Review

Review

A Perfect Circle: 'Three Sixty' – Album Review

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Regardless of how closely they've followed the far-reaching career of Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan, genre fans are still very likely familiar with his musical output, as tracks from most of his musical projects have made their way into multiple horror, dark fantasy and science fiction films over the past couple of decades. Tracks from the dark-rock supergroup A Perfect Circle, which Keenan co-founded in 1999 with guitarist Billy Howerdel, have found their way into big-budget films like Underworld (“Judith”), Constantine (“Passive”) and Resident Evil: Afterlife (“The Outsider”), and for good reason: their songs possess a haunted, tormented but strangely seductive vibe that lingers in the memory and instills their scenes with an ominously hypnotic quality.
 
 
While they've undergone personnel changes and a lengthy hiatus due to Keenan and Howerdel's focus on other projects (including Keenan's quirky electro-rock group Puscifer and Howerdel's gothic team Ashes Divide), A Perfect Circle finally began touring again in 2010, and that same year they debuted their first new material since 2004's eMOTIVe, in the form of the exotic, quietly tense progressive-rock track “By and Down,” first heard on their North American tour in 2011. The song scored well with fans, prompting the band to record a studio version, which makes its debut on their newly-released greatest hits compilation, Three Sixty. Check out the live version of "By and Down" here:
 
 
Classic cuts gathered here open with the brooding, atmospheric early pieces "The Hollow,” “Orestes,” “3 Libras” and "Rose," along with the much heavier (and awesome) debut single "Judith" – essentially the opening third of their 2000 debut album Mer de Noms. From their 2003 follow-up Thirteen Steps, we get "The Package,” "The Noose," the smash single "The Outsider," the moody ballad "Blue" (a personal fave, as I co-produced and directed a music video contest entry for that one... we came close, but didn't make the final cut), and the haunting “Weak and Powerless.”
 
 
Rounding out the set from the following year's eMOTIVe is a cover of John Lennon's classic "Imagine” and the original piece "Passive" (co-written with Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor) and the ominous industrial-noise epic "Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums." Also making their debut on this album are impressive live versions of several studio tracks, including excellent eMOTIVe covers like Depeche Mode's "People Are People," Joni Mitchell's "The Fiddle and the Drum" and the blues classic "When the Levee Breaks" (best known in its 1970 Led Zeppelin incarnation), in addition to live versions of “Gravity” (from Thirteenth Step) and "3 Libras."
 
The live tracks collected here are mainly derived from a trio of concerts the band performed in 2011 at Colorado's Red Rocks Amphitheater, with each of their three albums performed in its entirety on a separate night. All three shows were documented visually, and are included on DVD as part of a limited edition box set entitled Stone and Echo. That edition, which also includes a companion live CD and all three of the band's albums with bonus tracks (under the title Trifecta), sadly sold out within weeks of its presale announcement, but all of the live video and audio content will be available for download via iTunes, Amazon and other digital vendors beginning next Tuesday, November 26th.
 
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If your only experience with A Perfect Circle comes via their movie soundtrack contributions and/or their higher-profile singles (which are quite impressive in themselves), this collection is an ideal way to catch up on the multi-textured and often experimental aspects of the band, and it represents their vast range of expression from rage-filled, angry anthems to thoughtful art-rock ballads, each of which bears Keenan and Howerdel's unforgettable artistic stamp. Here's hoping this release marks the next step toward the recording of a long-delayed fourth studio album; if “By and Down” is a hint at their new direction, I'm definitely ready for more.
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