A Perfect Circle Mer de Noms

For the longest time, Tool fans were lead to believe that the band's diminutive vocalist, Maynard James Keenan, was the musical weirdo of the group. Given his participation in A Perfect Circle, they may be forced to reassess that misconception. While Tool is still very much a functioning entity (despite lingering label problems that keep delaying a new record), Keenan's vocal and lyrical talents are being put to excellent use in APC. A super-group of sorts (also featuring Vandals drummer Josh Freese, former failure guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, brought together under the auspices of songwriter and former Tool guitar tech Billy Howerdel), APC's debut release is, for all intents and purposes, a fairly straight ahead rock record, at least by Tool standards. Obviously, all the time Howerdel spent with Tool has rubbed off on his songwriting style. Mer de Noms features the same sort of low-down gut rock you'd hear on ├ćnema or Undertow, but APC presents it in a much less menacing way. And with the addition of violin, courtesy of bassist Paz Lenchantin, flute and other prog-rock trappings, the record takes on a much more dynamic edge while retaining its ball-breaking heaviness. (Virgin)