Sound — 8
I have considered A Perfect Circle to be one of my favorite bands for several years now. Like a lot of people, I followed Maynard to APC from Tool, and I found APC to be sort of a refresher from some of the heavier tones of Tool. I'm not going to compare this album to "Mer de Noms", because I think it's really very hard to compare the two. The sound that the band has created with this album is nothing short of innovative. I don't tend to like genres, but in this case I'm not sure I could even place it in a defined genre. Maynard James Keenan, as has come to be expected, pours his heart and soul into his powerful and seductive lyrics. Add that to the musical perfection created by Billy Howerdel and you have one amazing album. I have to admit, some of the tracks sort of seem like fillers (as BloodBloom mentioned) and can get a little boring. I think they serve an important role however once you begin to take in the meaning of the album. On first listen, most of us simply listen to the music and don't pay a whole lot of attention to the meanings behind the songs. Upon subsequent listens however, we start to pick out the messages and themes within the album. These "filler songs" are sort of places to rest your mind on the album. Tracks such as "Crimes" and "Lullaby" are examples of this. The album sort of builds to certain peaks, and then uses these transitional songs to flow back to a more mellow level and give you time to soak in what you just heard. Maynards voice seems to carry the album from start to finish. His voice is balanced much higher than the other instruments, when in his other albums it seems as though his voice is at an equal level to them. This adds a more personal side to the album, which I find to really bring out the meanings of songs. My one gripe about the album is how it is started. "The Package" is a great song, don't get me wrong, however it's not a great song to start an album with. It builds very slowly, and on my first listen, I found myself getting bored pretty quickly. Near the end of the song, it starts to build more and it works. I just think they could have chosen another song to start with, or re-worked the song to make it fit better. As a whole, the sound of the album is nothing short of innovative. There really isn't one song on the album that I don't enjoy.
Lyrics — 10
There is very little I need to say here. Maynard James Keenan has established a reputation for his amazing lyrical skills, not to mention his vocal ability. The lyrics on this album are simply amazing. Somehow Maynard succeeds in telling an entire story over the course of the album, complete with themes and "conflict". The words bring out an amazing side to the music, making the whole package seem really tight and firmly woven. The best adjective I can use to describe Maynard's voice is "howling". When you listen to him sing, you can FEEL the emotion in his voice. It pierces through you and sort of brings you into his world. I am once again in awe of Mr. Keenan's ability.
Overall Impression — 10
I still refuse to compare the album directly to "Mer de Noms", however I will say that those of you who absolutely LOVED "Mer de Noms" may not be as happy with this album. Thirteenth Step shows a large musical evolution that took place between two albums. A band like Tool undeniably has had a musical evolution, however there were never any jumps as big as APC made from MDN to TS. The jump Tool made from AEnima to Lateralus isn't nearly as big as this jump. One band I can sort of compare this evolution to is Radiohead. Radiohead lost a large following after they released "Kid A". The fans that liked the "standard rock" sound radiohead had on albums like "The Bends" and "OK Computer" hated the new "electronic rock" sound they took on with "Kid A". I'm not comparing Radiohead's music to APC's music, I'm just saying that the change between APC's two albums is very drastic, and could potentially cause them to lose a large fan-base, but a the same time pick up a new one. I personally like the album much better than "Mer de Noms" and I am very excited to see the direction this band is going to go from here. If I had to highlight certain tracks on the album, I would pick out "The Noose", "The Outsider", and "Pet", "Gravity". I think these four tracks sort of define A Perfect Circle, and really sort of show the full range of the band. Thirteenth Step was definitely every penny. I bought it the day it came out and now, four days later, I still haven't listened to anything else. I recommend this album to everyone, just go into it with an open mind. Don't expect another Mer de Noms. Just keep reminding yourself that change is good, and you'll find a lot to praise in this album.