Smart, Retooled Metal

A Perfect Circle - Mer de Noms
(Virgin Records)
3 1/ 2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: June 15, 2000

By Tony Bonyata

It's been 4 years since the hugely popular metal act Tool has released a new album, leaving millions of fans waiting in the wings for something new.
Although Tool still doesn't have anything new to offer in the near future, mainly due to a nasty legal battle between the band and its record company, lead singer Maynard James Keenan has formed his own off-shoot band, A Perfect Circle.
Keenan has linked up with guitarist and songwriter Billy Howerdel, who's worked as technician for Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins and Tool. During Howerdel's work on Tool's 1996 recording Aenima, Keenan heard some of the music that he'd been working on. "There was a lot of down-time in the studio," Keenan explained on the inception of the band. A Perfect Circle"Billy had his computer rigged in there, and he had a lot of music on it. I really liked what I heard, and I could really see a lot of potential in the way he approached everything. I begged him to let me be involved in what he was doing."
The band was later filled out with the addition of Troy Van Leeuwen (ex-Failure, Enemy) on guitar, Paz Lenchantin on bass and Josh Freese (Vandals) on drums. On their debut effort, Mer de Noms, the band serves up a strong album that is sure to please Tool and heavy metal fans alike, as well as win over fans of edgy alternative rock.
A Perfect Circle rocks with all the foundation-crumbling intensity of Tool, which they prove on "Thomas," "Magdalena" and the complex, powerhouse first single "Judith," but they also show a newfound sensitive side. The music on the poignant "Rose," the reflective "Orestes," as well as "Brena," with its haunting melody, provides a deeper, more meaningful backdrop for Keenan's rich, passionate vocals.
On the alternative-meets-metal numbers "The Hollow," filled with sumptuous, multi-layered guitars, and "Thinking Of You," with a call-to-arms, anthem-like chorus dancing atop skittish beats, Keenan has assembled a complete package - no Tool required.
Itıs nice to hear someone still capable of creating a smart brand of metal that still smarts.

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