After Bruce Dickinson left at the conclusion of his farewell Maiden tour in 1993,Iron Maiden was a band left without a singer,wich meant they had to search for a new singer for the band.There were rumors that Paul Di'Anno who was previously singer of Maiden back in the late seventies and early eighties and did vocals on the band's first two albums,"Iron Maiden" and "Killers" would come back shortly after.The rumor proved to be nothing but a rumor as Iron Maiden announced in 1994,that Blaze Bayley the former singer of Wolfsbane was chosen as the band's new singer putting an end to the Di'Anno comeback rumors.The band issued their Bayley album in 1995,"The X Factor" who receved mixed reaction from fans mostly due to Bayley's singing on the album.Fans have in average,a bad opinion of Blaze but he's actually pretty good even if he's no Bruce Dickinson,but if you can get past that you might discover a great Iron Maiden album.
By this time Bruce was gone and they focused on releasing an album with Bayley and i have to say that they did a solid job and that out of the Blaze albums this is the better of the two as it has better singing,songs,and the album had a better feeling overral.With Blaze the band would have to cut some regular songs from thier live shows such as "Run To The Hills" because he couldn't sing it,his style didn't allow him to.Also he had breathing problems and was allergic to many stage elemnts wich in consequences forced Maiden to cut their tours short due to that,wich contributed largely to Bruce coming back with them in 1999.Yet with Blaze they could do things they couldn't before,wich they did on this album as the album has unique dark feeling and songs that only Blaze could do(Bruce tried,but he couldn't do much with that material).Guitarist Dave Murrey actually considered X-Factor a great album done by the band,too bad most fans disagree with him.
As for the songs now,they are all different than what you usually get with Maiden and this albums sounds like no other albums done by the band prior to this largely due to the arrival of Blaze and the change of pace and the guitar and drums played differently and all of wich to make for a really dark album.My personnal favourite is the opener,"Sign Of The Cross" with Blaze having pretty good vocals on this one and with its 11 minutes its an epic and i consider it the best song of the Blaze era.Next is the excellent "Lord Of The Flies" wich is also the name of a famous movie,it doesn't seem to have a direct link with it but it was released as the single of the album and it has a catchy chorus."Man On The Edge" is a faster song and a great one too,the other single of the album and some good drumming from Niko on this one to make a fast beat,the second best of the album."Fortunes Of War" is a good track and is nearly a ballad being a slower song and it has some great guitars."Look For The Truth" is catchy and a great song overral,not much to say about that song."The Aftermath" is a ballad about the time after the war and its good enough to be considered as one underrated song."Judgement Of Heaven" has Blaze going for a more emotionnal kind of singing and the song is overral bery good,about judgements and the title of the track says it all."Blood On The World's Hand" is very poetic and it has a great feel and the song is kinda true in way."The Edge Of Darkness" is one of the album's best tracks."2 A.M." Sounds like it should be a filler but it isn't its actually a good song,but one of the weaker on the album.The last track "The Unbeliver" is an epic at 8:10,wrote by Jannick Gers alone,it concludes the album pretty well but i can't say i liked it so much.
To conlude,"The X Factor" is a good album but overral i just feel that its no much of Maiden as nothing of the guitars and drums that were giving life to a song are here.There are nearly no solos at all and the overral feeling is that this could be a Blaze solo album.You don't hear the instrumments very loud either its like they turned the volume down to make place for the vocals,the album does have good production tought but it could have been better.Yet this one has some gems such as "Sign Of The Cross" and "Man On The Edge" and it is worth a listen and besides its also the best Iron Maiden with Blaze Bayley album out of the two as "Virtual XI" the other one is too repetive but i'll get to that in another review.I must say,this is a weaker Maiden album and unless you are a die hard fan of the band i can't really recommend it,if you are new don't get this get the Bruce albums instead.