Today, names mean nothing except how people address each other. However, back centuries ago, names told much more. My last name of Fisher would have told people I was a fisherman (probably poor). If I spelled my name Fischer, people would know I was probably Jewish. My first name, Tyler, refers to one who lays tiles. My name is perfect proof of how names tell nothing about the person. If you take the meaning into account, you get a layer of tiles who also fishes. Maynard James Keenan takes his side project which temporarily became his main project, A Perfect Circle, and makes the album Mer De Noms, which translates to Sea of Names.
Mer De Noms is the debut album by A Perfect Circle. Just before Tool went on a hiatus, former Tool guitar tech Billy Howerdel showed Maynard demos of his own written music. Maynard immediately offered himself as a vocalist for the band, and Howerdel eventually accepted. Thus, the band formed, pulling in various members from other bands. Maynard explores a more melancholic way of singing than the metal Tool produced on Aenima. Later, his evolution in singing showed itself in Lateralus, but this album is the birthplace of the evolution. Billy Howerdel makes an innovative guitarist, showing his experience and wisdom after being guitar tech for Tool, Smashing Pumpkins, and Guns N Roses among other bands. Backed by able guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, Howerdel makes plenty of fantastic appearances on the album. The rhythm section also adds to the melancholic aura of the album, with the bass sound tracked very well to create an excellent bottom to the chords built by the band.
To prove the critics wrong, the album opens with The Hollow. Within 30 seconds, A Perfect Circle proves this is no Tool spin-off. A big guitar riff and heavy drums open the album. Howerdel puts all sorts of effects on his guitar and plays an arpeggiated run with the effects, creating an extremely unique sound to his playing. Maynard's voice is noticeably cleaner from his last appearance on Aenima. Maynard brings the band into the chorus with the word "screaming" and the band grows in intensity. Howerdel plays a screaming lead part along with Maynard's melancholic climax. After the second verse, the song enters an instrumental breakdown that builds up to a bridge that would usually come after the second chorus. Howerdel makes vocal harmonies with Keenan, showing his ability to sing and be a lead guitarist. Another build up leads to the final chorus that the song so slyly avoided. The song closes out on a chord with Howerdel on an interval that causes a beautiful resolution, leaving a calming feeling after the song.
The next standout, Judith, is one of the angriest and flat out offensive (to some) songs Maynard has ever sung. The song opens with a few snare hits and a guitar riff opens the song. After two times through it in a heavy feel, one guitar drops out and it feels noticeably lighter and leads into the restrained verse. The verse opens up the Christianity bashing lyrics Maynard has to offer, blatantly stating "F*** your God, your Lord, your Christ." Maynard returns to his angrier Tool voice from Aenima, showing he hasn't forgotten his past. The chorus leads into an instrumental section feature Howerdel's excellent lead playing that harmonizes well with the rest of the band. Throughout the second verse, Howerdel screams high on the fretboard. Maynard accuses Christianity of never asking why, why Jesus left us all "broken down and paralyzed." Following the second chorus leads to a huge scream of "He did it all for you," and is definitely one of the vocal highlights of the album. The song ends on a variation of the main riff and then a surprisingly dissonant chord.
3 Libras, quite the opposite of the angry Judith, is one of the most beautiful songs APC ever released. The song features acoustic guitar and violin. The song opens with a simple acoustic pattern and violin creating a countermelody over that. Freese plays on the rim on every eighth note (the song is in 6/8, along with most of the album). Freese picks up intensity in the prechorus to the chorus, which is somewhat anti-climatic, but it appears intended. Maynard's voice in the entire song is heart-felt and beautiful; showcasing his vocals can be more than one voice. The second chorus reaches the climax that is obviously driven towards in the prechorus. The song comes back down again with Maynard almost sounding like a sigh with "Oh well." Finally, one of the most emotional releases of the album appears. The guitar turns electric and Maynard goes higher in his register to sing "You don't, you don't, you don't see me." The song finishes on a low, dark chord.
Among these brilliant songs, the album has much more to offer, most songs being extremely melodic and beautiful, a sound A Perfect Circle embraces on Thirteenth Step and takes to another level. Billy Howerdel's compositions have their own distinct sound, drawing influences from all the diverse bands he worked with. Later, the band would replace their rhythm guitarist and bassist, dropping the violin option shown in 3 Libras. Maynard has returned to Tool and released 10,000 Days, but hopefully, the career of A Perfect Circle is not over.