Josh Freese

Album Review: Billy Howerdel- What Normal Was

When the news first broke that Billy Howerdel of A Perfect Circle/Ashes Divide was going to put out a solo album under his name, I became very intrigued. While reading about the making of the album, there was a quote of Billy’s that really stood out to me, “”This is me stepping back into my early teen self and making the record I would’ve made if I had the means and the knowledge when I first picked up a guitar — just in 2022.” I couldn’t love that statement more. I love that he went back to the well of what first really got his passion of music going and created an album that pays homage to those musical influences and inspirations but this record is one that can stand on it’s own during a resurgence of that sound.

What Normal Was is ten songs of goth tinged, dark pop, with melancholic tendencies and a sense of ambience that is both haunting and beautiful. Digging into his love for bands like The Cure, Depeche Mode and Siouxie and the Banshee’s, you can hear those bands in certain moments wheteher it’s a synth, vocal melody, bass line, guitar part or even a drum beat. But this isn’t a “copy” of those bands. Instead this is Billy making the album that he grew up wanting to make. I have a strange thing about wanting to go track by track as I feel like it gives the listener a preconceived notion but I do want to highlight a couple tracks. Opener “Selfish Heart” is one hell of a track to kick off the record. The vocal delivery on this song is superb. As the album continues tracks like “Free and Weightless,” “Ani,” “Beautiful Mistake,” “Poison Flowers,” and “Bring Honor Back Home” have all been standouts each time I listen. Closing song “Stars” is quite the contemplative track and one that gives the album an open ending to continue on this path at a later date.


What Normal Was is the type of album in 2022 that is not only needed but it’s a teaching tool for all these younger bands and “kids” who don’t quite understand how to make this type of music. The homage portion of the album and the desire to create something that you’ve always dreamed of makes this album work. It’s not just Billy stepping out of the shadow of Maynard and A Perfect Circle, this is Billy discovering who he is as a musician and songwriter. What Normal Was is a record that will grow on you after a few listens. There’s even a part of it that will make you want to seek out the bands and albums that helped to inspire this record. Personally, I can’t wait to hear what Billy Howerdel does next in his musical evolution.

Overall Rating: 9/10

Poison Flowers:


Free And Weightless:


Beautiful Mistake:


Selfish Hearts:


The Same Again:

Anticipated Albums: Billy Howerdel- What Normal Was

Billy Howerdel best known for his work in A Perfect Circle is gearing up to drop his debut solo album, What Normal Was on June 10. Now, you might think “solo album?” wasn’t Ashes Divide his solo project? Well yes and no. This album was originally started as a follow up to the first Ashes Divide album but as time progressed and the songs began to continuously take shape, it just didn’t work in the realm that is/was Ashes Divide. This album is shaped quite differently. Billy mentioned about this album “This is me stepping back into my early teen self and making the record I would have made if I had the means and the knowledge when I first picked up a guitar—just in 2022. It’s that moment as a kid when you hear a record, close your eyes, and go somewhere else. That was the time I found my lane, so to speak. During the making of this album, a global pandemic’s chaos had a silver lining. It gave me time to tighten the songs into the place I’d hoped they could be. When I look back, I don’t think I’d change anything about it.” With that in mind, these songs pay homage and hark back to a time when music was making a huge impression on the life of Billy Howerdel.


Billy Howerdel- Free And Weightless:

Billy Howerdel- Poison Flowers:

Memorable TV Performances: A Perfect Circle on Conan O’Brien

A Perfect Circle - Judith live on Conan O'Brien - YouTube

Back in the year 2000 (how fitting for this since Conan used to have a segment on his show about “The Year 2000”), while A Perfect Circle was supporting the release of their amazing debut album, Mer De Noms, and while on tour with Nine Inch Nails, they made a stop to perform “Judith” on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. This performance is absolutely killer. Josh Freese is a beast behind the kit and was such an integral part of this band. It’s too bad he wasn’t involved in their recent return along with Paz Lenchantin on bass and Troy Van Leeuwen on guitar. Either way, enjoy this gem!

 

A Perfect Circle- Judith on Late Night with Conan O’Brien:

 

Ultimate Set List: A Perfect Circle

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Since the announcement that A Perfect Circle will be returning, I thought making an ultimate set list for them is very appropriate.

I’m curious to see what your ultimate/dream set list would be for A Perfect Circle.

As usual here are the rules:

Rule 1: What line up of the band would it be

Rule 2: Where would you want to see the show

Rule 3: maximum 25 songs

 

Lineup: Maynard James Keenan, Billy Howerdel, Josh Freese, Danny Lohner, Troy Van Leeuwen, and Paz Lenchantin

Venue: Fonda Theatre- Los Angeles, CA

Set List:

01) The Hollow
02) The Outsider
03) Rose
04) Orestes
05) Gravity
06) Passive
07) Sleeping Beauty
08) Weak and Powerless
09) By and Down
10) The Package
11) Judith
12) Thomas
13) Thinking of You
14) Blue
15) Pet
16) The Noose
17) 3 Libras
18) Magdalena

A Perfect Circle Is Coming Back

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I wrote a piece a while back about A Perfect Circle needing to come back. Well it seems like it is actually going to happen. During a recent stop along Maynard’s book tour in Los Angeles, A Perfect Circle guitarist was the moderator at this stop, and they both said that the band was going to get back together. Billy and Maynard both said they had been working on new music. Billy said that he has about 75% of an album completed musically. They also announced that they would be playing a show at the Hollywood Bowl, May 7, 2017.

This is very exciting news, especially since there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel for a new Tool album any time soon. I don’t know about you all, but, I sure was getting tired of all the Puscifer releases.

There is one caveat I have about them getting back together and that is coming back with the right lineup. They people that replaced Josh Freese, Troy Van Leeuwen, Danny Lohner and Paz Lenchantin, are solid musicians but, they really don’t fit in the band. Let’s hope Josh and Danny come back with this reunion.

Welcome back A Perfect Circle!

 

Mer De Noms:

 

The Thirteenth Step:

Bands That Should Return: A Perfect Circle

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If there is one band that really should come back around and release a new album it’s A Perfect Circle. It’s been over thirteen years since they released an album of new material. Maynard has kept busy over the years with Puscifer, which is interesting and another outlet for him, but the fact that there are more Puscifer albums than A Perfect Circle albums, it’s just not right. A Perfect Circle guitarist Billy Howerdel has said that “there are fully developed songs without lyrics and melody…as far as the music end goes, I’ve got 75% of the foundation of [the next] A Perfect Circle record ready to go.” And that he is just waiting on Maynard. In March of 2016 Maynard was quoted as saying “I still hope to make and release new music with the band.” Well then get on it. It’s been over ten years since there was a new Tool record, and thirteen since there was a new APC record. I get the need and want to go off and do different things, explore new musical avenues, but what I don’t get is how you can just leave a band like A Perfect Circle behind. I still remember the day that Mer De Noms came out. I was so excited and pumped to own that album and I listened to it so much I had to get another copy. Then when The Thirteenth Step came out, it elevated their game so much more, and became one of those albums that you just can’t get enough of.

Enough with the wait. It’s time to get Maynard in a room with Billy Howerdel, Josh Freese, Paz Lenchantin, Troy Van Leeuwen, and Danny Lohner and make a great new album. The world needs a new album from A Perfect Circle, it’s been too long!

Classic Soundtracks: Underworld

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Soundtracks are a tricky thing to make. Songs have to fit perfectly with each scene. Sometimes the music chosen fits perfectly and becomes the best part of watching certain scenes. One such movie and soundtrack is the first Underworld. The film’s soundtrack was produced by Danny Lohner (former Nine Inch Nails multi instrumentalist). Danny contributed several songs to the soundtrack under his pseudonym Renholder (A Perfect Circles’s song Renholder off Mer De Noms is in reference to Danny Lohner). In addition to contributions from The Dillinger Escape Plan, Puscifer, A Perfect Circle, Page Hamilton of Helmet, and Skinny Puppy, there was a group called The Damning Well, that provided a song for the soundtrack. The Damning Well was a supergroup comprised of Wes Borland (Limp Bizkit), Danny Lohner (Nine Inch Nails), Josh Freese (A Perfect Circle), and Richard Patrick (Filter). Their contribution “Awakening,” was a real highlight of the soundtrack, and left listeners wondering what could’ve become of such a collaboration had they continued. It’s been said that much of the music that they created wound up being used for the first Black Light Burns album. One other song featured on the soundtrack called “Bring Me The Head Of The Disco King” is also a huge highlight. This song features David Bowie, Maynard James Keenan and John Frusciante.

The movie itself wasn’t that great but, there were a couple highlights. Kate Beckinsale and this fantastic soundtrack.

 

The Damning Well: Awakening

 

David Bowie and friends: Bring Me The Head Of The Disco King

 

A Perfect Circle: Weak and Powerless (Tilling My Grave Mix)

 

Puscifer: Rev 22: 20 (Renholder Mix)

 

By: Brian Lacy

Album Debate: A Perfect Circle: Mer De Noms vs Thirteenth Step

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During the year 2000 the world was presented with A Perfect Circle. Their debut album Mer De Noms was released to great fanfare and critical acclaim. Mer De Noms also featured a rebirth of sorts to what had been missing for quite sometime, making a cohesive album. Songs such as “Judith,” “The Hollow,” “Magdalena,” “3 Libras,” “Rose,” and “Thinking Of You” all were such standout tracks that left a lasting impact. There were a couple songs (“Thomas” and “Over”) that were out of place on their own but in the context of the album as a whole they fit. The first half of the album really shines but tends to drift and fall away towards the end. Production wise it is above superb.

In 2003 A Perfect Circle released Thirteenth Step. This album marked a growth and departure from the more polished sound of their previous album. It seemed that Maynard’s time back in Tool in between albums gave him new perspective on the direction on which to write for A Perfect Circle. The thematic tone of the album provided quite a distinctive backdrop for how the music sounded, was produced and how the songs were placed in the album. Songs such as “Weak and Powerless,” The Noose (my personal favorite),” “Blue,” “The Outsider,” and “Pet” again can stand out on their own, but really hit home more in the album as a whole. Production wise there is a more raw feel to it. It almost helps get under your skin faster and sink in.

Both records are totally different but all the while great in their own right. I lean more towards Thirteenth Step.

Where do you stand?

 

By: Brian Lacy