I agree with everything you said here.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?"
LC: "Cool. Singer's trying something different."
IronDuke: "Yup, I like it."
LC: "Me too."
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.