A Perfect Circle's follow-up to their acclaimed debut Mer De Noms is a much more gothic, somber affair, equally as mesmerizing, yet the band goes for a more textural, percussive style this time around. Filled with songs that drip melancholy, despair, and aggressive angst, Thirteenth Step might dissappoint some who are looking for the metal muscle of the debut (which mimicked Maynard James Keenan's band Tool to a degree), but this CD delivers as a solid overall package.
The gothic influence rears its head all over this release, as the majority of the songs here fall into the dark, psychedelic format, showcasing Keenan's tortured vocals and Billy Howerdel's layered guitar textures. This style is perfectly executed on "Weak and Powerless", or the ominous "The Noose", one of the CD's strongest tracks, where the band builds drama with an atmospheric and moody opening, a thunderous middle section, and a quiet climax. "Blue" is intricate, King Crimson inspired prog-rock, while "The Package" is top-notch heavy rock, with huge riffs, thunderous rhythms, and wailing vocals. "Vanishing" is one of those tunes that will draw a question mark...different...yes, somewhat in the style of the Smashing Pumkins. Hushed and whispered vocal passages, lilting guitar chords, it's a fascinating song that will no doubt have listeners talking. Whether it works as an A Perfect Circle song is another argument. Sedated, droning, melancholia can be heard on the seductive "A Stranger", which gives the band a chance to show off their meditative, acoustic nature, while "The Outsider" is a balls-to-the-walls rocker. Another nod to King Crimson, or even Tool, can be heard on the short instrumental "Crimes", and the band goes for a diverse mix of metal thunder and deft acoustic nuance on "Pet." The CD ends on a high note with the 1-2 punch of the mysterious "Lullaby" and the dreamy "Gravity." Both tunes are rhythm heavy, with lots of tribal percussion and trance inducing guitar chords, made even more mysterious by Keenan's emotional vocals.
This will be a CD that will appeal to both the modern, alternative rock crowd and the progressive rock crowd. There are plenty of lush arrangements, heavy rock passages, and intriguing lyrical content, to please a wide variety of fans. It may not be as intense as their debut, but A Perfect Circle certainly served up some variety here, and proved they can be more than a metal band. Well worth checking out.