As early as 1992, Billy Howerdel, an experienced guitar technician for many alternative bands, played some of his songs for Tool's singer Maynard James Keenan. Keenan liked the songs enough that plans were made to record together sometime in the future. That opportunity arose after the release of Tool's Aenima in 1996, as the band found itself involved in an extended legal battle with a former label. Keenan and Howerdel recruited Paz Lenchantin on bass, Troy Van Leeuwen on guitar and Josh Freese on drums and rehearsed for some time, finally debuting at a live performance at the Viper Room in 1999. Their debut album, Mer De Noms was released in 2000. For 2003's Thirteenth Step, Jeordie White (bass) and James Iha (guitar) filled in for band members involved in other projects. The 2004 covers album eMOTIVe featured a mix of past and present members. The band had been on hiatus as Keenan concentrated on a new Tool album, but recent interviews with Keenan and Howerdel indicate that there are no plans for a new album or tour, leaving the future of A Perfect Circle in doubt. With Maynard James Keenan at the helm, comparisons to Tool are inevitable. A Perfect Circle is similar to Tool in that both contain Keenan's distinctive tenor wail and deal with dark and powerful themes. However, Howerdel's influence makes for a more melodic, straight-ahead rock approach. Take the hit "Judith," off Mer De Noms. The theme (a questioning of faith to Keenan's paralyzed Christian mother) is arguably just as dark, if not darker, than your average Tool tune, but Howerdel's rock hooks and the standard verse-chorus-verse approach make it more radio friendly than anything Tool has done since "Sober," way back in the early '90's.
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