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A Perfect Circle

THIRTEENTH STEP

Virgin Records

APerfect Circle has entered a whole new universe with this second full-length album. Founded as a side project by Tool singer Maynard James Keenan, former Tool guitar tech Billy Howerdel, and former Vandals and studio drummer Josh Freese, the band has added former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha and Marilyn Manson bassist Jeordie White (also known as Twiggy Ramirez).

For this album, produced by Howerdel, the band plays up the atmospheric melodies and tones down the nu-metal. But even gentle songs have a hint of prog-rock drama, and the band still throws down a few heavy riffs and beats, on the second half of album opener "The Package," and the massive grind at the base of "Pet." But the album is more often delicately arty, as on "Vanishing," with airy vocals tripping over a low bass line and jazzy drumming. "A Stranger" opens with guitar laced with achy vocals and strings, which also float through the honeyed drift of "The Nurse Who Loved Me." The beat kicks up on "The Outsider," with a menacing chug of bass under guitar that toughens from gentle strums to sharp metal wiriness. But overall, the album's drama is of a quieter mettle, sounding like a series of sonic flights of fancy that floats the listener into the ozone. SARAH TOMLINSON

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