A Perfect Circle is the side project of Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan. Though this band has more of an experimental, prog metal sound than his other band, traces of Tool can still be heard in the music. Things aren’t as aggressive here, rather they’re heavy, drawn out, and full of distortion. While it is a good record, it gets tiring with each song playing out slow and long. After a certain point, you just want the record to end even though most of it is pretty good.
The opening track “The Hollow” sets up the mood and tone for the record. The music is heavy and plays out really slow as if the instruments have been drugged. It’s also the introduction of Keenan’s intriguing lyrics like “Run desire run/Sexual being/Run him like a blade/To and through the heart.” Though his lyrics aren’t always the easiest to decipher, they still paint really interesting and sometimes disturbing images. The next track “Magdalena” has more of an ethereal, wispy sound to the music when it starts. The tone gets more intense during the chorus. The music constantly switches between these two dynamics for the rest of the track. Keenan’s singing is also really distinct here since it sounds like he’s wavering and stretching out each part of the word.
We start to hear more experimental elements to their music during “Rose.” Along with an interesting use of distortion, you can hear Eastern elements to the music, which sort of gives it a spiritual approach, like something you would hear while meditating. The rhythmic drums that come in halfway through gives it more of a trippy vibe, like you should be strung out on acid while dancing in the rain to the song. “Orestes” is another change in music. Instead of being heavy, the sound here is dreamy and soft. It actually sounds like something from The Cure’s Disintegration. The music moves along nicely like a lullaby while the lyrics paint some gruesome images like “Gotta cut away, clear away/Snip away and sever this/Umbilical residue that’s/Keeping me from killing you.” Those these songs are interesting they feel like they run on a long time due to the way the music is drawn out.
The tracks that stand out the most in terms of sound are “Thinking of You” and “Over.” The first song still has all their heavy, distorted elements, but it adds in traces of hip-hop and hard rock to create its broad and interesting sound. Considering the sound of the previous songs, when this one starts it catches you off guard before you start grooving to it. The closing track “Over” is more playful with most of the melody being played out on a xylophone that sounds like it’s imitating rain drops. A piano comes in and expands the mood briefly before it goes back to the playful music. It’s very unexpected for A Perfect Circle, but a welcome change from what has been heard so far.
Even though the album drags on to a point where you want it to end, the lyrics to the songs are still interesting. Tracks like “Thomas” and “3 Libras” have such intriguing and complex lyrics that aren’t always easy to comprehend the first time you hear them. Lines like “’Cause I threw you the obvious, to see what occurs behind the /Eyes of a fallen angel, eyes of a tragedy, oh well” makes you want to sit and try to take it apart to decipher its meaning. Some of them aren’t that difficult to comprehend, like “Judith.” Featuring the outbursts “fuck your God” and “He did it all for you” it’s clear that it’s a criticism on religion. The song is actually about Keenan’s mother who was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her after a stroke, yet hung on to her faith. “Thomas” on the other hand, seems to be about finding the strength to forgive someone who has wronged you. Each song has lyrics you’ll want to mull over constantly.
Overall, the album gets 7.5/10. The album is pretty solid with songs that go through several sonic changes. Considering the heaviness of Tool, it’s great to hear Kennan play around with other types of music to create different moods for the songs. There are also notable and complex lyrics to the tracks that present interesting and sometimes gruesome images. What brings the record down is how the songs play out. A lot of them feel really long and drawn out, while others don’t really switch things up in terms of sound. Still, it’s a decent album that is sure to grab the interests of Tool fans and others alike.