The real problem with Virtual

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.
I agree with everything you said here.
 

Murder of Rue Morgue

They're never gonna find me!
The problem with Virtual XI?
They recorded it.
Simple as that.

And I'm not even joking that much, the album has some good ideas in it actually. Most of the solos are good. But they listened to the demo songs and deliberately decided that those were ok to be recorded.
Like, seriously? You as a professional musician listen to nearly 5 minutes of "Dontcha think I can save you" and think "wow, that's exactly what I wanted!"? You, a composer since the mid-70s, feel the urge to dilatate a song to nearly 8 and a half minutes by repeating "Don't look to, don't look to, don't look to the eyes of a stranger" ad libitum?

Sometimes I hope that this album is a collective hallucination.
 

TheTalisman

Ancient Mariner
Sometimes I wonder if this album has become a little bit more popular amongst some after the 2015 remaster was put out in 2018 on digital services (as well as CD that year + vinyl in 2017). I think it's a bit easier on the ear for some reason.
 

Mega

Ancient Mariner
Sometimes I wonder if this album has become a little bit more popular amongst some after the 2015 remaster was put out in 2018 on digital services (as well as CD that year + vinyl in 2017). I think it's a bit easier on the ear for some reason.
Not for me at least. The production wasn't great, but my main issue with music, usually, is the composition and performance. In VXI's case, the composition was hard for me to swallow for a long time.
 

Murder of Rue Morgue

They're never gonna find me!
Sometimes I wonder if this album has become a little bit more popular amongst some after the 2015 remaster was put out in 2018 on digital services (as well as CD that year + vinyl in 2017). I think it's a bit easier on the ear for some reason.
It could have, in the sense that people who didn't know it before may have discovered it thanks to digital services.
 

TheTalisman

Ancient Mariner
It could have, in the sense that people who didn't know it before may have discovered it thanks to digital services.
I just think the 2015 remaster sounds much better for some reason, and that some people have started to like it more because of that. The same with Somewhere in Time, the 1998 remaster of that one sounds much worse, and I think it's good that it was erased.
 

Diesel 11

As you scream into the web of silence...
You, a composer since the mid-70s, feel the urge to dilatate a song to nearly 8 and a half minutes by repeating "Don't look to, don't look to, don't look to the eyes of a stranger" ad libitum?
Okay but, this is an example of repetition I really like from this album. The basis of the song is solid but up to this point it hasn’t been a classic (the chorus never seems to hit a home run despite how often they repeat it). But then everything gets stripped back and Blaze’s voice takes center stage, and the way the band builds this up to a climax, with Steve’s bass, the massive symphonic backing, and Nicko’s drumming, before exploding into the solo section, is just awesome. It’s simple but so effective.

I really like Virtual XI. It’s far from perfect, but it’s got some interesting compositions and at this point in their career Jan and Dave have really become a great guitar duo. Janick really rarely phoned it in during the ‘90s, and there are some amazing solos on this record and guitar riffs and leads that make for a really nice, melodic sound. I also think Blaze still sounds good on the album, but you can tell that there are moments that could’ve used a second take.

So I like almost all of the songs (“The Educated Fool” kind of falls under the meh category because it gets choppy and the chorus is bleary, but man the instrumental section is still cool as hell and I like the song’s set up). What do I think is the problem with VXI? Well, it’s kind of difficult to get at because I think it’s kind of two fold.

1). Listening to both TXF and VXI makes it clear just how much energy the band seemed to lose between the two records. The biggest example is in Nicko’s drumming. Holy cow does he phone it in. I wonder if the rough TXF tour dampened his spirit going into this record. We know after the VXI tour he really pushed for Blaze to be given the boot, so it might have started even before then. When you’re used to a professional like Bruce it must be hard adjusting to someone who is practically a noob when it comes to big tours. That and coupled with Blaze’s vocal problems, must have been rough.

Additionally, I think a lot of people view this record as a brighter and more energetic sequel to TXF, but even if the songs have left most of the depression and anger behind, this record is tinged with sadness in all the guitar parts. It sounds like a band that’s bleeding (even if that makes for great melodies like I mentioned earlier).

2). This is the album where the band really becomes The Steve Harris Show. The bad reviews of TXF really seemed to make the man just dig his heels in further, and I respect that because he made the music he wanted to, the way he wanted to. But you can tell that some of the decisions he made are just weird. The production is fairly clear, but definitely limp (which adds to the guitar melodies shining forth but means the record has lost the traditional Maiden bite). I won’t say anything about the repetition, because I get what he was going for (a live mantra for crowds to chant along with), but at the very least “The Angel and the Gambler” being the first single is bizarre. And the way the band doesn’t go back and fix when they fuck up (when “Clansman” dives into the chorus that first time is an oof) shows how little Steve cared about doing a great record and instead tried to get a specific feel (probably a live feel knowing him). The overall feel sounds like Steve has been at the helm too much without returning to be tempered again in the forge. The sound is night and day when you listen to Brave New World, which despite being somewhat of a continuation of VXI, has so much more power than this album does.

So I think those are the issues I see with this record. I still really like it though, just looking at the post-reunion era I prefer it to AMOLAD and TFF. It was born out of a specific period of time by a specific group of musicians and at the end of the day: it is what it is, and I like it for being the album that it is. There’s still a lot to love here in spite of the issues.
 

Murder of Rue Morgue

They're never gonna find me!
Okay but, this is an example of repetition I really like from this album.
I would have payed a bunch of people to kidnap me just for the reason that my father meant this musical abomination as a recommendation not to trust strangers, if I were Laureen.
The second most abominable piece of music I have ever heard from them (the first is obviously The Angel and the Gambler).
 

Perun

After the war?
Staff member
We do? Can you remember where he said that? I'd like to read it.

Nicko said so in a 1999 interview with Metal Hammer. This is cited in Lawrence Paterson's book "At the End of the Day", where this is followed by Blaze's own speculation that Nicko had gotten hold of some soundboard recordings from Blaze's poor nights and used them to persuade Steve.
 

TheMercenary

Ancient Mariner
Okay but, this is an example of repetition I really like from this album. The basis of the song is solid but up to this point it hasn’t been a classic (the chorus never seems to hit a home run despite how often they repeat it). But then everything gets stripped back and Blaze’s voice takes center stage, and the way the band builds this up to a climax, with Steve’s bass, the massive symphonic backing, and Nicko’s drumming, before exploding into the solo section, is just awesome. It’s simple but so effective.

I really like Virtual XI. It’s far from perfect, but it’s got some interesting compositions and at this point in their career Jan and Dave have really become a great guitar duo. Janick really rarely phoned it in during the ‘90s, and there are some amazing solos on this record and guitar riffs and leads that make for a really nice, melodic sound. I also think Blaze still sounds good on the album, but you can tell that there are moments that could’ve used a second take.

So I like almost all of the songs (“The Educated Fool” kind of falls under the meh category because it gets choppy and the chorus is bleary, but man the instrumental section is still cool as hell and I like the song’s set up). What do I think is the problem with VXI? Well, it’s kind of difficult to get at because I think it’s kind of two fold.

1). Listening to both TXF and VXI makes it clear just how much energy the band seemed to lose between the two records. The biggest example is in Nicko’s drumming. Holy cow does he phone it in. I wonder if the rough TXF tour dampened his spirit going into this record. We know after the VXI tour he really pushed for Blaze to be given the boot, so it might have started even before then. When you’re used to a professional like Bruce it must be hard adjusting to someone who is practically a noob when it comes to big tours. That and coupled with Blaze’s vocal problems, must have been rough.

Additionally, I think a lot of people view this record as a brighter and more energetic sequel to TXF, but even if the songs have left most of the depression and anger behind, this record is tinged with sadness in all the guitar parts. It sounds like a band that’s bleeding (even if that makes for great melodies like I mentioned earlier).

2). This is the album where the band really becomes The Steve Harris Show. The bad reviews of TXF really seemed to make the man just dig his heels in further, and I respect that because he made the music he wanted to, the way he wanted to. But you can tell that some of the decisions he made are just weird. The production is fairly clear, but definitely limp (which adds to the guitar melodies shining forth but means the record has lost the traditional Maiden bite). I won’t say anything about the repetition, because I get what he was going for (a live mantra for crowds to chant along with), but at the very least “The Angel and the Gambler” being the first single is bizarre. And the way the band doesn’t go back and fix when they fuck up (when “Clansman” dives into the chorus that first time is an oof) shows how little Steve cared about doing a great record and instead tried to get a specific feel (probably a live feel knowing him). The overall feel sounds like Steve has been at the helm too much without returning to be tempered again in the forge. The sound is night and day when you listen to Brave New World, which despite being somewhat of a continuation of VXI, has so much more power than this album does.

So I think those are the issues I see with this record. I still really like it though, just looking at the post-reunion era I prefer it to AMOLAD and TFF. It was born out of a specific period of time by a specific group of musicians and at the end of the day: it is what it is, and I like it for being the album that it is. There’s still a lot to love here in spite of the issues.
That's what I always say : each album has something specific to offer to the fans, no one is bad or meh, they are all different and pleasant in a certain way for each of us. Technically and musically, 'Virtual XI' is simpler and cheesier than most of Maiden work, but it's still lovable to listen to when you want to chill in the sofa after a tough day at work while drinking a beer or a glass of white wine... And I think that was the purpose of this record, IMHO.
 

Magnus

Pica Serdica
That's what I always say : each album has something specific to offer to the fans, no one is bad or meh, they are all different and pleasant in a certain way for each of us. Technically and musically, 'Virtual XI' is simpler and cheesier than most of Maiden work, but it's still lovable to listen to when you want to chill in the sofa after a tough day at work while drinking a beer or a glass of white wine... And I think that was the purpose of this record, IMHO.
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rideon77

Trooper
The real problems with the album were the dry production and the Bruce Fanboys and Blaze Haters that couldn't even accept that masterpiece called The X Factor. Virtual XI has a huge Classic ( the Clansman) ,The Great opener Futureal, Two Worlds Collide, Lightning Strikes Twice, The beautiful and touchy Como Estais Amigos. Great songs. There are far worse albums in Maiden's catalog especially After the reunion IMHO. TAATG is too long , yes, but I enjoy the single version, pretty fun Song, Not a turd like The Apparition for example, and It worked well live. The Educated Fool Is really underrated and DLTTEOTS, being repetitive, is still solid with a beautiful crescendo before the solo
 
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Pibroch_Whistler

Educated Fool
The real problems with the album were the dry production and the Bruce Fanboys and Blaze Haters that couldn't even accept that masterpiece called The X Factor. Virtual XI has a huge Classic ( the Clansman) ,The Great opener Futureal, Two Worlds Collide, Lightning Strikes Twice, The beautiful and touchy Como Estais Amigos. Great songs. There are far worse albums in Maiden's catalog especially After the reunion IMHO. TAATG is too long , yes, but I enjoy the single version, pretty fun Song, Not a turd like The Apparition for example, and It worked well live. The Educated Fool Is really underrated and DLTTEOTS, being repetitive, is still solid with a beautiful crescendo before the solo

This post had a love react until you denigrated THE APPARITION, LOL!

(my 4th favorite song from FoTD, and the title track ISN'T in my top 3 ....)

In the end, your post still deserves a hearty LIKE :D

and the Title Track happens to be my 5th favorite song on the Fear of the Dark album ...
 
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