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Second serving from A Perfect Circle

A Perfect Circle

A Perfect Circle - Thirteenth Step
(Virgin Records)
3 (out of 5 stars)

Reviewed: Nov. 17, 2003

Review by Tony Bonyata

With bandmembers from the likes of Tool, Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson and Smashing Pumpkins you might expect A Perfect Circle's second full length album Thirteenth Step to have a similar crushing effect to that of Monty Python's 16-ton weight dropping from the sky. And while there are moments of extreme power exuded here, they are, quite often, tempered and restrained; caged in the corridors of dark, atmospheric and, at times, even vulnerable compositions.
Joining core members vocalist Maynard James Keenan (Tool), Billy Howerdel (Nine Inch Nails) and drummer Josh Freese (The Vandals) are newcomers Jeordie White (aka Twiggy Ramirez from Marilyn Manson) on bass and former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha. The result of this newly retooled supergroup may be less immediate than their 2000 debut Mer de Noms, but no less interesting.
With songs that prove these metal monsters all have beating hearts, with softer numbers augmented with rich string sections ("The Nurse Who Loved Me" and "A Stranger"), along with textured soundscapes and changing tempos that sound like a prog-rock / Goth shotgun wedding, this seems be the ideal getaway from the grind of their day jobs to rejuvenate creativity from within.
Much of the material here, however, is a lot more than just a peek into the softer side of these complex artists. Mixed within their gentler moments, are foreboding songs such as the pounding "Pet," complete with clawing guitars and hounding rhythms, "The Package" an atmospheric number which once unwrapped halfway through reveals a delightfully menacing surprise, and "Lullaby," with the lilting dreamlike voice of a woman hovering above a drawn-out hip-hop beat. The musical interaction between bandmembers successfully balances dark and light, good and evil, and heaven and hell, all with the nail-biting dexterity of a vaudevillian plate-spinner.
While it all may not be pure perfection yet, with the progression that A Perfect Circle are making in the little time they're allowed between their full-time responsibilities, they are becoming more and more a full circle as a band.

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