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Review of the Album "The X Factor" by Iron Maiden

Ara is a journalism graduate from California State University, Northridge, who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.


"The X Factor" Is Still a Good Album So Give It a Chance

The X Factor is the 1995 studio album by British heavy metal band Iron Maiden and this one is the first one to not have Bruce Dickinson doing the vocals since Killers back in 1981. Doing the vocals is Blaze Bayley and the sound is noticeably a bit crunchier for Iron Maiden standards and this one will receive criticism from many longtime fans. One person does not make up a band so even with Bruce Dickinson not in the band at the time that this album was made, Iron Maiden had to continue as a band or quit and they chose to continue as a band and 1995 also marked the 20th year of Iron Maiden’s existence and they have now been active for almost 47 years!

The X Factor Weak Point: "Lord of the Flies"

Lord of the Flies has a strange guitar sound that dominates most of the song but this one is a decent song about the flaws of human nature. It may be the weakest song in the album though.

The X Factor 2 Strengths: Songs Fortunes of War & The Aftermath

Fortunes of War start softly as the lyrics describe the life of a soldier after he has come home from a war. He has flashbacks in his mind and he has recurring nightmares from the horrors of warfare and this describes how a person with post traumatic stress disorder feels. For soldiers such as this, no amount of time can heal the torment or their emotional wounds that they have to deal with every day. Does anyone remember the famous song One by Metallica? This one lyrically is similar to that song. “The Aftermath” may be my favorite song on The X Factor as lyrically the song tells the tale of a war that is being fought and this war seems like this is a futile conflict where no one wins. The questions mount as they wonder if the war is even worth fighting. After the war, there is the feeling that no one has won. It is often said that most wars are lost politically and not on the battlefield.

Other Thoughts on The X Factor

The X Factor will not bore you, but the songs are long so patience may be required for some that want to get through listening to the album. I can tell you that this album beats Megadeth’s Youthanasia if we want to compare this album to others. Lyrically the album focuses a lot on world problems such as the mentioned warfare, chaos across borders and the generally assumed human dysfunction. Blood on the World’s Hands is a song that tries to tell us that the world is turning to a pile of garbage and that there is nothing we can do about it. Is the world powerless to act? It sure seems like it but the album was made almost a quarter century ago and I first heard this album in my early 20’s. Looking back, yes this album is no Fear of the Dark but at the time that it was written it is still a darn good album. Even if Blaze Bayley wasn’t the best fit vocally for Iron Maiden which in some way he may not have been, the songs are still for the most part at the very least manageable and listenable for most heavy metal fans.

"Man on the Edge"

The X Factor Has Two More Cons: Too Much Lyrical Focus on One Topic and Blaze Bayley Could Not Measure Vocally to Bruce Dickinson

The album has a focus of often times starting soft and then getting heavy and lyrically the album focuses a bit too much on the horrors of warfare. The Edge of Darkness in particular lyrically and musically in terms of the style is similar to a few other songs on this album that I’ve mentioned before. The X Factor is not like Metallica’s ...And Justice for All but then again, Metallica seems to be in a class of their own in terms of the older heavy metal groups. This article is not meant to compare Iron Maiden to Metallica but at this time in their career in 1995 Iron Maiden was undergoing a transition period and obviously, Bruce could not have been adequately replaced.

The X Factor Is a Little Weaker Than the Band's Previous Effort But Still Good

However, on taking a second analysis of this album, is it really as good as previously thought? No Iron Maiden album is the same without Bruce Dickinson. It is really tough for any person to fill in for this legend of a heavy metal singer. Even so, for the situation and circumstances that the band was going through at the time, The X Factor is a good album even if a few of the songs are a bit too long for some of our tastes.

How Does The X Factor Sound in 2020?

Note: it is now 2020 and I am taking another in depth look at The X Factor as an album because back when it first came out, I really liked it as an album even if Bruce Dickinson wasn’t singing on it. The Sign of the Cross has a terrific middle section that sounds kind of modern and almost orchestrated though there are no classical instruments being used here. Even if the song Lord of the Flies is the weakest point for this album it is not a bad song at all. The song 2AM which I had not really reviewed or analyzed may be one of the forgotten songs in this album. The song is about a person that gets home from work at 2AM, sits in front of the TV and he is drinking a beer. He wonders if this is all there is to this life that he is in. He feels defeated and he wonders what is there for me? In this song, Blaze Bayley shows us that he in fact can sing and he holds on to one note very well! Taking a look at The X Factor 25 years later, we can go back and really analyze an album. The Sign of the Cross being as long of a song as it is it starts out soft and slowly like the song Alexander the Great in 1986. Blaze Bayley has his own style of singing and while some fans may think he was incompatible for Iron Maiden, at least the band did not choose someone with a more punk rock style like Paul Di’anno.

"Blood on the World's Hands"

The X Factor Compared to Fear of the Dark & No Prayer for the Dying

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2019 Ara Vahanian


Ara Vahanian (author) from LOS ANGELES on January 30, 2020:

I have not heard the song Virus. But in regards to the earlier albums (the first two), they were of a certain style that involved guitar sound that is different from anything Iron Maiden released in 1982 and after. Songs such as Murders in the Rue Morgue have this sort of punk rock style to them and I think that's why Paul might have been better for songs like that. Yes, I agree that he would not have been able to sing songs like Alexander the Great. He just didn't have the style or the range for those songs. By the time Iron Maiden released Powerslave though, their melodic mastery was on full display. That's why it is so tough to say whether that one is better than Somewhere in Time or not. Tough call because they are both great albums.

Jason from United States on January 29, 2020:

Paul Dianno was perfect for that style of Maiden at the time, Bruce does it justice, but its definitely geared more for Paul. Paul definitely would not have lasted in Maiden through the 80s. I try to imagine him as the vocalist for the Bruce albums and know it would not work. Could you imagine Paul singing Alexander the Great or The Duellists? Blaze is not a natural born singer while I think Bruce is, and thats what distinguishes them. Both are baritones to an extent, definitely Blaze is more. Bruce is about to reach the high notes more than Blaze. Honestly, both hold their own well with all of Maiden's material, just Blaze falls a little short. Have to give Blaze a lot of credit, he took on the job as the lead vocalist for one of the biggest metal bands in history, and did it with success. He has nothing to be ashamed of. One extra Blaze era song we haven't mentioned is Virus, what is your take on it?

Ara Vahanian (author) from LOS ANGELES on January 27, 2020:

Oh wow! Why would you say that Paul Di'anno was great? I guess you could make the case that he sounded great for a few songs in the album Killers such as Wrathchild and Murders in the Rue Morgue, both of which are the two best songs for that album. I don't know if he would have lasted through the end of the 1980s though. Timing worked out great for Iron Maiden as their commercial success really took off. Then a series of solid albums were written such as Piece of Mind, Powerslave, Somewhere in Time and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. That's four quality albums in a row. Any band that does that and has that kind of solid work consecutively should be given praise, credit, and respect. Bruce Dickinson may be the best fit for Iron Maiden though. But Blaze has his own style, using a more lower to mid-range voice while Bruce's range has been historically higher. How is my analysis of these two guys?

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Jason from United States on January 27, 2020:

Bruce definitely is the master vocalist of the three. Of course, Blaze is great and still great in his own right, Paul was great, but in too poor of health in the last few years to make much of an impact. Bruce is great for arena shows, and I think Blaze is great for smaller audiences. Bruce I think is more about the spectacle, while Blaze is about making a personal connection with his audience. Paul unfortunately I think is more into it for the cash now, but still, he is a respected vocalist.

Ara Vahanian (author) from LOS ANGELES on January 26, 2020:

Jason: now that would be a great idea! If only the band would actually consider reuniting Blaze Bayley, Bruce Dickinson, and Paul Di'anno for like a one night show where they take turns singing various songs. Whether they would even consider such a thing is another matter but a reunion even if it is temporary would be great for the fans to see. In terms of which vocalist has the best LIVE stage presence my pick would be Bruce Dickinson because I've seen both Bruce and Blaze LIVE in concert.

Jason from United States on January 26, 2020:

Iron Maiden is definitely the best of the three. What I would love to see Maiden do is a weekend event where every member takes the stage together. It would be a great experience to see Paul, Bruce, Blaze, Dennis Stratton all on stage together going through all their songs. I'm not even sure if Paul, Bruce, and Blaze have ever been in the same room together. It would kind of be like the "Big 4" event. That would be the show of a lifetime.

Ara Vahanian (author) from LOS ANGELES on January 25, 2020:

Somewhere in Time for me was my favorite album from these guys for a long time but I am kind of leaning towards Piece of Mind. The Trooper, Die With Your Boots On and Where Eagles Dare, oh my goodness! Die With Your Boots On features Bruce Dickinson with some of his best vocals ever. It is really hard to say what is their finest hour but in my perspective the years 1983 through 1992 were their best. it is sad though that Clive Burr passed away. Of the big three British bands which are Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Black Sabbath I think I like Iron Maiden the most.

Jason from United States on January 25, 2020:

2AM is definitely the sleeper of the album. It is a great song. The problem why Blaze was not appreciated as much was simply because people compared him to Bruce, which I don't think its a fair comparison since they are both different styles, and neither can replicate the other. Same goes with Paul Di'Anno, a whole different singer that was great for his time, and the other two could not replicate. I have met Blaze twice and I was very impressed with his professionalism as a singer, which I'm sure draws me into his era with Maiden more. His solo work is just as great. The debut album, Killers, Number of the Beast, and Peace of Mind definitely put Iron Maiden on the map, everything after that became very technical and experimental. Somewhere in Time will always be my favorite era, but 1980 to 1983 was definitely their most important.

Ara Vahanian (author) from LOS ANGELES on January 25, 2020:

The song 2AM has lyrics that some of us can relate to on a personal level. That one may be one of the songs that some fans may forget or overlook. My guess is that some fans may not have accepted Blaze Bayley. He shows me that he in fact can sing pretty well. The other thing that impresses me is that I never thought for a moment that this review would have generated the amount of feedback that it has. Thanks for contributing. I would say that for me at least since 2018 or so, the album Piece of Mind may have been Iron Maiden's "best" moment because of the quality of the songwriting. After about 1981, I would say that Iron Maiden really catapulted themselves to superstar status as a band. What are your thoughts on this?

Jason from United States on January 25, 2020:

I don't think Iron Maiden has ever made a bad or subpar album. The ones I listen to the least is probably Number of the Beast because its overplayed and Fear of the Dark for no particular reason. Both great albums and all songs are great on them, they just don't speak to me like the others do. The X-Factor speaks to me because I understand what message the lyrics are making and can visualize it. Somewhere in Time is very atompheric, plus its the first Maiden album I took serious interest in.

Ara Vahanian (author) from LOS ANGELES on January 25, 2020:

Yes you are right! Blood on the World's Hands is a very good song because of the riffing in it. The X Factor can be hard for some of us to sit through and listen because of the length. There is a song on this album called 2AM which I really haven't analyzed very much at all. I think I will give that song a good listen through as well. Are there any Iron Maiden albums that you would consider bad or sub-standard? I can't think of any bad Iron Maiden albums even though I haven't listened to much of their material after the year 2000.

Jason from United States on January 24, 2020:

I think the songs on the X-Factor were made from more of an emotional standpoint, which gives them the extra human touch to them. Structurally, they are written in a way that most people probably wouldn't follow too closely. I think the lyrics for most of these songs are for people that can relate to them. The Edge of Darkness, Blood on the World's Hands, and The Unbeliever are my favorites off the album. Edge of Darkness I like the ambiance in the beginning and end, Blood on the World's Hands gives a sense of impending doom, and Unbeliever gives a sense that no matter what in life, their is always hope. The lyrics do not say that, but the music does. Oh, and between No Prayer for the Dying and Fear of the Dark, Im a bigger No Prayer fan. Thats a different story though.

Ara Vahanian (author) from LOS ANGELES on January 23, 2020:

I see what you're saying. For me Virtual XI seemed like an album that flows through better musically. The X Factor was a good start with then new vocalist Blaze Bayley. I think this album has done well with time considering it will turn 25 this year. Amazing how time just flies. I would rank The X Factor 3rd best in the 1990s with Fear of the Dark taking the top spot among Iron Maiden albums in that decade. When you say that the X Factor is a more complex album, are you talking about the song structure? That's what it seems to me. My favorite song in The X Factor might be The Edge of Darkness but it is a tough call.

Jason from United States on January 22, 2020:

Virtual XI is a good album, but I think the X-Factor is far more complex. Virtual XI kind of feels more like left over songs compiled into an album. While all good, just not as strong as many other Maiden songs. I write a few articles related to Iron Maiden and metal in general if you are interested.

Ara Vahanian (author) from LOS ANGELES on January 21, 2020:

Interesting. I think that Somewhere in Time is one of their best albums as well. One album though that I really like is Piece of Mind which came out in 1983 and that one may have been the band's best at the time because of the songwriting quality. The Trooper is one of the best songs ever in the history of Iron Maiden. We could make the case that every one of the band's albums in the 1980's is pretty much solid. I am giving The Number of the Beast a listen through and it feels like that one is really good as well. I have yet to hear a bad album from Iron Maiden yet even though I haven't listened to too many of their albums they released after the year 2000. The only one I have heard since 2000 is the one called A Matter of Life and Death (good one as well). I normally don't get too many comments on my album reviews but this feedback is interesting. I would encourage other fans of the genre to leave their comments and feedback. I have not heard Virtual XI which is the other album that Blaze Bayley does vocals on.

Jason from United States on January 20, 2020:

I have listened to all of Maiden's albums front to back continuously for several years now, and I can confidently say The X Factor is definitely in the top 5. It is unique, and the circumstances surrounding it, with the band having personal issues and given the state metal was in at the time, its an album to pushed through it all and still held up. Most 80s bands became washed up by this point, Maiden was an exception. It may not be the best musically, but it went through a lot to be made. Personally, my favorites are Somewhere in Time then the X-Factor.

Ara Vahanian (author) from LOS ANGELES on January 20, 2020:

Thank you again for commenting on this album review. You raise an interesting point here. The first album and Killers were regarded as two of Iron Maiden's best albums because they were released in the 1980s. Blaze Bayley is not a bad vocalist at all though I think most fans of the band will say that Bruce Dickinson is the band's best vocalist. It is just that at the time The X Factor was released, Bruce had left to raise a family. I am giving this album another look to see if I will like it as much as I did when it first came out. You are more than welcome to check out many more of my album reviews. Thanks again for commenting. One question I have is that is The X Factor one of Iron Maiden's top 5 best in your opinion?

Jason from United States on January 18, 2020:

I think it gets the bad rep because its an unusual album for Maiden, and because of timing. If this was their debut in 1980, it would be regarded as one of their best. Just as if the debut and Killers were released in the 90s, they probably would have been overlooked, and in the boat the Blaze era is in.

Ara Vahanian (author) from LOS ANGELES on January 16, 2020:

Really? That is interesting though. However, The X Factor while not a bad album may not be one of their best ones. For the time period that it was written I guess you could say it was decent. Bruce Dickinson had left Iron Maiden for the first time in 1993 in order to raise a family. Iron Maiden had to find a replacement for him. I will say that Blaze Bayley is definitely a better vocalist than Paul Di'anno was. Thanks for commenting. I did like The X Factor quite a bit in the 1990s and early 2000s. It does have some good songs though.

Jason from United States on January 12, 2020:

This is one of my favorite Maiden albums. Im a Blaze fan anyway, and what makes this album special is the emotion that went into it. Gives the human touch to it.

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