart

Ancient Mariner
My two cents on what "the problem with the X Factor" is:

Intrisincally, I think it was John Kalodner (or Keith Olsen?) who said that , according to him, it all boils down to three things, in this order: 1) the songs 2) the performance 3) the sound.
Well, the sound is clear and fits the mood of the songs.
As regards the performances: although nobody in Maiden is an elite musician (especially when Bruce was not there), they are exceptional team players, which is most of the time even more profitable than being an excellent instrumentalist, especially in the genre. Yet, Blaze showed limitations, even in the studio (just listen to how "the name of the rose" comes out). Since he was the focal point of this album, it actually was a problem. I am of the opinion that it is not really his fault since the keys in which the songs were played (and/or the melodies he was asked to sing on them) did not suit his voice... but that's another kettle of fish.
Where they couldn't win with this album is, in my opinion, mostly because of what makes the success of a band in the end: the songs themselves. The only song that comes close to "a hit" is eleven minutes long... and it ultimately reached this status thanks to another singer. Besides, a lot of songs ressemble each other (all the songs written inside the "Afraid to Shoot Strangers" mould) and those which do not ("The Unbeliever" and "Blood on the World's Hands") are very difficult to get into for a casual listener, whose attention a band the status of Maiden will necessarily attract, and least temporarily. While the album contains good ideas, it lacked the right artistic direction: Steve Harris, who was not in a good frame of mind back then, basically did what he wanted without the redeeming "editorial checks and balances" provided by Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith (which may explain why AMOLAD is so popular, though it is not a favourite of mine - I prefer when Maiden weaves lighter atmospheres- but that is not the question either).

Apart from that, they also couldn't win because they were swimming against the fashion tides, even though it can be brought to their credit. The press was out for blood, back then, with bands which enjoyed success in the 80s and who were "insolent" enough not to disband in the early 90s. Maiden were so "yesterday's news" and "uncool" back then - even if the mood of the album somewhat tended to suit the depressing trend of the times- that their chances to win mainstream popularity with this album were meagre, especially in the US where the promoters clearly showed a lack of support by programming them in 500-seat theaters.

Of course, I get all those impressions in retrospect. I discovered Maiden basically just when Bruce left and by the time TXF was released, I was a completist fan. The anticipation was huge and I felt slightly disappointed by the album (certainly because I expected something closer to what they did before) though not long after, the album started to grow on me, but never to reach the albums released before it in my appreciation.

Finally, the cover itself: at least, the band took a risk (possibly motivated by a desire to bow to the tastes of the times and look more "adult")...but it backfired enormously when some shops refused to put this picture on the shelves. The one they were left with (Eddie on the electric chair, from afar) was not good enough for their standards, not to mention the disappointment for the fans who couldn't stomach Eddie not being drawn.

In retrospect, it is not even a question that Bruce and Adrian's return (and to some extent Derek's) saved Maiden.
 
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karljant

Ancient Mariner
Blaze showed limitations, even in the studio (just listen to how "the name of the rose" comes out). Since he was the focal point of this album, it actually was a problem.
100% agreed... Blaze was under the spotlight with huge shoes to fill and that magnified every single aspect of his performance. Plus there's the "cult of personality" hangover factor... People tend to linger to the original/previous singer's voice even when they're replaced by excellent frontmen (Dio, Owens, Bush and even Dickinson for some people are excellent examples). When they're replaced with more limited ones the reaction is understandably more negative.
I am of the opinion that it is not really his fault since the keys in which the songs were played (and/or the melodies he was asked to sing on them) did not suit his voice
Once again I totally concur: adopting a drop D tune would've work wonders and make the record even darker.
The only song that comes close to "a hit" is eleven minutes long... and it ultimately reached this status thanks to another singer. Besides, a lot of songs ressemble each other (...) and those which do not ("The Unbeliever" and "Blood on the World's Hands") are very difficult to get into for a casual listener, whose attention a band the status of Maiden will necessarily attract, and least temporarily.
Mmmmm don't agree the slightest. It's true that Maiden had always had some hit like short song favorites (Wrathchild, Run To The Hills, The Trooper, Wasted Years and The Evil That Men Do come quickly to mind). But the majority of fan favorites are songs that clock over 6 minutes (some of them way more) like Phantom Of The Opera, Hallowed Be Thy Name, Revelations, Where Eagles Dare, Powerslave, Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, Alexander The Great, Seventh Son or Fear Of The Dark. And as far as I recall the most critical voices weren't from casual listeners: it was the long time fans. There are a couple of similar song structures in The X Factor: on one hand we have the long intros followed by midtempo in Look For The Truth and The Aftermath. Plus you have the tracks strongly marked by crescendos followed by multiple passages like Fortunes Of War, The Edge Of Darkness and The Unbeliever). One single structural trait is common to these two types of structures: long quiet intros. This is the first time Maiden really filled an album with lengthy calm introductions (seven songs have calm prologues that excede by far the 1 minute mark), a trait that would be repeated in every single following album.
So other than the change of frontman if people want to blame the songs per se of being quite different of what the band used to deliver, blame it on the dire and dark ambiance and long intros. Everything else is way more Maiden sounding than p.e. its predecessor: Fear Of The Dark.
all the songs written inside the "Afraid to Shoot Strangers" mould
Afraid To Shoot Strangers is not the best of examples for an X Factor mold. Sure it has a somehow brooding ambiance and has a quiet initial section but that's all. To begin with ATSS's time signature is something completely off Maiden's standards (and rock standards in general): it begins with an odd 12 by 5 in the quiet part and then all of a sudden it goes to the traditional 4 by 4. Plus the first part is hardly an intro: it's more like a section of its own abruptly followed by the bridge/ chorus part (like they "pasted" two different songs). IMO this is by no means where the album got its structural inspiration from. The X Factor on that regard is something quite new for the band and the previous songs I can spot slight similar traits are Still Life or Mother Russia.
which may explain why AMOLAD is so popular, though it is not a favourite of mine - I prefer when Maiden weaves lighter atmospheres- but that is not the question either
There you have it: this record is by far the most similar regarding structure and atmosphere. One may discuss which one's the most well crafted album but I believe what brings AMOLAD to an higher echelon is Bruce's voice.
Apart from that, they also couldn't win because they were swimming against the fashion tides, even though it can be brought to their credit. The press was out for blood, back then, with bands which enjoyed success in the 80s and who were "insolent" enough not to disband in the early 90s. Maiden were so "yesterday's news" and "uncool" back then - even if the mood of the album somewhat tended to suit the depressing trend of the times- that their chances to win mainstream popularity with this album were meagre, especially in the US
Even in their golden 80's era Maiden never received the media attention they deserved especially in the US. They had really limited airplay for a band of their dimension and that was also a consequence of trends (the US main metal media was much more biased into Hair Metal acts). Of course with the rise of the Seattle scene that dislike would even be reinforced but Maiden never relied on the media to ascend to the throne of metal back in the 80's. . Plus, only 2 years prior to all this, while the so called Grunge movement was in its full force Fear Of The Dark (the song) became one of Maiden's most airplayed and requested songs of all times. Once again I believe that the answer to the TXF lack of selling numbers is far more easy to explain and resides in the absence of one person solely.
In retrospect, it is not even a question that Bruce and Adrian's return (and to some extent Derek's) saved Maiden.
It wasn't only Bruce and Adrian's return... it was WHEN it happened. The Seattle movement was long since gone and the new "big thing" in heavy music was dying. Nu Metal. A number big names from the 80's started to re surface, marking a wave of revivalism in the first half of the 2000's: not only Maiden but also Megadeth, Halford and later the reunion with Priest and Slayer. I secretly believe that Black Sabbath's reunion a couple of years before captured the media attention towards the romanticism of reunions and kind of inspired a lot of these bands to re ash their older traits. It's curious how ever since then Maiden gets way more media attention than back when they were at the top of their game in the 80's.
And they deserve it, by the way.
 
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