Iron Maiden - The X Factor
EMI
Heavy Metal
Disc 1: 11 songs (71'12) Disc 2: 3 songs (12'16)
Release year: 1995
Iron Maiden, EMI
Reviewed by Ben
Archive review

Now that The X Factor is thirteen years behind us I want to look at it and give it the credit it deserves. I remember when this came out the uproar that the Maiden legion let loose and read scathing reviews for this new incarnation of Iron Maiden. To this day there are thousands of fans that like to pretend that this album and 1998’s Virtual XI are just accidental outputs by the band. I find this quite arrogant and stupid because if this was 1982 these people would have said the same thing when Bruce joined the band. What was it exactly about The X Factor that turned so many off? An obvious answer is yes Blaze is not Bruce and wahhh “it’s not Iron Maiden.” Keep in mind at the time when Blaze joined the band, Bruce was hardly performing unless it was under the watchful eye of the metal media and his detrimental behavior was unhealthy for rest of the guys. So yeah, Blaze didn’t come in and roust out the Bruce Bruce, he came in to replace a tired, bored, and unwilling singer that upped and jumped ship. Secondly, the band wrote their most intricate, mature, and negative album ever. Gone are the days of comic book violence and horror, The X Factor is rampant with themes of self doubt, loss, insanity, personal struggle, and real life atrocities. Even the war songs (of which there are three) are not the typical up tempo galloping anthems, now they are deeply infused with dark overtones and the feeling in the air while listening to these songs is not, “let’s go out and fight for our land / king / whatever,” it is instead all about death and a loss of hope that occurs during combat. Maybe it’s the less than great production that plagues this album. Steve Harris is in the producer’s chair and he has admitted the way this album sounds owes a lot to his hearing impairment. I find it ironic when people who absolutely despise this cd rave about A Matter Of Life And Death considering the latter is really just the former with better production and Bruce behind the mic.

Sign Of The Cross opens up this dark platter of delicacies with the best epic Steve Harris has written since Rime Of The Ancient Mariner. A brooding ominous intro paves the road for a typical mid tempo gallop that is consistent throughout most of the song. When Blaze gets done singing is when the fireworks start. There are solos and melodies at every corner during the instrumental breaks. From clean guitar chords overlaid on a thumping rhythm, to a classic sounding lead guitar duel between Dave and Janick, to some trademarked twin guitar harmonies, this is solid Iron Maiden. Lord Of The Flies and Man On The Edge are the only two songs that start off immediately and urgently. The rest of the album takes its time to build up the tension and atmosphere which is why most tracks are six minutes or more. For being the “speedy” numbers these two songs are nice but I find them a bit lacking on the personal front. Maybe it’s because Lord Of The Flies is based on the book and Man On The Edge stems from the movie Falling Down. I just don’t feel the sincerity behind the lyrics like I do when Fortunes Of War comes rolling around the corner. What sells this particular track is the haunting lyrics of a man going insane that almost seem to come from personal experience. Like I said before, this isn’t a song to praise the spoils of war. I consider Aftermath to be a companion to Fortunes Of War, as both deal with a man lost in the world after coming home from battle. This time instead of pondering the loss of sanity Steve gives us a glimpse into the life of someone who is left hollow inside and emotionally dead. Aftermath is more aggressive than Fortunes Of War, it is made up of more edgy riffs that ring out in a brash manner. The guitar solo is a sweeper and ranks up there as the best one on the album. Somehow I think that Judgment Of Heaven is largely influenced by Steve’s soul searching during the divorce that he was going through at the time of the recording sessions. It is wrought with questions about how one should live their life, if they led a good one, or what if they thought they were on the path to righteousness when it was all just an exercise in futility from the start. Two throwaways close off The X Factor, the drudging rambling 2 A.M. and The Unbeliever which is album filler of the shoddiest quality.

Clocking in at over eighty minutes (the Japanese edition has three bonus tracks, Live My Way, Justice Of The Peace, and Judgment Day. Out of these three Live My Way could have been a better pick than 2 A.M.) The X Factor is Iron Maiden at their best since Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son. Sprawling and epic with texts ripped from the heart of the band The X Factor is not an album that should be relegated to “album collection completer” status. In the mid nineties when Judas Priest was in limbo and heavy metal giants all over the world were buckling Iron Maiden put out their most complex, dark, and graphic material to date.

Killing Songs :
Sign Of The Cross, Fortunes Of War, Aftermath, Look For The Truth
Ben quoted 87 / 100
Jeff quoted 60 / 100
Al quoted 65 / 100
Other albums by Iron Maiden that we have reviewed:
Iron Maiden - The Book of Souls reviewed by Goat and quoted 73 / 100
Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier reviewed by Goat and quoted 83 / 100
Iron Maiden - Flight 666 DVD reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Iron Maiden - Killers reviewed by Thomas and quoted CLASSIC
Iron Maiden - Iron Maiden reviewed by Thomas and quoted CLASSIC
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