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The real problem with Virtual

Discussion in 'Virtual XI' started by MigDaimon, Jun 4, 2004.

  1. MigDaimon

    MigDaimon Trooper

    We all know, this is the most controversial subject in Maiden history. Anything with Blaze in Maiden is. After a recent topic in the Maiden chat section, where once again a lot of silly things were said, I came to this topic. It was to be a single message in that topic I mentioned, however, I think that a new topic is more suitable

    Well, I will not even worry about the things that had been said about Blaze and Janick. I really love these guys as for the rest of the band so it would be pointless.

    I would not say that Virtual is the worst album ever in Maiden career. As a true maidenfan that I believe to be there are no worst song or album for me, there are WEAKER ONES. And that is true, Virtual XI is the WEAKEST album in Maiden career.

    I guess that we all agree with the Pro Tools thing. Yes, on this album Maiden used technology in a way that was never used before. The album was recorded on a Hard Drive of a computer and then digitally mastered and mixed. As farther as I know this had happened on BNW and DoD too, however, on VXI for the first time, Maiden abused a litlle on the technology.

    No, I´m not saying that the drum is a computer generated drum or something like that. Of course not ! Anyone who had listened a computer generated drum (midi???) will agree that the sound is far from being perfect and realistic. There is a drummer in there and its Nicko. As someone can say that there´s is not Nicko because of the lacks of fills I could say that there is no nicko on BNW because of the false "double-pedal" thing. But Nicko was there, maybe a litlle different. We should remember as well that Nicko never was a real impressive drummer on studio, keeping his stamina to the shows, where he is always fearsome. But in some parts we can almost "see" the abuse of technology. Take for example the chorus on Lightining Strikes Twice. Did you ever get the impression that Blaze is almost "choking" there. Well, that´s because he only did one phrase which was repeated on the rest of the song. Anyone with good ears can spot that (I´m not saying that Blaze sucks. As I said I love him, one of my favourites singers. But we cannot deny, on the beginning he WAS very unexperienced. The X Factor was a more dark album so his voice fitted very well in there, but VXI isn´t dark, so his lack of experience is more visible. But, as I´m going to try to prove to you, he wasn´t guilty of the weakness of VXI).

    But VXI is made of 8 songs, and this is only a small chorus of one song. So what the hell, for Steve sake, is the matter of Virtual XI ???

    Well, this is very personal I think. But, have you ever heard this album as a "too much mechanical album" ? Think about this for a minute.

    In all the previous records there were some songs, or at least part of songs which were THE HIGHLIGHTS of the album. The moments when you really feel like "Yeah ! That´s a good fucking metal thing !!!". We don´t need to much effort to remember some of these moments. I would point the introduction of Aces High, the instrumental section on Phantom of the Opera, the whole Killers song, the solo in Children of The Damned, the instrumental section on To Tame a Land…… I could spent hours pointing these high moments !

    On VXI these high moments are very rare. Most of the songs are lacking on these. You don´t feel the excitement of the musicians as they are playing. You listen to Tailgunner for example and almost see the blasts of energy going out in the bass lines, guitar lines, and vocals (some may say that the vocal style isn´t good, but that´s another question). Then you listen to When Two Worlds Collide. Hell ! It is a very impressive song, but where is the feeling ? Where is the PASSION that almost overflow in songs like Still Life, Infinite Dreams, Prowler ?

    For me that´s the real problem with VXI. It a mechanichal album. Not in the sense that the chorus n The Angel and The Gambler are repetitive. Come on, what is a chorus ? Is part of the song which IS REPEATED. If you find the it boring then why do you keep listening to Run to The Hills ? Maybe it’s a poor chorus ? Well that´s another question…

    If I didn´t know Maiden I would say that the record process was something like that :

    The boys arrive at the studio. Some one from the management of Sanctuary comes to then with a bunch of papers in the hand.
    -- Here are the songs that you are going to record for the new album. It will be called Virtual XI. Learn them as fast as you can !
    The band take the papers and starts recording. As ROBOTS they play one songs after the other. At the end of the day they have it almost done.

    We all know that it wasn´t that way. Of Course ! But this is how I feel listening to this album. The songs are good but they weren´t played with all passion they deserved.

    The only exceptions are Futureal, The Clansman and Como Estais Amigos. In these three songs we can see Maiden at their full power, playing with their hearts instead of their minds.

    Joining all of this, a unexperienced vocalist, a high-tech production that took over the music itself, and a not so inspired band, we get to Virtual XI, the WEAKEST album in their career.

    But in the end it is a good album, look at the themes of the songs. We have historical themes (Clansman, Como Estais Amigos), some sci fi themes (Futureal, When Two Worlds Collide), introspective themes (The Educated Fool) and some social themes (Don’t look to the eys of a Stranger and The Angel the Gambler). It is a good album, a good but mechanical album. Mechanical doesn´t mean the drum was done by computer. Means it sounds mechanical.

    Hope you can understand my point.
  2. StrangerInAStrangeLand

    StrangerInAStrangeLand Ancient Mariner

    I understand what you're saying but I actually never thought that there was a really big "problem" with this album. I have always liked it although the songs sometimes don't complement Blaze's low voice. I also have always felt thought that The Educated Fool has feeling, too.
  3. SinisterMinisterX

    SinisterMinisterX Illuminatus Staff Member

    When I first heard this album, the only songs I really liked were Futureal and The Clansman. Members of this BB later encouraged me to give VXI another chance, and now I can add The Educated Fool, Don't Look... and Como Estais Amigos to the list of songs I really like on this album. Even TAATG, as much as I've insulted this song before on this board, is good in the short form. That leaves two songs which aren't top-notch but I still enjoy anyway (albeit to a lesser degree).

    To me, VXI sounds unfinished. I think the 'mechanical' feel which MigDaimon talks about could have been removed had the band rehearsed the songs more before recording. I think the repeated choruses in TAATG could have been made more interesting if the guitarists would have come up with more variation in their parts - say, a dual guitar melody under the vocals which could have built up in energy over that section.

    I don't think this is Maiden's weakest album - in my opinion, that title goes to NPFTD. Despite VXI's flaws, it's still an intriguing listen.
  4. LooseCannon

    LooseCannon Yorktown-class aircraft carrier Staff Member

    What can be said, that hasn't?

    Let me give you an interesting look at the world of Iron Maiden. I'll tell you how I got into it. I didn't enter when some people did, picking up the cool covered album of Piece of Mind, or Powerslave.

    I didn't have a parent who freaked out because this Satanic band had an album called The Number of the Beast. Nor was I a local London East-Ender who watched their band raise to stardom. I didn't hear about a concert, or see a music video.

    I learned from the Internet.

    My first experience with Iron Maiden was on a mix tape in a friend's car. I proceeded to download quite a few songs afterwards. When I bought Best of the Beast...I didn't know Maiden had had three singers (on albums). I didn't know about the two different drummers or the four different guitarists. Steve Harris? Huh? Is he the drummer? He must be that guy with the blond hair and smile.

    I didn't even recognize, until I read the Iron Maiden Commentary, that there was a difference between Blaze and Bruce! Honestly! I went from Alexander the Great to The Clansman, and said...

    LC:"That's the same band?"
    IronDuke: "Yup."
    LC: "Cool. Singer's trying something different."
    IronDuke: "Yup, I like it."
    LC: "Me too."

    Carry on.

    Drum styles, guitar solos, bass lines...I had no idea what they were. To me, it was all one thing - good music! Regardless of what albums. I downloaded them as such too. Phantom of the Opera, Brave New World, Aces High, Tailgunner, Sign of the Cross...it didn't matter who sang it, who wrote it.

    People who see otherwise are idiots.

    Iron Maiden has a very identifyable vein to its music. This vein runs from Prowler to Journeyman, and it doesn't take a break after Only the Good Die Young or Fear of the Dark, to pick up again at The Wicker Man. Iron Maiden transcends singers, guitarists, and drummers. Obviously, it doesn't transend bassists, because Steve Harris is the heart and soul of Maiden.

    But from the opening riff on Prowler to the fading of vocals on Journeyman, even the songs Steve never touched, you can feel something unifying. I noticed that before I knew there was a Steve Harris. Having said that, Steve Harris wrote...almost every song on Virtual XI.

    It's Iron Maiden. It doesn't matter that it's different. It's a little over produced.

    Big fucking deal.

    Maybe a little more work could have been done on it, yeah. I still love the songs, most of them. Virtual XI was one of the most important albums to me when I got into Maiden. Songs like Futureal, Lightning Strikes Twice, and especially The Clansman dragged me in. They're not all the best, but they're Maiden.

    And so, here I am.
  5. Squall3X

    Squall3X Invader

    i agree LC, in my opinion all maiden's material is excellent and people shouldn't judge anything just because of blaze, or d'ianno (definitely not d'anno) or anything, cause they're different versions of each song with all 3 singers and they're all MAIDEN, not maiden and blaze, maiden and bruce, etc. its just MAIDEN, thats what it is, and it's all excellent music, so nobody should judge x factor or virtual just because bruce isn't there, because Blaze is singing in a different way, which is what makes him unique.
  6. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    Yeah, I agree on mot points, but I'll add another, wich is also very important: the sound. You know what I'm talking about, the mix, the sound on VXI is shit. The intruments are not in balance, and the guitarsound is awful. (IMO Maiden never had a good guitarsound without Adrian.)
  7. LooseCannon

    LooseCannon Yorktown-class aircraft carrier Staff Member

    I don't know about the mix. The guitars seem almost muted, at some points, but it's not horrendous. It's just not great. As for the guitar sound, Adrian's guitar is a very distinct sound. Without him, it's a lot harder to get close to the "classic" Maiden sound. You end up with a punkier groove, like on Iron Maiden or No Prayer. Millions of people like punk. They'd likely approve of this sound.

    So do I. It's different, but still good. Sometimes the guitars do approach the same sound. Sign of the Cross and The Clansman are the best examples here. And since H came back you get a great blend of all three guitars. Maiden's at its best I think, with three guitars.
  8. Lib

    Lib Ancient Mariner

    For me Virtual Xi is a 'back to the roots' and a 'big fuck' to every one in several points :

    - 8 tracks ! Like the LP era ! It's very anti-commercial (now, you have to make an album with at least 12 tracks, and it's better with 15 or 16)

    - The sound : OK, it sounds like a demo-tape ! so what ? Some people will do anything to get a copy of The Soundhouse tapes which sound horrible ! The first album sounds bad too, and some fans say that it's one of their best !
    In my opinion, Hammond organ on 'Angel' was a very good idea, and it's a shame that it wasn't used more on the whole album.

    - There is absolutely no harmonised guitars on this album [!--emo&:lmao:--][img src=\'style_emoticons/[#EMO_DIR#]/lol.gif\' border=\'0\' style=\'vertical-align:middle\' alt=\'lol.gif\' /][!--endemo--]

    - An 9 minutes single (6'30 with the edit version [!--emo&:lol:--][img src=\'style_emoticons/[#EMO_DIR#]/lol[1].gif\' border=\'0\' style=\'vertical-align:middle\' alt=\'lol[1].gif\' /][!--endemo--] ), I think, only Maiden can do that currently !

    NB : If I believe a Steve interview in a french mag (Hard'n Heavy, HS #2, 1998), they've used Pro Tools on X Factor, but for Virtual XI they've used an non-released software called Soundscape and they were used as guinea-pigs for the elaboration of it.
  9. The Ancient Mariner

    The Ancient Mariner Ancient Mariner

    The biggest letdown on the album is Steve's drumming.

    Other than that, I like it a lot. It certainly grew on me. The sound is, as has been said before, a return to their older, rawer sound nicely merged with their modern, progressive style and it's a nice balance as well.

    The production is not great but if it was really good this album would lose something. Bad production can be excellent at times. If you're in a new band and you record your demo at a top studio, make it sound perfect, spend hundreds on it and get the sound perfect then on-one would be interested. I know this isn't a demo album but this is an example of how production can affect things. This album would be pretty dull if the production was done better.
  10. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    I like this warm production and I don't think it's the weakest album. It was my first Maiden album back in 98 when I was at the age of 12 and it convinced me to be a metalfan.

    I still love the album and that goes for every song on it.
    It's pure magic
  11. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    album is all right, production isn't, but nevermind that, angel'n'gambler distinctively spoils impression because it is obviously the worse song on album, rest is very good, maybe don't look has too repetative section....besides that, I wouldn't put curse on album....

    also I can't agree that double-kick on brave is a trick, it isn't double-kick pedal neither a trick, it's nicko who does it without double-kick....
  12. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    I have to admit, that after 7 years, I still think Virtual XI is Maiden's worst album.

    ON VXI Nicko delivers his smallest contribution ever. There are hardly any drumbreaks/fills to be heard. He might touch his toms 3 or 4 times on the whole album. In an interview he said he did it on purpose, to give the rest of the music more space. For me drums are essential in Iron Maiden's music, since Maiden is one of the very few bands, in which bass guitar and drums have a bigger role than the guitars.

    The songs on VXI are in two cases very repetitive. Not only the chorus from "The Angel & The Gambler" is, but also parts in "Don't Look To The Eyes Of A Stranger"
    The chorus from "When Two Worlds Collide" is imo a rip-off from the couplets in "That Girl".
  13. Forostar

    Forostar Conjure the Death Star again

    [!--QuoteBegin-Guest+Nov 23 2005, 08:08 PM--][div class=\'quotetop\']QUOTE(Guest @ Nov 23 2005, 08:08 PM)[/div][div class=\'quotemain\'][!--QuoteEBegin--]I have to admit, that after 7 years, I still think Virtual XI is Maiden's worst album.

    ON VXI Nicko delivers his smallest contribution ever. There are hardly any drumbreaks/fills to be heard. He might touch his toms 3 or 4 times on the whole album. In an interview he said he did it on purpose, to give the rest of the music more space. For me drums are essential in Iron Maiden's music, since Maiden is one of the very few bands, in which bass guitar and drums have a bigger role than the guitars.

    The songs on VXI are in two cases very repetitive. Not only the chorus from "The Angel & The Gambler" is, but also parts in "Don't Look To The Eyes Of A Stranger"
    The chorus from "When Two Worlds Collide" is imo a rip-off from the couplets in "That Girl".

    Last post was mine! Sorry [!--emo&:unsure:--][img src=\'style_emoticons/[#EMO_DIR#]/unsure.gif\' border=\'0\' style=\'vertical-align:middle\' alt=\'unsure.gif\' /][!--endemo--]
  14. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    it will come down to same.... [!--emo&:p--][img src=\'style_emoticons/[#EMO_DIR#]/tongue.gif\' border=\'0\' style=\'vertical-align:middle\' alt=\'tongue.gif\' /][!--endemo--]
  15. Onhell

    Onhell Mexican Revolutionary

    [!--QuoteBegin-Lib+Jun 18 2004, 10:37 AM--][div class=\'quotetop\']QUOTE(Lib @ Jun 18 2004, 10:37 AM)[/div][div class=\'quotemain\'][!--QuoteEBegin--]For me Virtual Xi is a 'back to the roots' and a 'big fuck' to every one in several points :

    - 8 tracks ! Like the LP era ! It's very anti-commercial (now, you have to make an album with at least 12 tracks, and it's better with 15 or 16)


    Actually the standard is 10, rarely are there more tracks than that (red hot chilli peppers come to mind). But just go to your record store and you'll see most "pop" music has 10 songs more often than not.
  16. Metal_made

    Metal_made Trooper

    Virtual XI is a very good album, however, there are some songs that are better with Blaze (The Clansman comes to my mind), I personally think that Bruce's performance of that song was awesome but, it's better with Blaze, by the way, could anyone tell me where can I download some B L A Z E songs?( I have really searched the CDs but I can't find them)
  17. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    give it a try on dc++, you gotta find it there....
  18. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    Yeah, I started that silly argument about VXI in the thread, sorry. I said I thought VXI was Maiden's worst album because it has Blaze and not Bruce... I actually like Blaze Bayley and VXI now. My friend was on a Maiden binge (he listened to every studio album in a row... Prowler to Journeyman), and he was telling me how good VXI is. I started listening to VXI and I discovered how good it is... I already knew Futureal, The Clansman, and Como Estais Amigos are good, but also The Educated Fool and Lightning Strikes Twice. I still think it's one of Maiden's weakest album, but it's still a pretty good album. And, to me, the production doesn't bring down the album.
  19. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    if it isn't megallomanica's st. anger production, it can't brin album down....
  20. Zare

    Zare Dream of broken citadels

    Again, a very old topic, but i need to reply to the tech thingie in the first post...

    There's nothing wrong with this. Signal modelling is the only thing that matters. Eg, is your distortion/compressor/eq on the guitar implemented digitally, or old-fasion way, analog.

    Maiden always used analog processing.

    However, if you wire your amps, run them through an analog mixer, record everything on the track, and then dump that track onto the CD, you have done analog-digital conversion, and you have same side-effects. It's only one stage that matters. When you convert WAV to MP3...there's no turning back, i mean you can convert it backwards again and you'll end up with a bigger chunk of data for nothing.

    I also think that VXI has some serious production problems, but that's the issue of the producer and his idea, not the fault of "overly used computer technology".

    I can make you a drum track right now, on my PC, and you'll think that's some kickass drummer playing in studio. MIDI is just an protocol, a communication language. It tells you when to play something. It triggers something. So when you have a small .mid file, it's only a transcription of the communication. That MIDI sound you're reffering to is faulty because it's samples are played through a wavetable of your soundcard, which in 90% of cases is few megabytes large, and those few mb's house samples for 127+ instruments. Now go figure the quality.

    But, i have a 300+ MB worth of samples for only one snare drum. Layers of samples, each corresponding to a different strike force and different strike position on the snare. I'll map the strike force layers to the velocity controller, and i'll map the position layers to the aftertouch controller via the virtual sampler. Then i'll program in repetitive snare shots, but the sequencer will be configured to randomize both controllers. So each time, i'll get an different slightly shot strenght and a slightly different shot position. And you won't know the difference :)

    No, the drum on VXI is not programmed, of course. Nicko did that, in his own words, to make more room for the guitars. It seems to me that they utterly experimented on that record, in the wrong direction...if they experimented like they did with SIT and SSOASS, or like with AMOLAD nowadays, it would be a great success.

    Drum on VXI is a natural one. So it's Nicko's fault that it turned so lame.

    However, drums on BNW are a very interesting story. Nicko said that Kevin wanted him to "express himself more" on that record. Nicko doesn't save himself for the live shows, he did awesome stuff on the albums also...but the drum production was lame. Half of people did not perceive McB's foot speed until BNW...and just listen to Caught Somewhere In Time. He is doing the insane speed there also, for 75% of song! It's just that the stuff is badly produced, the bass drum muddled itself with the 'Arry's gallop.

    On BNW, Shirly used samples for drums too. But each sample was triggered by Nicko's natural hit, and mixed with that natural hit. So the drums were kind of "fattened" with "artificial" sound. Altrough that artificial sound are the same samples of the same drum that Nicko uses, when you mix the natural hit, with the flat, nonprocessed sample that doesn't depend on hit strenght, position, velocity...you're going to get some interesting effects. And that ain't computer drums...Nicko played everything, it's just a producing trick.

    In fact, it's just like Adrian used on SIT, the white Jackson Custom Strat with MIDI pup's. An real instrument, which can be turned into a MIDI controller.
    Deanatron likes this.

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