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Mer de Noms

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★★★★½
(625 Reviews)

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A Perfect Circle Photos             More from A Perfect Circle Emotive Thirteenth Step aMOTION ”A Perfect Circle is not a side project,” proclaim the members of Perfect Circle. It’s a caution worth heeding, since the most identifiable name in the band is that of vocalist Maynard James Keenan, lead singer of Tool. On the other hand, one wouldn’t be much inclined to file this one under ”side project” anyway. The musicians involved go to great lengths to create something distinctive, and if the uniformity of sound can be attributed to the fact that guitarist Billy Howerdel (whose previous songwriting credits include Tool, the Smashing Pumpkins, and David Bowie) is responsible for the lion’s share of the music, well, the others aren’t exactly marching in lockstep. Keenan’s vocals here are quite different from anything heard from him before. Subtle, thoughtful, sober, they’re a far cry from Keenan’s work with Tool, which is what makes this album more than a side-project curiosity. Mer de Noms has a life all its own. –Genevieve Williams

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  • In the spring of 2001, I heard this song on the radio. I was completely blown away, but didn’t have a clue who did it. If I was familiar with Tool at the time, I surely would’ve recognized the powerful voice that is Maynard James Keenan, who formed A Perfect Circle with guitar tech Billy Howerdel in 1999. I eventually heard the song again, and remembered enough of the lyrics to Google it. The song turned out to be “3 Libras”, and despite knowing nothing about Tool or APC, I rushed out to buy the album, titled “Mer de Noms”, that very day.

    As it turned out, I also knew another song on the album, called “Judith”. It received a lot of airplay a year prior to that, but I never knew who it was. Anyway, the album was rather underwhelming to me upon the first couple listens, with the exception of the aforementioned two songs. But after more and more spins, “Mer de Noms” became one of my favorite albums of all time. And it still is to this day. It also got me interested in Tool, which is certainly a good thing.

    You’ll notice that “Mer de Noms” (translated as “Sea of Names”) contains a lot of Biblical references in the song titles and lyrics. The slow, brooding “Magdalena” is one of them, in which Maynard longs for “one taste of you, my black madonna”. The first single, “Judith”, is a heavy, powerful tirade against blind faith. Unlike other crappy anti-religion songs, this is actually thought provoking and inspiring.

    “3 Libras”, the song that got me into the band in the first place, is flat out gorgeous. It begins with a beautifully orchestrated string intro, then goes from mid-tempo ballad to a heavy, emotional finale in which Maynard sings, “You don’t see me at all”, a totally relatable sentiment for anyone who has felt overlooked or unnoticed.

    “Brena” and “Orestes” are the most subdued affairs on the album, with the former being a beautiful love ballad, while still retaining the haunting feel of the album. The latter is my favorite song on here, another one that starts slow and builds up to a spine chilling finale that cements Maynard’s position as the best rock vocalist in the game.

    Other standouts include:
    The creepy industrial-atmospheric assault, “Rose”, which culminates with elegant strings.
    The raucous “Thomas”
    “Sleeping Beauty”, in which Maynard puts a slight twist on the classic fairytale of the same name.
    And finally, the aggro-funk of “Thinking Of You”.

    The album closes with “Over”, a brief elegy featuring only sparse instrumentation.

    If you’re a fan of alternative or modern rock in general, don’t pass up “Mer de Noms”. Unlike a lot of crap that gets airplay on the radio, A Perfect Circle never sacrifices their sense of adventure and creativity, yet they can still churn out catchy, radio friendly tunes like “Judith” and “The Outsider” (the latter of which is from their most recent album, “Thirteenth Step”). “Mer de Noms” is bold, dark, haunting, and beautiful – never boring.

    Best Songs: Orestes, 3 Libras, Thomas, Sleeping Beauty.

    Posted on November 17, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Faced with stiff criticism due to the much-hyped frontman, A Perfect Circle has found both a blessing and a curse in Keenan, of Tool fame. Whilst Keenan has brought in numerous fans with his participation, he has also brought an unfair comparison: A Perfect Circle is not Tool. A lead singer does not a band make. But, with eloquent, brooding lyrics, exquisite vocals, and above-average musical content, Mer De Noms is a strong start for this promising new band. The standout songs, such as “Magdalena”, “Three Libras”, and “Rose”, offer hauntingly powerful music which carries the desperate intensity of Keenan’s singing well. Though there are some skippable tracks – some songs may linger or fail to catch you – the album pleases more than not, and won’t leave you wondering why you didn’t just download that one song you liked on mp3. Considering the shaky MTV-fed cash cow music bloating the industry, I think it’s about time I’ve felt good about buying a CD to support talented musicians worth my money. Give it a listen and decide for yourself.

    Posted on November 17, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • For all the rock albums I have, from “Mellon Collie” to “The Fragile” to “Aenima”, this one holds it’s own. It’s right up there with all those classics. The first single, “Judith”, sounds a lot like Tool, fitting since Maynard fronts both bands. It’s an amazing song with a chorus you won’t soon forget. Though Maynard will get most of the attention due to his Tool status, Billy Howerdel is the main man behind this project. His guitar skills are breathtaking. From iron-spiked riffs to soft acoustic melodies, he can do no wrong. The best song here, (and now, one of my all-time favorites) “Rose”, is one that will have you hitting repeat for days. It starts out with dark-almost gothic-acoustic guitars, then Maynard’s beautiful wounded voice carries the song into something beyond perfection. It’s no real surprise that APC have a gothic feel at times, in an article with “Rolling Stone” Billy said some of his favorite albums are by Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Cure (I know some of you are absolutely clueless). The beautiful “Renholder” is a perfect example of that. It can also echo Tool’s alt/metal work with “Judith”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “Thinking Of You”, and “Thomas” rocking like Tool themselves. “The Hollow” opens up the disc and you get a feel of how the album is. “Magdalena” is great with it’s sludgy bass line. “Orestes” is amazing and bleeds into the beautiful “3 Libras” with lush strings leading the way. I’m a HUGE Tool fan, but A Perfect Circle (in my opinion) are better. You can’t ask for a better album; from start to finish this is a classic. I’m never letting this CD out of my sight.

    Posted on November 17, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I’ll be honest, I never liked Tool. I always admired Maynard James Keenan and thought he was an amazing vocalist, but I never really got into Tool. Their sound just didn’t appeal to me. But I when I heard Mer De Noms, I immediately fell in love with A Perfect Circle. In fact, I love A Perfect Circle so much that I can easily call them one of my favorite bands.Their sound varies significantly from Tool and other Hard Rock bands. A Perfect Circle’s music is very brooding and eloquent…they create a very dark atmosphere that really pulls you into the songs. Maynard further proves how amazing a vocalist he is as he brings the haunting lyrics to life with hypnotic and trance-inducing vocals. His talent really shines in the amazing ballad “Orestes”, the first single “Judith”, and my favorite song on the album, “Thinking Of You”. But as the name suggests, he’s not the only member of the band. Billy Howerdel is a great guitarist and composer, Josh Freese is a very experienced drummer, and Paz Lenchantin and Troy Van Leeuwen are talented musicians as well.Although I was completely blown away with this album, I can’t confidently say that others will be as well. I’m sure many people bought Mer De Noms after hearing Judith on the radio or television and expected the rest of the songs to be just like it, but instead finding them to be much more mellow, and were disappointed. So my advice is to buy this CD with an open mind, and not to expect the hardest of rock, but instead very melodic and slow rock music that you can practically fall asleep to. I will admit that it has its flaws, but it achieves what it sets out to do and then some. Mer De Noms is a five star debut from a very talented band that we’ll all be hearing from a lot more.

    Posted on November 17, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • APC have been both blessed and cursed by comparisons with lead vocalist Maynard James Keenan’s other band, the excellent Tool. However, these comparisons aren’t exactly justified. Perfect Circle is Perfect Circle and Tool is Tool. Both bands are unique, and their only real connection musically is through Maynard’s vocals, which here sound far more vulnerable and emotional than his usual style.The first thing that must be said about this album is that the performances given by all five members are all absolutely awe inspiring. Billy Howerdel’s song writing ablility is second to none; Maynard James Keenan’s vocals are better than ever before; Josh Freese is simply one of the best drummers on earth; Paz Lenchantin’s bass playing is excellent, and her violin arrangements are simply perfect; and Troy Van Leeuwen’s excellent guitar work is equally noteworthy.Mer De Noms opens with the superb ‘Hollow’, one of the more upbeat songs on the album. Like many of the songs on here it has a wonderful chorus that you just can’t get out of your head, with Maynards’ vocals soaring while the music simply builds in intensity until the end.Following ‘Hollow’ is the atmospheric ‘Magdalena’, one of my personal favourites and an exercise in controlled power. The atmosphere on this song is so thick you can almost taste it. There are some great guitar-noise breaks here before the song again builds up until it reaches an awesome intensity.. but without any kind of screaming or earache inducing yells.’Rose’ is up next, with its off-kilter melodies and strange bass/keyboard parts complimenting one-another perfectly. Some nice guitar solos without being over the top. (More pink-floydy than most rock/metal solos).By now everyone will have heard ‘Judith’, the heaviest track on the album, expressing Maynards’ rage at Christianity and Religion in general, with a great main riff and some superb ‘bottle-neck’ slide guitar.’Orestes’ is one of the more mellow tracks, with some excellent vocal harmonies and a wonderfully memorable guitar melody. Again this track (like much of the album) is intense without resorting to screams or heavy, pounding riffs.’3 Libras’ is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. The lyrics are superb, complimenting the music perfectly, and the vocal work is astounding, particularly the end of the song which sees Maynard really opening up. The music in this song has an almost trance inducing effect, so well is it played.’Sleeping Beauty’ is one of the more heavy tracks, again intense and concentrated, simply due to the tightness with which it’s played.’Thomas’ begins with a little melody played out on what sounds like an acoustic before the band kicks in with a riff that sounds like the world is ending. Brilliant.’Renholder’ is a strange interlude, consiting of another off-kilter guitar melody, with Paz Lenchantin’s violin arrangements flitting around and complimenting it, along with Maynards’ unearthly moans and sighs.’Thinking Of You’ has simply the best rock bassline I’ve heard since Ozzy’s ‘Perry Mason’ from the ‘Ozzmosis’ album. I just can’t get it out of my head!’Brena’ is almost ethereal in it’s presentation. The vocals are again unearthly, and the music is absolutely superb, full of passion, and wonderfully emotive.The album finishes with the NIN ‘Fragile’ soundalike ‘Over’. Simply piano, a small amount of percussion and vocals. An odd, yet satisfying way to finish the album.This really is a special album, one of those where you find yourself wanting to keep to yourself and treasure, and yet simultaneously shout its’ praises from every rooftop until everyone knows just how great it is. There’s something here for everyone, and everything here for someone. If you like your music passionate and intense, you won’t be dissapointed.

    Posted on November 17, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now