A Perfect Circle
Thirteenth Step


4.5
superb

Review

by hankdee27 USER (19 Reviews)
December 20th, 2012 | 35 replies


Release Date: 2003 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The guitar textures put together by Bill Howerdel, matched with Keenan's bittersweet vocal-style and nihilistic lyricism, makes a solidified album.

Maynard James Keenan and Billy Howerdel make quite the duo. Howerdel as former Tool guitar tech approaches and develops guitar textures that pairs nicely with Keenan’s floating, lightly soaring vocals. Mer de Noms was built with diverse emotional aspects that made the album slightly bi-polar in a way, moving from the melon-collie collaboration of Keenan’s expressing agony over sexual desire, and how it devours us, leaving only a temporary empty spot in “The Hollow”, to his enraged, frayed scream of “*** your God/Your lord, your Christ”, (referring to his mother) on the song “Judith”. Keenan and Howerdel still write lyrics of this emotionally charged nature, but on Thirteenth Step, a couple of things have changed. The instrumentation on several tracks point towards more progressive, slowed-down song structures. The songs are pretty short by themselves, but they seem to be more drawn out, more spacey. “The Package” is one example of this, with the ominous picked notes, Keenan singing of a sexual encounter of a man that uses the thirteenth step on a woman, (the thirteenth step is a reference to the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, meaning to try to seek sex from a woman who has just gotten into to the program, and is in the middle of recovery) taking advantage of her sexually and then leaving “out the door again”. The song is seven-minutes long, moving ahead into an atmosphere of Keenan chanting “mine” in gnashed-teeth.

It’s quite epic to hear this desire slowly move into infuriated want, the normal feelings of an addict. Most of the album centers around addiction and a lot of these songs tell grim tales of either fighting in it, or accepting into it. “Weak and Powerless” was a radio single, and I can see why. Usually, I prefer most of the other songs of an album over the singles, but this is no simple crowd-pleaser. It moves with handsomely polished acoustic guitar chords and picking, between the distressed singing of Keenan, telling of a person giving in to the fact he is weak and powerless, which is a clever reference to the first step out of the twelve. “The Noose” is a first person narrative, speaking of the cocky nature found when a person recovers from an addiction. It puts a metaphorical noose around their “halo”, dragging them down further than ever before. “A Stranger” is honestly the crown jewel of all the songs. The acoustic guitar-picking and echoed synths, matched with lyricism, possibly about a person letting go of a relationship, choosing to do so because they do not need them “tearing their world down”. If you listen closely, you can hear a man shouting abusively, which only adds to the song’s bleak, hopeless atmosphere.

Mer de Noms was the hard rock brother of this album, but there are only two tracks that choose that same route. “The Outsider”, a coarse tune about a person who sees an addicted loved one, slowly becoming more and more sickened spiritually by his drug addiction, who then plans to commit suicide. The loved one’s relationship shatters completely when she refuses to help him do it, or take part in it. The second song following the hard rock technique is “Pet”, a song about how addiction takes direct control of several people’s lives, as they become slaves to the drugs, wiping their reality clear without knowing it. The tremolo picking squeal gives a threatening spiral effect to the tone as well, making it more creepy than it really seems.

The hard rockers of Mer de Noms seem to be gone for the most part, but that doesn’t stop this album’s mostly indie rock stance. In some ways, these more softly-spoken tunes don’t give the impression of a censored atmosphere. The tales sung are harsh and follow struggles that are doomed to failure in the end. Emotional, gritty, epic, hopeless, and cleverly metaphorical lyrically, Thirteenth Step passionately expresses callous feelings without being melodramatic. The guitar textures put together by Bill Howerdel, matched with Keenan's endless vocal-range and lyricism, makes a solidified album.



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user ratings (2356)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Atari
Contributing Reviewer
December 20th 2012


20064 Comments


good album

Digging: Circa Survive - Descensus

hankdee27
December 20th 2012


259 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, I think in some ways its even better than some of Tool's discography, though it kind of pains me to say that.

chambered49
December 20th 2012


1727 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i enjoy tyhe noose

hankdee27
December 20th 2012


259 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah that's a great one, but personally my favorite is "A Stranger". Can't really put my finger on why it is my favorite out of all those songs.

Hopelust
December 20th 2012


1101 Comments


This album is so solid for the first half, but loses its grip significantly near the end.

DotEight
December 20th 2012


5639 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Not a great review, but yes, this is a good album. And I enjoy The Noose too, but it's depressing.

KerfuffleinaHussle
December 20th 2012


799 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Love this album. So perfect and polished and pristine, but it doesn't loose any character for it. Great stuff.

MO
December 20th 2012


18991 Comments


makes a solidified album

FadedSun
December 20th 2012


1303 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"endless vocal range" What.

FadedSun
December 20th 2012


1303 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"endless vocal range" What.

DotEight
December 20th 2012


5639 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah that part made no sense to me. Maynard keeps within the same range ALWAYS.

KerfuffleinaHussle
December 20th 2012


799 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, it's more his style than his range that makes him great vocally

hankdee27
December 20th 2012


259 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Look, I worked really hard on this review. It took me two fucking hours, because my internet went out twice and I had to rewrite it twice... If your going to give me more than one reason why this review is so bad, I'll be listening.

DotEight
December 20th 2012


5639 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"Look, I worked really hard on this review. It took me two fucking hours, because my internet went out twice and I had to rewrite it twice... If your going to give me more than one reason why this review is so bad, I'll be listening. "


"Howerdel as former Tool guitar tech approaches develops guitar textures that pairs nicely with Keenan’s floating, lightly soaring vocals"

What?

"“The Noose” is a first person narrative, speaking of the cocky nature they found, that put a metaphorical noose around their “halo”, dragging them down further than ever before."

If you've ever heard The Noose, you already know this.

"Maynard James Keenan and Billy Howerdel make quite duo"

Quite A duo.

I can keep going.. it's rushed and full of grammatical errors. Sorry.


hankdee27
December 20th 2012


259 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I've corrected a lot of those just now. That normally doesn't happen when I write. I can see why you
would not prefer this review over others, but I'm working really hard to improve. No matter what it I
succeed in, people just find another reason to bash it, people can't seem to be satisfied enough...
Why? I was reading this review again, and I realized it had a lot of mistakes that you pointed out. I
try to take criticsm well, but it's kind of hard when you get negative reactions from people on here
endlessly.

DotEight
December 20th 2012


5639 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"I've corrected a lot of those just know. That normally doesn't happen with my reviews. I can see why you would not prefer this review over others, but I'm working really hard to improve. No matter what it seems, people can't seem to be satisfied enough... Why?"

Because it's Sputnik and no one is ever truly satisfied with anything.

hankdee27
December 20th 2012


259 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

That's pure stupidity. People go around acting tough, spending more time saying "this review fucking sucks", than trying to find something they like. This is just a hobby? Why and the hell would anyone take it so seriously?

DotEight
December 20th 2012


5639 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"That's pure stupidity. People go around acting tough, spending more time saying "this review fucking sucks", than trying to find something they like. This is just a hobby? Why and the hell would anyone take it so seriously?"

I never said this review "sucked", it's a hard album to review. I'm just saying it wasn't great. Everyone does reviews that aren't that great. The more you review, the better you get. I personally have a hard time relating my feelings on an album into words. I didn't pos or neg the review, I'm just indifferent on it. I'm just giving you a critique on it - not trying to be a dick.

hankdee27
December 20th 2012


259 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oh, well thank you. You're the only so far who actually allowed me to see some actual reasoning.

hankdee27
December 20th 2012


259 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Shit! I'm so tired today, I keep messing up every sentence I write.



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