Friday, June 15, 2012

FDF Volume 3 Issue 270 - A Perfect Circle - Mer de Noms

Album – Mer De Noms
Artist – A Perfect Circle
Key Players - Troy Van Leeuwen – guitar. Josh Freese – drums and percussion. Paz Lenchantin -backing vocals and bass. Billy Howerdel – guitar, backing vocals, keyboards, piano. Maynard James Keenan - vocals

Produced By – Billy Howerdel

Release Date – May 23, 2000

What caused me to blow off the dust? - For some reason the topic of this band came up in conversation a few weeks ago. I am amazed its already twelve years old!

Overview – Formed in 1992 by a former guitar tech (Howerdel) this is the debut album from the band “A Perfect Circle”. The album, translated from French is “Sea of Names” and the symbols on the front of the cover translated read “the waterfall of first names” (many tracks on the album are single male/female names). The album would debut at #4 on the Billboard charts. It was the highest debut rock album ever. Selling close to 190,000 copies in the first week it would remain on the charts for 51 weeks. Before the end of the year it would be certified platinum in the US.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) – The guitars are nice and full as “The Hollow” begins. Drummer Tim Alexander (the only track he is credited for) puts down a solid, yet simple, drum line. Once Keenan begins to sing the guitar effects of Howerdel kick in some and once the chorus hits the band has fully come together. Each layer is there. From the deep bass to the drums of Alexander the roles are perfect. The production is solid with each instrument seeming to be equal in the mix giving it that big full sound. Howerdel plays bass as well and has a deep bass intro on “Magdalena” as Freese strikes the drums. Howerdel has a haunting ring of guitar notes chime out as Keenan slowly starts to sing. Its a dark sounding track, sort of slow and plodding for the first verse before Freese pushes it at the chorus. The same guitar vibe returns later in the track. It has this really big arena rock sound. You can almost see the lights cutting through the stage fog. Howerdel works well with Freese on the tempo changes and Keenan finds a new level on the second part of the track, pushing even harder. Acoustic guitars ring as “Rose” starts. Layered with electric guitars and the slow start of distorted guitar lines this has more of a crunch on the guitar, but the acoustic guitar keeps the balance. Howerdel has a short electric solo that is at the right time and it gets even heavier. Coming out of the solo the overdrive on the bass and Freese rumble things forward. The string section on the outro is a nice touch. The big single from the record comes in “Judith” which is a track about Keenans mother who suffered a stroke. Freese fires off quickly and the wall of guitar and bass hits you. This is a perfect lead off single for a rock record. Big feeling, with a bit of easing up on the verse, only to really to punch the chorus. Keenan sings this with abandon and then will soar, holding long sustained notes. Freese and Howerdel really shine on the track. “Orestes” is a much more laid back track. This is the first “quieter” song on the record. It has the slow build into the later verses, but Howerdel seems content on holding the guitars back some. Freese finds a comfort zone on the cymbals and his drumming continues to be very strong. Howerdel solos briefly in two sections and Keenan has his usual strong moment as the song heads to the finish. “3 Libras” was another track released as a single that also shows the calmer version of the band. Freese keeps very quick time on the drum line with the slow build from Howedel (pulling bass and guitar duties). The guitars are quieter on the track with a heavy nod going to the downbeat on the snare drum. The chorus finds them all coming together a bit more stern and Howerdel seems to switch on acoustic to electric. The climax of the chorus finds Keenan in his usual strong form. “Sleeping Beauty” is another dark feeling song, but the guitars have a bit more bite. Keenan seems to be pushing himself and he is pulling it off very well. There is no vocal strain and he feels okay with his range, or limitations if there are any. A track that could have been a single to these ears. The track “Thomas” has a quiet solo guitar for about 20 seconds, then the full band comes in. Big rock riffs here. The vocals are awash with effects. Its rare as most of Keenans vocals are left alone. This one is noticeable at times. The track continues to do the quiet to louder push and Howerdel really gets loud. Acoustic guitars return at the start of “Renholder”. Here we have the first noticeable keyboard portions as well. This is a very loose track, filled with guitars and strings and a mumbling Keenan. It could have passed as an instrumental, but there are some vocals. Its over quick and that is okay. Keyboards play along with a punched up bass line from Lenchantin during the intro to “Thinking of You”. The drums feel a little “electric” for the first of any track on the record. Dare I say it sounds like a remix of another track. Odd vibe to this one, but come the chorus it regains the focus. Van Leeuen has the extended solo on the track and its really solid. For an odd sounding intro Keenan really shines (as always) but the vocals are really great and by the end it is really one of the songs that stands out. “Brena” slows things down some but maintains that really “full” sound before the band fully takes off. Freese sets the pace here, but Howerdel is on the money on this track. Closing out the collection is the track “Over”. Sort of a throw away track, with piano and percussion instruments with just a very muffled Keenan. Ending with Brena would have been fine.

Where are they now? - The band released three albums and went on hiatus in 2005 Lenchantin left the band to join Billy Corgan's project “Zwan” and Van Leeuwen left to join Queens of the Stone Age as a touring guitar player. Both of them left after the debut. For about four years the band wavered from being “done” to “not done”. In 2011 the band hit the road and again talked of new material being possible. Keenan is busy with various side projects as well as his vineyard and Howerdel is busy with another band “Ashes Divide”. The band may (or may not) release more music, but if they do it would be at their own relaxed pace.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) – I have not seen the band live.

FDF Overall Take – I knew the story that this was a “roadie” that formed a band. Howerdel is very skilled and it wasn't until I really looked at the liner notes did I realize this was really largely his thing. Freese played drums and Maynard sang. The other guys credited (on Wiki for example) didn't seem to play on the tracks. It is impressive he had this much vision and talent to go with it. A good solid rock record worthy to check out, in full, all over again.

Official Site

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

Judith (Official Video)

Judith (Live)


Orestes (Live)

Thinking of You (Official Video) might be a little NSFW

Grab your copy from

Disclaimer – I am just a music fan. Feel free to comment about something that may be written incorrectly about the band/members etc. I strive to have a fun and enjoyable site. This site used to post mp3s but ran in to many issues. The audio clips provided are usually from YouTube. No copy write infringement is intended. Please alert me if something should be pulled. Finally, support the artist featured, or your favorite artist by purchasing their music, seeing their shows if possible and saying hi. They need your support.


At 12:08 PM, Anonymous BBS said...

Didn't we see these guys up at the Ice Rink at Fitchburg State?


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