Virtual XI is Iron Maiden's second studio album with Blaze Bayley as vocalist. It retains the Maiden feel while at the same time continuing their musical evolution and maturation. Although there will always be people who are unable to accept this evolution, Virtual XI demonstrates that the band has indeed overcome their painful transitional period and are now continuing to do what they do best – making great music.
The album cover is once again by Melvyn Grant, and returns to the familiar comic-book style. It is perhaps the most complex album cover since Somewhere In Time, depicting a boy who is immersed in a virtual reality of flaming holocaust where the line between virtual and reality is beginning to blur.
Musically, Virtual XI is not as dark and brooding as its predecessor The X Factor, and perhaps has more in common with Somewhere In Time both in its futuristic mood and musical style. Like all of the Maiden albums since Somewhere In Time, Virtual XI has a touch of light synth in the background of some songs. Also, there is a bit more vocal harmonies than we've seen before, on songs such as 'The Clansman' and 'The Educated Fool'.