During the early 90’s, Bruce Dickinson chose to walk away from the band. Iron Maiden’s voice of over 10 years was officially gone and fans were still in shock over the development. Despite this, Steve Harris and the rest of the band were still determined to remain a unit and as the old saying goes: the show must go on.
In 1994, the remaining members of Iron Maiden went on a journey to find a new vocalist. They searched far and wide for months listening to tapes and holding countless auditions. They finally settled on Blaze Bayley, the lead singer of British metal band, Wolfsbane, who actually previously opened for Maiden at concerts.
Now, a lot of Maiden fans actually don’t recall this era in the band (or simply chose not to acknowledge it). They know Paul. They know Bruce. But people often forget that the band actually had a third singer. You’ll soon see why.
Prior to recording new material for the band, Bayley was involved in a serious car accident that delayed the studio process. Once he recovered, the group laid down tracks that would eventually become their 10th album.
The X Factor was released in 1995 to very mixed reviews. It contained the single Man on the Edge which details the 1993 Joel Schumacher film, Falling Down.
The song is actually one of the more favorable tunes from the Bayley era. Sign of the Cross and Lord of the Flies (based on the classic novel by William Golding) were two other singles released from the album and were played during Maiden’s live shows at the time. I actually don’t hate this recording and would probably go as far to say that this, as a whole, was more enjoyable than No Prayer for the Dying (but not by a lot). Man on the Edge is a catchy track.
Blaze Bayley’s voice was less operatic than Bruce’s and had a lot less range. His vocals were more similar in tone to Paul Di’Anno’s. He wasn’t a bad singer by any means in my opinion and I felt he was the best they could have come up with given the circumstances of the situation.
The album, as expected, didn’t fare as well financially compared to previous Maiden records, only peeking at #147 on the Billboard Top 200 (when their previous album, Fear of the Dark, peaked at #12). It did however, still crack the top 10 on the U.K. album charts. While it was still too early to tell, it was looking like fans couldn’t accept anyone other than Bruce as their singer.
On the upside, Maiden nailed yet another ingenious tour name by dubbing the worldwide tour following this record, The X-Factour.
Refusing to give up, the band gave it another go in 1998 with Virtual XI. Notable tracks consisted of Futureal, The Clansman, and the very depressing song, The Angel & The Gambler, which Harris wrote during his nasty divorce from his wife.
Not much to say here other than the fact that this was a pretty lackluster effort from everyone involved. Other than maybe two or three songs, this is quite possibly Maiden’s most forgettable effort which is a shame because I really thought there was life after Bruce.
Virtual XI once again wound up being one of Maiden’s least successful albums. After over 15 years of debuting in the top 10 of the U.K. album charts, the record only peaked at a measly #16. Ouch.
Blaze Bayley during his time with the metal kings is considered the darkest period for the band and in 1999, he was asked to part with Iron Maiden due to the problems that arose during his stint. Album sales declined and fans were indifferent to him as Bruce’s replacement. It should also be noted that on both tours he did for Maiden, Bayley’s voice wasn’t functioning properly and several shows had to be cancelled. Bayley left on good terms and eventually returned to front Wolfsbane. Some tracks from Blaze’s time with the group such as Futureal were played live up until about a decade ago but his era has since been largely ignored by fans and the band themselves. Bayley got a raw deal but he had a lot to live up to and he just couldn’t fill the big shoes that were left for him. I’d like to think he would have been better received had the situation been better. Maybe if he immediately followed Di’Anno?
Could the band survive yet again without a front man? Is this the end?
The band looks to familiar faces to help fill the void within the band. Will the storied career of Iron Maiden be able to return stronger than ever? We’re just about to wrap things up so check out Vol. 5, the final installment of Iron Maiden Mania next week!
Photo Credit: www.targina.net for Iron Maiden band photo.