IRON MAIDEN – Virtual XI – 2019 Remastered Edition
- by J.N.
- Posted on 03-09-2019
Iron Maiden’s 1998 effort entitled “Virtual XI” was the second LP to feature Blaze Bayley on vocals and it is unarguably a bit of a dark horse within the overall discography by the legendary heavy metal pioneers for a variety of different reasons. I am keeping my fingers crossed that this formidable 2019 remaster will help bring attention to the fact that there are some colossal tunes to be found on this particular disc.
Whereas its predecessor (“The X Factor”) was infinitely dark in tone and had a rather gloomy atmosphere to it, the 53-minute long “Virtual XI” sported a brighter sound and a more upbeat feel to it all around. Having said that, the 8-track opus was not without its fair share of morose and heartfelt moments, and the prog rock influences were all over this one too, which suits yours truly just perfectly. “Futureal” kicks things off with a bang and is a magnificent metal anthem capable of tearing the roof off that ugly house of yours. The melancholy “Lightning Strikes Twice” is as moving and melodically graceful as they come and “The Clansman” is a stone-cold classic. The touching ballad “Como Estais Amigos” (which is the closing song on the record) also deserves praise as do the varied and instantly catchy “When Two World Collide” and “Don’t Look to the Eyes of a Stranger”. Unfortunately, the tedious and ridiculouly repetitive “The Angel and the Gambler” also makes an appearance here, and “The Educated Fool” does not really go anywhere either and lacks direction, so there are a couple of complete duds to be found on “Virtual XI” that interrupt the flow of the whole thing, mind you.
In some ways, “Virtual XI” is yet another underrated album from the Bayley-era, which is a damn shame as it has a lot going for it, and some of the compositions are downright marvelous and certainly deserve closer inspection. The fact that Iron Maiden still include the epic “The Clansman” in the set list nowadays says something about the dramatic quality of that song. Some consider this record the absolute nadir of Maiden’s storied career, but I strongly disagree with that point of view despite the fact that such forgettable cuts as the aforementioned “The Angel and the Gambler” and “The Educated Fool” rear their heads on this one. The remastered version highlights the many subtle details present within the music and simultaneously emphasizes all the light and shade of the tunes without sacrificing any of the original version’s raw power. The 2019 release comes across as slightly more bombastic than the original one did and yet the bright and vibrant sound of the latter remains intact here.
“Virtual XI” is an interesting and at times compelling follow-up to “The X Factor” in that it explores other musical avenues, thereby expanding Iron Maiden’s already vast musical landscape. Approach this great-looking digipak release with an open mind and see where it takes you…and worship at the altar of “The Clansman”!.