Alright, so bring in the new guy and let’s get this sucker started!
Some chanting at the start of album opener, Sign Of The Cross. Haha ok, whatever. I see in my iTunes that this song is over 11 minutes long. Even for this band, that’s bloody ambitious. And then our intro to the new guy is barely a whisper? Mm hm… I was giving this until the three minute mark to do something or I was scanning ahead. Lucky they did! OK, not a bad song, really. Doesn’t really sound like Maiden, somehow, though? What’s missing? I mean sure, Blaze’s voice doesn’t even close to Bruce’s soar, even when he tries, in the chorus. But there’s something else… can’t quite put my finger on it. Anyway, were it me, as the new guy, I’d want my first intro to Maiden fans to be one of their trademark full-steam-ahead tracks, just put it all out there and say HI! Here I am! None of this half-tempo, chanting-monks stuff. OK, I get it, it’s atmospheric. Move along, boys. Alright the time signature shift is fun, for a minute. But even the guitar solo line is restrained. WTF! Ah, there we go, now at the FRIGGIN’ 8 MINUTE MARK we finally achieve liftoff! Yeah! That’s more like it. Also, this track has gone a long time without the dude singing at all, and I am not bothered by this. Some intro for the new guy. NOT! Wow I’m typing a lot for this song… because it goes for so bloody long and I’ve got all this time to type as I listen. Whoa, then at the ten minute mark, when he comes back in… unnecessary. Nope, sorry. He can’t cut it, here. Makes me wish for Bruce, he’d NAIL that. This guy didn’t. NEXT!
Lord Of The Flies starts off more promisingly, nice chunky beat and distorted guitars building into a bit better main song (though still mid-tempo, for Maiden). The first two lines, “I don’t care for this world anymore/I just want to live my own fantasy,” man, I felt like saying OK Dude, go for it, buh-bye! He’s not lifting me up, here. I’m not feeling it. This sounds like another band. Not even a Maiden cover band, either. Just… middle of the road rock. I’m not even following what he’s saying. Should I be? Wow, this guy was not the right choice.
Man On The Edge has a very pretty intro, as ever. This band has mastered those. And then boom! High energy! Yeah baby! And then… buddy starts his one-note “singing.” Great for punk, or a garage band somewhere, but for Maiden? Nope. This really goes to show how Bruce made this his own. All I can hear in my head is him singing this. He’d kill it. Great song, though. This is more like it, musically.
So as the guitars solo away, here at the 2:30 mark (which is awesome), I’m reading the track list for the first time. Maybe I should be paying attention to what buddy here is singing. This seems to be an overtly religion-themed record. Meh, I can go call up the lyrics online if something catches my ear. Which means I probably won’t, because I don’t care. Anyway.
Fortunes Of War kills the energy of the last track’s ending with another pretty intro. Dude does his monotone singing. Then the guitars come in! Oh, then they go away. But now they’re back! Now they’re down again (repeat). Too much up and down for too little pay-off. This is boring, and very repetitive. Alright, almost 3:30 and he’s singing again. Ugh. Ah! And 4:40 the band takes off. Finally. This is nice, one minute of full-on Maiden musicianship without buddy’s foghorn wrecking it up. Then he’s back. And really, “whoa oh oh oh?” Come on. And then it takes forever to die off. Yeesh.
Look For The Truth, another pretty intro. Almost Metallica’s Unforgiven-like. Wow, this guy has been singing like any schlub they could’ve dragged in off the street. Sorry, but it’s true. Whoa, WAIT! He went above his usual note! Now we’re getting somewhere! Only 5 songs in and he’s finally letting it rip a little bit. OK, now we’re talking, this is better. Not great, but better. Why didn’t he do this on the previous tracks? I was already losing interest completely by the time we got to this. Most people wouldn’t have even this much patience, to sit through all that to get even this. So far, this is the best track here, and that is a little sad.
The Aftermath sucks away the energy again with yet another lovely intro before kicking in. Talk about over-using the formula. This one just plods. “Should we be fighting at all?” An anti-war screed, mid-point of a record that needs a whole lot more Maiden. What happened, here? Did they figure new singer, new approach? A clean slate? An interesting little instrumental bit that almost swings at the 3:30 mark. Cool, until he starts in the vocals again. Ah good, they’re off on one of their tears again. Now this I like. Let the great guitar solos wash away that guy. And then bring back the plod? Nope, should have let the soloing trail away and fade out the song. No need to bookend this track. Ruined it.
Judgement Of Heaven’s lyrics at the beginning are terrible (or hilarious, take your pick), and it doesn’t help that this guy is delivering them in a brutally bad way. The song crashes away after a bit, but these vocals are awful offal. I’m scanning ahead a bit but I’ll bet I’ll just skip this.
Blood On The World’s Hands’ intro is like being forced to listen to your college roommate noodle away on his bass. Come on, really? This is a Maiden record! At least it becomes better after the turn. I’m still not buying the new guy, but this song has interesting elements to it. Truly, this is a six minute song that would make a really great three minute song.
The Edge Of Darkness (again!) takes away any energy the last song may have left with us, and flies in the helicopters and another pretty intro. Gotta be another anti-war song. Oh goodie. Did he just mention Heart Of Darkness? Oh man. But then about 2:15 it finally gets some life. Cool. But that guitar line… doesn’t that sound like another Maiden song? Hmmmm? Of course it does. At least the track has some energy to it, for most of it.
2 A.M. AGAIN sucks away that energy. This isn’t an album that flows at all. Every song is an island unto itself, there’s no coherence between one song and the next. And the lyrics here are brutally bad. I cannot care. This one plods with no momentary energy blast. If I never hear this crap song again, I’ll be just fine.
The Unbeliever brings things to a close. And I have to admit, any other Maiden record and I’d have had hope for an 8-minute track. It’ll be a cool, historical epic! But after all of whatever this record can be called, I’m not so sure I have the strength, or the belief that it’ll be that intelligent. Well, in the interests of finishing this thing, onward… There’s parts of this that were interesting, like the Wipe-out style drums at 3:40. But whomever wrote these words needs help making things fit a structure without trying to cram in extra syllables. And a whole new idea of what to write – are they serious, with this crap? Except for the bits where the playing is excellent, this track is a toss-away.
OK, wow. That was terrible. I haven’t read Mike’s review yet, but I’m wagering it’ll be a 1/5. I can’t see it being very high, anyway. Ugh. The new “singer” is terrible. Sorry to those who like him, but he’s atonal and nasal. I didn’t care about the lyrics anytime I did pay attention. I’m sure Maiden fans were screaming for the return of Bruce, and some bloody energy, after this hit the shelves. What a let-down. The worst outing yet.
Here’s Mike’s review: http://mikeladano.com/2012/11/09/review-iron-maiden-the-x-factor-plus-singles1995/