1998 and MAIDEN's second offering with Blaze at the helm. Compared to the lack luster of "The X-Factor", "Virtual XI" was a step back in the right direction. But lets get to the main point: Blaze was no Bruce replacement. His vocals were adequate and his song writing-contribution was nothing if unspectacular. So it was up to Harris to pick up the pieces and once again try to deliver the goods.
"Futureal" kicks off the album and is an out an out MAIDEN-classic. Pummeling bass-runs; a frantic Nicko on the skins and a charging guitar duel between Murray and Gers. A boys own furious MAIDEN-track that the band are renowned for. The nine-minute "Angel And The Gambler" is simply terrible, over blown, over long and not what you'd expect from MAIDEN. From the inept guitar-opening complete with synth riff to the clichéd guitar this song is an embarrassment from start to finish. "Lighting Strikes Twice" starts off with an excellent guitar passage moving into the familiar MAIDEN-stomping riff. This much better. A great mid-paced middle-section is a welcome relief as is the chorus. The saving track on this album is "The Clansman" which is yet another Harris-classic. It has all the ingredients and lacks nothing in terms of quality and showmanship. The other outstanding track is "The Educated Fool" with its superb solos and a song that suits Bayley's voice. The remaining tracks are best forgotten about. They are tried and tired MAIDEN-standards.
There is very little on this album to challenge the listener. MAIDEN-fans will buy it obviously, but as an introduction to one of the great Metal-bands this isn't the one. There is no hunger and little conviction.
Just how do you replace one of the best Metal-singers the world has known?