"It is so dark...it's not accessible like some of the other Maiden albums." Ex-Iron Maiden singer Blaze Bayley explains why he feels many fans didn't warm up to their divisive The X Factor album

Iron Maiden with Blaze Bayley in the 90s
(Image credit: Mick Hutson/Redferns via Getty Images)

Former Iron Maiden frontman Blaze Bayley has offered his explanation as to why the two albums he recorded with the band - 1995's The X Factor and 1998's Virtual XI - remain somewhat divisive within Maiden's considerable fanbase. The singer suggests to metal podcast The Metal Command that The X Factor in particular may have been a little too dark to instantly connect with many longtime fans.

"Some fans go, 'Of course I've got every Iron Maiden album, but the ones I haven't listened to are The X Factor and Virtual XI,'" says Bayley (as transcribed by Blabbermouth). "'And now that's all I can listen to that I haven't listened to a hundred times. I have to listen to those.'

"The X Factor's got some incredible music on it, but the sound of it is so dark, and the way it was produced, it's not accessible like some of the other Maiden albums," Blaze continues. "You've gotta live with that for quite a few spins until you're tuned into what things are doing. Then you can get to the music. I think that was maybe a problem with it at the time. It's so dark and the sounds of things were quite different to what came before. People who did live with it, managed to find it. And it's different cultures as well, different countries. In Sweden and Spain, those albums, people loved them as much as every other [Iron Maiden] album. But in other places, people didn't. It's a different thing."

Blaze Bayley joined Iron Maiden in 1994 following the departure of Bruce Dickinson. He would leave in 1999, just one year after the release of Virtual XI, to make way for the very man he replaced as Dickinson rejoined the band (alongside former guitarist Adrian Smith). Last year, he opened up to Metal Hammer on the devastating impact being let go from Maiden had on him.

“It was horrific," he explained. "I’d be making all these plans for my solo career: ‘I’m going to come back with a new project, I’m going to use everything I learned from Maiden and from songwriting with those guys, it’ll be incredible.’ And then a couple of hours later, I’d be sobbing. I couldn’t say so at the time, but I was destroyed.”

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He has also presented and produced the Metal Hammer Podcast, presented the Metal Hammer Radio Show and is probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.