The X Factor: individual album judgement by yours truly

Randalf

Ancient Mariner
After interesting and versatile ventures of the early 90's, we now sail towards darker waters to the year 1995 and The X-Factor - the debut of Blaze Bayley. Pretty much everything about the man himself, his voice, his suitability and the overall mood of those days has already been said over various topics, so I try not to meander around Blaze too much. Anyway, here we go!

Sign of the Cross
I haven't thrown too many 10/10s in my scorings, but this might actually deserve one! I think it's the more theatrical and dynamic live versions with Bruce that really make this song burst out as it should, but there's some charm in the gloomy album version and Blaze's more flat, but kinda soulful delivery. Even the poor production can't fully hinder the song, which is one of the better post-80's efforts by Steve in all of his signature departments: busy pacing of kinda cool lyrics with strong imagery, dymanic choruses, some neat tempo changes and stunning melodies. And atmosphere. As overused as the word "epic" might be with Maiden songs, I think Sign of the Cross truly is an epic. 10/10

Lord of the Flies

Arguably even more direct "adaption" of it's representative book than the glorious album opener, Lord of the Flies also plays strong on the field of atmosphere and musical delivery. While not quite Powerslave, Revelations, The Prisoner or whatever, it's all-round very balanced and well-crafted song, ideal for it's position on the album and effective live song as well. The riff fits the narrative perfectly and the stripped-down, somewhat distant sound and production of the guitars manage to give it some nature, rather than hindering or diminishing it. Blaze manages to deliver the lyrics very effectively and the song has a cool build-up towards the chorus and a very tasteful solo by Mr. Gers. Overall, I really like his solos and songwriting efforts around Blaze-era - I think his creative fire was crucial at that point. Anyway, I think it's a very cool song and a solid effort overall. If nothing terribly spectacular, it definitely has nothing to be ashamed of either, even next to classic Maiden songs. What makes this song stand out - for me anyway - a bit more than the lead single "Man on the Edge" is simply the characteristic narrative and nature of it: while Man on the Edge is definitely a very successful attempt at delivering a strong Maiden rocker, Lord of the Flies probably has more personality of it's own, even if it's not necessarily "better" song. 8/10 for me!

Man on the Edge
As said above, it's indeed a very successful as a "Maiden rocker" and lead single. Nothing to really complain about, but not too much to seriously praise either. Well the rhythmic department really delivers here and there's some cool energy, groove and intensity here that more recent songs of the same type do lack (The Alchemist, for example), but in the end it's "just" another Maiden single - a damn good one, mind you - that might borrow something from the past songs of same nature, but isn't exactly a clone either. Catchy chorus and rather good performance by Blaze (he also got a songwriting credit) definitely make this one more than just worthy inclusion to any "Best of" collections or playlists or whatever and as much as I'd love to hear this being played live, say in the encore or something, it's also easy to see the reason for it's absence from the setlists since 1999: it rocks, it fucking does, but does it really have any edge over so many other songs of the same type? Not really. 7.5/10

Fortunes of War

One of my personal favourites from the album. An atmospheric, beautifully crafted song with another strong narrative. The instrumental breakdown is also great - I love how the melodies and solos kick off! Blaze manages to sound haunting - in a good way - and while the chorus isn't the most lively performance, it works well enough. I'm pretty good at ignoring some of the biggest issues this album has, as I really dig the mood and interesting songwriting attempts here - while not always spot-on, I think the album is musically interesting and has a strong "inner world and narrative" that makes up for it's lacking qualities - not entirely, of course, but it makes the album sound good to me.
8.5/10 - I love it, but it's not quite up there in the Maiden's Finest Moments or whatever category. But for me it's damn close to that. Another day I might give it 9, who knows.

Look for the Truth
A song that had some live potential, but didn't make it to The X-Factour set. The album version is cool enough with strong verses and dymamic chorus with standard OOO-OOOs, but it does fall to the "in between" category, being a solid song on it's own right, but not really standing out here, or from the rest of the discography. It works and with a bit more lively vocals and production work more could have been dug out from the concept, but as it is, it's just... ok good, I suppose? 7/10

The Aftermath

It took a while for me to get into this one properly and I still can't say that I absolutely love it, but I do appreciate the dragging heaviness and strong imagery of it. The instrumental part is cool. The chorus might have needed a bit more "soar" to it, but even as it is, it's probably one of the more suitable ones for Blaze here. Somewhere around 6-7?

Judgement of Heaven

Steve explores some deep waters with this one. It's, once again, musically interesting track that has a few clumsy elements, especially with the vocals approach, but I'm rather fond of the song and quite enjoy how the lighter intro comes into play after the gloomy, muddy heaviness of The Aftermath. Blaze does fairly good job here and it's a catchy song, but once again a bit "undelevoped/underproduced" or something like that. Anyway, I really like the melodies it holds up from start to finish very well. 8/10

Blood on the World's Hands

I often say that the poor production and general tone and sound of the album kinda suits it and there is some charm in listening to it on a cold and dark November night, but with this particular song, I think that a lot of the raw, angry, aggressive and bombastic energy remains uncaptured. This song has so much in it, but doesn't really deliver all of it. Still, it's a good effort and I like the atmospheric bass intro. However, one of the main issues of the album is highlighted here: even with it's interesting, creative and unique qualities, it's not quite that exciting outside this particular context. Which is fine, but also explains why songs like this have become more or less "hidden gems." In the end, Blood on the World's Hands is a very powerful song, but to deliver it's message and musical concept properly it would need a tad bit more punch. Now, it doesn't quite get that, regardless if it's more of a songwriting, production or vocalist centered issue. 8/10

The Edge of Darkness

Another more or less traditional Maiden-effort, with some era-defining heaviness and gloominess included. Blaze isn't quite as capable as Bruce at delivering soaring, theatrical vocals to songs like this, but he actually does very good job here on delivering the lyrics, which are a bit cheesy, but Maiden usually makes stuff like that work very well. Structurally and musically, it's a very strong effort by all three major songwriters of the ear: Gers/Harris/Bayley definitely delivered. 8.5/10

2 A.M

Long ago, My listening sessions with The X-Factor often ended with The Edge of Darkness... and to be fair, it would have been a good closer and cutting these last two tracks wouldn't really make the album any worse, but I wouldn't call them pointless either. 2 A.M is beautiful, melodic and melancholic piece and Blaze seems to be on his comfort zone, to an extent anyway. I quite dig the acoustic version he did with Thomas Zwijsen and the 2015 remaster of the original version has given it bit of a much-needed facelift - the same goes for the whole album of course - and I've grown to like this song. However, it just doesn't deliver anything too different, new or exciting other than just being "nice" on every department and having good melodies. Of course, there aren't too many songs like this on the whole discography, but the palette it's operating with isn't terribly wide anyway and as far as mid-tempo Maiden songs go, 2 A.M isn't exactly Revelations or Infinite Dreams. And fair enough, there's no need for it to be as spectacular, being one of the more grounded Maiden songs is actually one of it's most interesting aspects, but it's also quite hard to give it any special praise. It's neat, it's nice. I like the melodies and the mood, but that's it. It doesn't hurt the album at this point, but although being something very different, it's not really expanding the world of The X-Factor either. 7/10 Might sound a bit too much to some of you, but I have a soft spot for it.

The Unbeliever
Ahh... well over two years ago, I gave it a lot of praise for it's unique qualities, along with score 7/10. @Forostar gave some feedback about the scoring being a bit too modest in relation to praise I gave to it's qualities, so we'll see if I still stand with the score... My general views of the song haven't changed:

--Blaze sings very well and actually pushes himself - successfully, unlike with some live performances, where he really tried, but the results were not as good.
--The instrumental section(s) are great and as poor and stripped down as the production of this album is, it really suits this song (too).
-- there is certain amount of repetition around, but nowhere near what was to come on the next album... I like to put it this way: The Unbeliever sums up and closes The X-Factor in a very definite way: moody, dark yet energetic with some very bold and impressive songwriting. And even at it's worst, it sounds inspired. And that's something the other 90's albums, as underrated as they sometimes are, didn't manage to sound like for most of the time --

I suck at giving scores, I have a bad habit of overthinking these things, but The Unbeliever is probably somewhere around 7/10.

I've grown to appreciate it as an album closer even more over the last two, almost three years, but other than that, I wouldn't say it has really grown or become any less worthy to me. But I do think autiously that 8-8.5/10 might indeed be a bit more appropriate scoring. ;)

So... The X-Factor. It's a long, dark and gloomy ride. Looking at it's structure and songs individually, it seems much more dragging and jarring than the listening experience actually is. For most of the time, I don't really fancy returning to it, but when I do, it's always a very strong, deeply captivating session. I think it's indeed the best overall outcome of the band's musical ventures in 1990's. Raw and thin as it sounds, it manages to make it work as a signature sound a bit better than No Prayer - and the song material itself is, in my opinion, stronger. It's not quite as versatile as Fear of the Dark, but the average song quality is a tad bit better, and this one also has one or two of outstanding to-be-classics/hidden gems. And while not going to as extreme and exotic territories as it's predecessor, it does offer some deviations from standard Maiden world, even if they're more on the lyrical than musical/arrangement side. And while it's successor, Virtual XI, has seemingly more elaborate sound and vibe, it's nowhere near as deep and inspired as this one. In fact, while I do love many songs on that record, it's kind of funny how Virtual XI manages to sound so much more lifeless and dragging with only 8 songs, some of them delivering fairly good ideas, while as The X-Factor with it's rather impressive runtime and many mediocre moments is much more tight and inspired sounding.

Everything on this album supports the general musical narrative and atmosphere very well and for relatively monotonous, poorly produced and gloomy Maiden album, it's quite easy and enjoyable to listen and "get lost into"... but outside that particular "The X-Factor mood" there's not that much that really manages to shine and stand out. Good songs, but funny enough, The X-Factor lacks some of the "x-factor" that Bruce and Adrian probably took away with them. Still, the overall songwriting quality blows every other 90's record out of the water. At least in terms of consistency: even it's worst songs are ok and the biggest problems raise from production, pacing and developing the package, rather than from the average quality of the songs themselves. Maybe something from Dave would have given a bit more variety for it though.

As it it's not obvious already, I'm rather fond of this record, but I can see why not everyone agrees with me. A lot of my love for it goes down to delicate emphasis on the whole body of work it represents. If only one or two songs there didn't appeal to me quite as much as they do, it would make a huge difference. For me, it's one of my favourite Maiden albums to enjoy as whole when in that mood, but it's definitely lacking on many departments that made their best records to really stand out. Still, I argue that it's much better and more coherent album than it often gets credit for... at least outside it's loud fanbase, which also has a tendency to delicately overrate it very now and then...

Wait a minute, does that include me? Maybe it does.

Roughly
7
It's a fine line between "thoroughly ok-good!" consistent and "thoroughly mediocre... nah" consistent.

A step up from the previous 90's records. New vocalist offers some fresh songwriting input, even if the arrangements and production do not really aim to get most out of him, and Gers/Harris manage to deliver some of their strongest writing efforts. Despite being occasionally monotonous and lacking on various fields, it's also one of the most coherent and atmospheric Maiden albums between Seventh Son and AMOLAD. While consisting of interesting ideas and much more refined elements than most of their 90's work, it cannot fully jump out of the shadow that departures of two major songwriters cast over the band. Altogether, it's still a fine example of the band's spectacular skill to create solid, consistent albums, even at very challenging circumstances and technical issues aside, it's a product with a lot of soul in it.

Previous scores:

Iron Maiden: 8
Killers:
around 7.5
The Number of the Beast:
around 8
Piece of Mind:
around 9 or even above?
Powerslave: Another 9, maybe
Somewhere in Time: 9 (A BLASPHEMY?)
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son: 10
No Prayer for the Dying: 6.5
Fear of the Dark: 6.5



While I was writing this, Maiden announced the new live album! So cool.
 
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karljant

Ancient Mariner
IRON MAIDEN - THE X FACTOR (2020 re-listening)

1- Sign Of The Cross:
Since I previously bought the Man On The Edge single that came out previously I was aware of two things even before I listened to any other track than Man On The Edge, The Edge Of Darkness and Judgement Day: a ) Blaze's voice was far from being as exciting and powerful as Bruce's although decent enough for me to enjoy it. b ) What I was listening to had nothing to do with the Fear Of The Dark hard rock crap: this was fast, dramatic, epic heavy metal. Nevertheless I got tricked by Be Quick Or Be Dead On the last advance single regarding what Fear Of The Dark would sound like and this time was utterly skeptic about the rest of the album. So I bought the CD the day it came out, went home and made it spin. Some Gregorian chants build atmosphere as a calm intro with soothing guitars and low voice flows into a march like pace until the whole thing explodes into a slow galloping epic as hell pompous hymn based upon Umberto Ecco's novel. And wow.. this sounds absolutely amazing! Then a really well crafted pre-chorus gives way to a state of the art glorious refrain and man... was I happy! Although with a less capable vocalist the grandeur and dramatic heaviness of Maiden was definitively back! And little did I knew things were only starting. After one of many amazing bridges the Gregorian Chants return and flow into another majestic bridge featuring some intricate time variations with Nicko stealing the spotlight followed by a masterpiece of a disrupting bridge section until the song explodes into an uptempo harmony that simply blows my mind every time I listen to it (Steve's bass notes are as simple as on point here). This section also serves as support to the soloing section and then we're presented with yet another top tier typical Maiden dual guitar harmony. The song then returns to the chorus as it fades to the opening calm line to fade away at almost 11 minutes and by now I'm filled with mixed feelings: both in awe and thrilled to see the e pic heavy metal Maiden blueprint I love so much is back! And it could be a fluke you know? Some years might have passed and my enthusiasm for this track withered. But the exact opposite happened: every time I listen to it I like it more. Not to mention that 6 years later a live faster version with Bruce's voice would be released in Rock In Rio and, if the original was perfect, this one is simply out of this world. Perfect song on my top 5 Maiden songs ever. Masterpiece and an all time classic. 10/10

2- Lord Of The Flies:
After a somewhat cacophonous and confuse guitar and bass intro the second track (once again a book/ movie adaptation) reveals itself as a strong heavy rocker, quite on the vicinity of 2 Minutes To Midnight's pace but featuring a darker mood. While being a lot less epic, it features a cool chorus, great adapted lyrics, exciting solos and the typical ever compelling "oh oh oh" sing along passage. The vocal line sounds a bit monotonous but overall this is catchy and edgy enough to keep me absolutely satisfied with the direction this record was taking. Of course some years after the band decided to play this live on the Dance Of Death tour and Bruce had to propel it to a whole new level (those octaves up on the pre-chorus and refrain give so much more dynamics to the track!). Great track. 8.5/10

3- Man On The Edge:
As I said before this was my first contact with The X Factor and it really got me hooked from the first time I listened to it. Another movie inspired song (this time Falling Down), the album's first advance single starts with a guitar harmony intro that resembles The Evil That Men Do before it goes warp speed in an almost speed metal fashion not too far from the early Running Wild stuff. And although the song is really simple the verses are absolutely powerful, the pre-chorus builds lots of tension till some delicious bass licks by Mr. Harris build the perfect passage for the chorus. Soloing wise this thing is really wild and works wonders while reinforcing the frantic pace of the song's theme. Plus we're presented with a simple yet gorgeous tone crescendo coda before this beast of a metal tank shuts down its engine. I don't want to sound repetitive but, although the studio version is already amazing, once again Mr. Dickinson had to enhance it even more when they played it live during the 1999 reunion tour. Man On The Edge is a lesson on what a simple, straight forward yet effective and powerful as hell fast heavy metal song should sound like. 9.25/10

4- Fortunes Of War:
Often I say that a great song is the one that completely immerses you into the situation or atmosphere it creates and this song is yet another perfect example of achieving that in full effect. The somber intro portraying the soldier woke at night, unable to sleep because memories of the horrors that traumatized him won't stop coming is absolutely heart breaking. The following section is absolutely perfect... a march like stop and go crying guitar lead superbly backed up by keyboards besides being absolutely gorgeous is a crystal clear illustration of the recurring memories that haunt PTSD victims. Then the track enters its main verse part, a simple yet strong section backed up with rather simple but brutal lyrics that makes any decent human being feel compassion with people undergoing such trauma. As for the chorus it's simple yet solid but I think Blaze's baritone kinda deflates it. That's why I always wanted to listen Bruce (ok... it's the last time I'll bring Bruce to the table) doing this song live... If he pulled an octave up in the second repetition this thing would sound beyond perfection. And by the way the "oh oh oh" part deserves the same enhancement. Your typical uptempo guitar soloing and bridges follow the chorus and they sound absolutely on point only to return to the refrain and fade out on the very opening dark verses of the song. Overall this is a heartfelt and obscure trip to the troubled mind of a man that experienced horrors no one deserves to go through. And to know this is a common reality is as frightening as touching, it calls our attention to a problem many chose to ignore. Plus the song itself is simply awesome. 9/10

5- Look For The Truth:
This one also starts in a quite dire and calm ambiance. This fingerpicking guitar plus bass intro creeps in, as Blaze's low and soothing voice sneaks through conveying a really desolate and gloomy atmosphere, growing in intensity (really like his tone one this one) until it bursts into a simple but powerful verse slightly folkish filled with your typical "oh oh oh" choirs (I think some second voices in the choirs would really enhance this part since Blaze's voice sounds really isolated here). And as far as I'm concerned, when Maiden's metal lends a line or two from folk influences they normally end up making great songs. This one's no exception: the singing that ensues is quite strong and the lyrics are really well penned: while being a bit cryptic they once again deal with inner fears one avoids but has to eventually face. After the second chorus an absolutely gorgeous celtic influenced harmony blesses my ears as a sequence of solos and the aforementioned choirs lead the track to its terminus. Another really dark and strong tune and by now if it's true that Blaze is no quite the ideal man for the job vocal wise, when it comes to composing great songs I'm already convinced. 8.75/10

6- The Aftermath:
Now this is starting to sound a bit excessive... another desolate acoustic intro? Come on! I think Maiden aren't doing themselves a big favor by placing similar track intros next to one another. Nevertheless it sounds really solid, especially the simple yet beautiful guitar lead that floats upon before this slow war chronicle begins its narrative. And although sounding good (especially the pauses after each chorus) this somewhat Sabbathesque song seems to drag itself during for too much long by repeating its sang bridge too many times. The sang part mimicking the guitar part before the solos is also a bit obvious and unnecessay. But overall The Aftermath is a decent enough song that doesn't tarnish by no means the overall great quality of the record. Once again the lyrics are really well thought (especially when dissecting a thematic that's been over explored) and trully match the music of this really enjoyable tune. 7.75/10

7- Judgement Of Heaven:
Since I've already had the Man On The Edge single and kinda gave a look to the track list on The X Factor on my way home, I could swear that the next song would be Judgement Day and thought "Yup... this is the perfect spot to put a really heavy and fast track to shake things up". But as Steve's bass starts stuttering I'm caught by surprise and forced to check back the track list coming to the conclusion that not only this is not the same track, but Judgement Day was left out of the record (and as you're about to read later I'm far from being happy with this decision). As for this song in particular the verses have that Maiden trademark galloping bass punch a la The Clairvoyant. It sounds really powerful and the pre-chorus is also well achieved. The chorus is full of sentiment and melody with the keyboards helping a lot with the ambiance. As for the instrumental section I just think the harmony where the refrain's verse is sang should be removed since it adds nothing to the whole. So there you have it: a simple, intense song with lots of Maiden traits that while lacking a bit of adrenaline compensates it with a lots of intensity and feeling. 8.5/10

8- Blood On The World's Hands:
This one starts with a really cool acoustic bass solo by Mr. Harris. The final part is a blatant ripp off of Rush's Natural Science but since it's just some seconds serving as a transition let's give it a pass. A 3 by 4 pompous harmony gives the moto for the verses and while the time signature and format sounds imaginative the fact the vocals and guitars keep on doing a catch game is a bit boring. Nevertheless the chorus is really heavy and incisive and gives this anti war song (another one) lots of muscle. The keyboard filled bridge is also state of the art stuff and the passage to a 4 by 4 typical time signature is top notch (props to Nicko on this one). The solo section sound pretty sweet and the bridge with the vocals is really basic but extremelly well placed. The song then returns effortlessly to its main verses finishing with the chorus. Intricate by nature, heavy both musical and lyric wise, it's a pity I really don't like the hand by hand guitar/ vocal harmony during the verses but other than that another this is yet another great track. 8/10

9- The Edge Of Darkness:
The X Factor is truly a bleak and obscure album but this song pushes those aspects to a whole new level. Starting once again with some acoustic guitars and helichopter samples, this Apocalypse Now inspired track trully describes the horrors and paranoia of the Vietnam war through the mission captain Willard is assigned to and ultimately ending with his meeting and assassination of coronel Kurtz. Music wise there's a crescendo on this thing that is absolutely soul crushing due to the blackness of its nature and context. It then flows into a Hallowed Be Thy Name like riff without breaks and then returns to the first section in absolutely symetrical structure (and I believe this is far from being a cohincidence). And although being quite simple, the way this song and atmosphere mingles with the insanely dense narrative is really something. 8.5/10

10- 2 A.M. :
It's true that musically this song is far from being great (especially that chorus: the room the guitars leave vacant is really badly filled with lackluster bass and drum lines). But what it lacks in musical genius it once again compensates in focus and atmosphere. This is a song about someone living in solitude who's stuck to his routine, working in night shifts and begins to question his joy for life, the porpuse of it. And both the verses and calm parts really complement that feeling of desolation. I'm not a great fan of the soloing and harmonies on this one here though. But overall is a decent track and I must admit this thing does one hell of a job adverting to the pain such people endure while painting a well drawn picture of it. 7.25/10

11- The Unbeliever:
Well, after more than 60 minutes without listening to a single crappy section I'm surprised with this weird dual guitar plus bass harmony followed by an awful string harmonic ascending and descending ridiculous line mimicked by Nicko's ride cymbal. What is this crap? Seriously... what is this? Not content with this garbage the song stops in burst as Bailey sings some awful melody intervalled with some weak ass riffs. "Ok, that's it... here's a stinker!" was my immediate reaction... "8 minutes? Ouch! and it's a long one!". But what happens next is as surprising as this wreck of a start. A beautiful strumming acoustic guitar along with clean guitar chords with a simple gorgeous bass line kicks in with Blaze softening his voice while this section ascends in tone, creating a great sense of restlessness within its apparent calm nature fading. Then, after a decent bouncy Maiden like bridge the song explodes into this amazing, huge, ultra intense chorus featuring one of Blaze's best performances on the record. By now I'm left wondering how a song can feature such a trio of awful sections followed by three parts on the absolute opposite pole. And things don't end here. the following bridge is also quite exciting (although a bit into generic Maiden) as it gives way to a rumbling tom still part featuring yet another great Harris bass line and an utterly delicious guitar harmony. The soloing is also embedded in this section before it returns to the previous bridge and... oh no! We're back into the initial section. Well, at least this time it is much shorter and the horrible harmonics and ride part were left out. Fortunately It then returns to the calm part and excellent chorus but the song doesn't end before returning to those shite harmonics, like if both Mr. Harris and Gers were trying to really piss me off on purpose. So this track is really strange: lots of different sections without middle term. When they're good they're absurdly good but when they're bad this thing really stinks. This is perhaps the most uneven track maiden has ever written. And if they rounded some edges here they would've made a completely glorious closer for the album. But since both composers (or just one, I don't know) insisted to put all that ugly stuff hereI have no choice but to downgrade it severely. 7.5/10

Bonus tracks/ Original B' sides:

Judgement Day:
First and foremost: IT'S UNFORGIVABLE THIS TRACK GOT CUT OUT OF THE ALBUM. Why? Here's why: a) it's top tier material b) The X Factor lacks short, fast and energetic songs to balance with the longer ones and c) although I overall like all songs, IMO Judgement Day is better than the majority of the songs that cut it to the album. Don't give the "oh, the first riff is similar to Be Quick Or Be Dead". Really? Really? Since when Maiden left songs out of their records because one riff is similar to others they did (not to mention others did *cof* *cof*)? Do I have to point out the various examples? This is full octane, greatly composed Maiden and besides being heavy and fast it also sounds dark (the verses, the lyrics and bridge before the solos mainly). So one more reason to put the damned thing on the record, RIGHT? But no, let's leave it out. God... 9/10

Justice Of The Peace:
Another cool track, although dealing with the perils of modern life this track has somewhat array of happy heavy rocking riffs. And to be honest I love every single one. Only aspect I dislike is the song ends in a really odd way (IMO the last riff - that happens to be the same that opens the song - should have been extended with a guitar solo to give the song some kind of closure). It kinda looks unfinished and unlike Judgement Day this track is too shiny and would sound out of place on the album, but nonetheless I really dig it! 7.25/10

I Live My Way:
After a really UFO inspired intro this song gets going and although the riff is ok I immediately don't buy Nicko's hi hat shuffle here (by the way: what's that "woooh!" thing, Blaze?). Speaking of Blaze what kind of vocal line is that on the verses? It seems like the man is stumbling on his own gibberish. It's a pity since the riff and bass sound really good. On the other hand the pre-chorus is really on point. But the chorus is a bit silly to tell the truth. Not the best of Tracks but far from being crap... there's some stuff here that would make a decent song with due refining. which is not quite the case here. 6/10

The X Factor is one of the most underrated Maiden albums if not THE most underrated. Ok... I must agree Blaze Bailey's vocal is a considerable step back when compared with Bruce ( BTW if it was nowadays Blaze who improved sigificatvely his singing since back in the day I believe it wouldn't be so much of a shock), that its atmosphere is much darker and that lacks some faster tunes. But what really puzzles me is when people and critics say "ah... this is the album where Maiden stopped sounding like Maiden". Excuse me? EXCUSE ME? So let's see: in a stripped down album with several rock n' roll heavy tunes (NPFTD) the band sounds like Maiden; in a completely incoherent album where there are several american hard rock and AOR tracks and a ballad (FOTD) the band sounds like Maiden. But in an album filled with epic long metal tracks with several guitar harmonies and galloping bass featuring some intricate prog metal structures at time "Naaaaaaaah! this doesn't sound like Maiden at all!". Give me a break! One thing is not liking it (like many others don't like typical Maiden albums, no matter how good they are). Other is saying nonsense like this. In my opinion this is precisely the album that somehow saved Maiden, that put them back on track writting the kind of stuff they did like no other band from The Number Of The Beast to Seventh Son: epic metal. I must admit I absolutely love the record as it is but the proof that none of this "this isn't Maiden anymore" crap would ever be said is how brutal the 3 songs from this album sound when sang by Bruce. Wow... I mean.. wow! Sign Of The Cross? Man On The Edge? And the absolutely brutal enhancement on the already excellent Lord Of The Flies? Get real people. Another aspect some people like to be picky with is the production. I think the guitars should have had a bit more gain but other than that it sounds really good. Unless you are used to the "lets mix everything on clipping levels" loudness wars crap. If that's your problem have you ever noticed something in your devices called "volume"? As for both covers the electric chair one is ok but Eddie is quite far away and the official one is taken in a much too light filled ambiance and it looks like what it is: a sculpture. Have they used the photo same sculpture that appears sideways, on the first page of the booklet (from where they clipped the Man On The Edge single cover) it would've been super! The way the shadows land on the sculpture give it a really grim and more real feel to it, like it's really a living creature (or was). So to sum it up: great record, Blaze's performance is a bit lackluster but absolutelly compensated by the remainder of the elements and the great gloomy epic flavor of master crafted metal compositions. 8.5/10
 
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Diesel 11

As you scream into the web of silence...
Obviously our ratings differ — I’d have given a lot more 10’s, lol! — but overall thoughts don’t really. It’s a terrific album, so dark and brooding but really captures your complete and utter attention throughout it all.

On the topic of leaving some songs out and adding others in, I came up with a tracklist for the album were it to have been a two-disc affair.

Disc One:
1. Man On The Edge
2. Lord Of The Flies
3. Justice Of The Peace
4. Fortunes Of War
5. Look For The Truth
6. Judgement Day
7. Sign Of The Cross

Disc Two:
1. Virus*
2. The Aftermath
3. Judgement Of Heaven
4. Blood On The World’s Hands
5. The Edge Of Darkness
6. 2 A.M.
7. The Unbeliever
8. I Live My Way

The original is already perfect as-is, IMO, but it’s always interesting to ponder how things could’ve been altered, yknow?

*Yes I know Virus wasn’t written at the time, but who cares?
 
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srfc

Ancient Mariner
Gave the new remaster a listen. Unlike FOTD, my views on this album have changed a lot from my original impression in 1995. There's still problems with the album, wimpy guitars and low key drumming/awkward grooves in some parts, but it was an enjoyable listen and one of Maiden's most cohesive albums in terms of maintaining a certain vibe across the whole album.

I'd break down the tracks like this:
10/10: Sign of the Cross, Man on the Edge
9: Blood on the Worlds Hands, Edge of Darkness, The Unbeliever
8: Lord of the Flies, Fortunes of War, Look for the Truth, The Aftermath, Judgement of Heaven, 2 Am

A lot of the tracks could have got a higher rating if it wasn't for fatal flaws, eg. terrible opening lyric in 2 Am, The Unbeliever could have got ten out of ten if it wasn't for the awkward groove in the verse and the tuning up riff in the intro/outro.

Pretty much agree with what I said here, maybe some of the tracks could go up or down a mark here if I was to be consistent with what I've given the other albums, as I think The X Factor having nothing less than an 8 can't be right.

Nothing needs to be said about first three tracks, SOTC is an all timer, MOTE was a great single at the time, and Lord of the Flies is a relatively solid track.

I've a post earlier in this thread about Fortunes of War, it's one that got away, on another album without the production flaws it would shine.

I love Look for the Truth, it's a real different song for Maiden and I love the vibe of it, but there's a line in the intro, you know the one I mean, he delivers "here's is" pretty powerfully and then gets to "dream" and it's not within an asses roar of the note he's trying to hit.

The change in Judgement of Heaven at "if you could live your live again" is great and that's another real good song being held back by the albums flaws.

The bass solo is improved over TRATB just by adding something to the first note of each measure, I don't know if it's the root note double tracked or some sort of effect on it but it helps it sounds less solitary, like the piano note in Sanitarium. The drums in this are terrible though given how busy the rest of the song is compared to the rest of the album, the drums really needed to get out of it's slumber in this one.

Edge of Darkness is a real forgotten classic, I might throw this one a bone and give it the extra mark to bring it up to 10.

2 AM is another real good track with a fatal flaw. The open lyric is one of Maiden's worst. The sentiment is fine, but it's portrayed in such a laughable manner. Also, I'm not buying anyone in Maiden getting in from work at 2 AM and sitting down with a beer, in 1995 it would have been a while before any of them had done that, even Blaze. The mid section is real good.

As I mentioned above, what was he thinking with the tuning up riff in the Unbeliever, and the groove for the verse, but otherwise this is sensational.
 
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