Mer de Noms at 20: Musicians Celebrate A Perfect Circle’s Debut

A perfect circle 2000
A Perfect Circle, 2000, US. Left to right Josh Freese, Billy Howerdel, Troy Van Leeuwen Paz Lenchantin, Maynard James Keenan, Paz Lenchantin. (Photo by Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images)

Adam Biggs

Bassist, Rivers of Nihil

<p>I never really understood Tool. I know, it’s considered a deep sin in the realm of progressive music to shun them in any capacity, and I don’t dislike them or anything. Their music just always felt like a bit of a slog to me, even as someone who can sit through just about any classic prog-rock opus you can throw at them. I always really appreciated their effort to keep the genre alive and inventive especially in a time when that definitely wasn’t considered “cool.” The main thing that always bothered me about this, however, was that I absolutely loved Maynard James Keenan’s powerful vocal ability and delivery, there was just something about it that felt to me as though it wasn’t being used to its fullest potential.</p>
<p>Enter A Perfect Circle, and their breakout debut, 2000’s <em>Mer de Noms</em>. It seemed to show a new side of Maynard and a whole new context for his voice to shine upon. At the time, the “supergroup” nature of the band was sort of lost on me aside from Keenan himself — I was 13. All I knew was that I was hearing that intriguing voice I’d heard in all of those creepy, cool music videos from my childhood but with a sort of renewed vigor, and a new, more hook-oriented focus. It took until their second record for me to understand exactly who Billy Howerdel was and how understated and striking his contributions to my overall musical appreciation really were.</p>
<p>That being said, <em>Mer de Noms</em>’ contribution to genuine rock music in the early 2000s can never be undersold. “The Hollow” crushes with its fiery hunger, “Judith” lashes out with vitriol toward a manipulative dogma, and “3 Libras” lulls you in with melancholy and beautifully vibrant orchestration. All of this while keeping an incredibly refined focus on songcraft and that oh-so-coveted replayability factor. I have trouble not belting out these songs along with Maynard every time I hear them.</p><div class= Tool

It’s hard for me to put a finger on exactly how much this record impacted my young and malleable musical mind. But its effect on me was certainly palpable, and unlike a lot of records I listened to at age 13, it holds up rock-solid to this very day.

Erik Leonhard

Guitarist, KOSM

<p>I became an A Perfect Circle fan when I was about 14. I had just joined a band with a couple of guys who wouldn’t stop raving about this Maynard James Keenan guy. At the time, I hadn’t heard of either A Perfect Circle or Tool, so it didn’t mean a lot to me. It wasn’t until they finally forced me to listen to <em>Thirteenth Step</em> that I finally became a convert to that whole 2000s-era world of melodic alt-metal. When I finally finished geeking out over <em>Thirteenth Step</em> and checked out <em>Mer de Noms</em>, it was like I had discovered a whole different version of the band I already loved. I was blown away by how different a band could sound album-to-album.</p>
<p><em>Mer de Noms</em> is immediately palatable for the listener, but also musically complex enough to keep the listener’s attention well after the first few listens. It did a great job of distilling the melodic but heavy sound that really defined that era of rock and metal, so it’s not surprising that it was popular at the time. But I think a lot of bands of that period in rock didn’t end up having a lot of staying power, mostly because so much of that style of rock is so sugary and straight forward. By contrast, with <em>Mer de Noms</em>, A Perfect Circle took that general style of music and put so much depth and thoughtfulness into it. It’s both pleasing and challenging.</p>
<p>I was totally blown away by how A Perfect Circle were able to layer their instruments. They have always been great at taking minimalist instrumental parts (parts that often don’t sound like much on their own) and putting them together to form these really musically complex songs. This is something I’ve really admired for a long time. As a guitarist who tends to write really busy parts, I sometimes have to remind myself that it’s possible to build a really big sound out of small parts.</p>
<p>I really got into this album when I was basically still learning to play guitar, and I naturally thought that every song had to be 100-percent about guitar all the time. “Orestes” really helped to expand my understanding of rock and metal music. Even though I think that A Perfect Circle are basically a guitar-centered band, the emotional power of a song like “Orestes” really comes from the whole band, shaping the sound in unison. It really helped me understand that it’s just as important to focus on what everybody else is playing as it is to focus on your own parts.</p>
<p><strong>Guitarist, Dischordia</strong></p>
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