Triple review: A Perfect Circle – Three Sixty + Multimedia Pack
Posted by ChristopherMammal
Reviews: Three Sixty (Standard Edition), 13 tracks; Three Sixty (Deluxe Edition), 2 CDs, 19 tracks; Release date: November 19, 2013; Label: Universal Music Enterprises (Ume).
Preview: A Perfect Circle Live: Featuring Stone And Echo, Concert DVD and audio + three live CDs; Release date: November 26, 2013; Label: Universal Music Enterprises (Ume).
A Perfect Circle presents us with a quandary. By releasing two editions of the “best of” collection as well as a full multimedia pack within the space of one week, they make it difficult to decide which of the three to choose. The answer to that question may depend on how much Perfect Circle you already have.
The band arrived in 1999 like the scent of orchids wafting in from a friendly forest. They entered a musical landscape where the older, popular types of metal were under enormous pressure from new sounds – the fuzz and whining of a gazillion West Coast grunge bands all trying to sound like Nirvana, and a horde of new-wave punk bands all trying to out-coarse each other.
Spearheading A Perfect Circle were the two guys who are still the heart of the band. They both had hefty credentials and existing fan bases. Maynard James Keenan, one of the most accomplished and distinctive vocalists in modern music, had become a giant when he was with Tool. Billy Howerdel had reached the heights with Ashes Divide. It was small wonder that A Perfect Circle’s debut album, Mer de Noms, shot up the alternative and prog metal charts in 2000.
Critics and fans alike heaped acclaim on the band’s next two albums, Thirteenth Step (2003) and eMOTIVe (2004). Then… nothing. Not from the studio, anyway. The band hibernated. There were successful tours in 2010 and 2011, but still nothing really new.
So… why would one want a best-of compilation drawn from just three albums?
Let’s face it, nine years after the third album there must be any number of fans who have bits and pieces of A Perfect Circle scattered throughout their libraries. Old CDs get lost, stolen or broken. Three Sixty would be an excellent way to recover many good memories in a single package. The Standard Edition may be all that you need if you just want a good set of the band’s songs.
Of course this raises another issue. Best-of compilations always generate arguments: Why was that song included? Why was this one left out? I’m biased, so I venture to say that A Perfect Circle didn’t make any bad songs. The single CD is an hour of very pleasurable listening.
What’s more, both the Standard and Deluxe Editions include the one new song the band has recorded in the studio since 2004. It is By And Down. It has instantly become my favourite Perfect Circle song. Pardon the cliché, but Keenan and Howerdel have taken their music to new levels with this one. It elevates them above any debate about whether they’re an alternative or prog metal band. This is sublime prog metal, enormously musical, atmospheric and achingly melancholy. I can see this song winning over some heavy melancholy prog followers of bands like Porcupine Tree or Airbag. At the same time, it should greatly satisfy followers of A Perfect Circle as they know and love the band.
How about the Deluxe Edition? It adds some more songs from previous albums. More significantly, it includes four tracks from the band’s live performances, and they are exceptional.
Other than By And Down, the stand-out tracks for me are the studio version of 3 Libras on both the Standard and Deluxe Editions, because it was my favourite Perfect Circle song from back when. Wait, though, until you hear the live version of 3 Libras on the Deluxe Edition. For a start, it’s twice as long. Then there is so much more to it than on the studio version – much more great instrumental work, and a richness and resonance that perfectly capture the atmosphere of a well-executed concert hall performance. In one word… um… yummy!
It may seem a little extravagant to fork out for the Deluxe Edition just to get four live tracks. If so, keep your wallets closed for a week and go for the DVD-CD pack. The DVD is a compilation of live performances during 2010 and 2011. The three CDs are live versions of the band’s original three albums. Going by the live tracks on Three Sixty, this pack is going to be outstandingly good.
I have a message for A Perfect Circle: Guys, write an album’s worth of music like By And Down. You’ll have a large gang of prog metal people clamouring for it.
Now hear this!