The wide dynamic swathes that were so prominent on the band’s debut are all but absent here. The squalling guitars have taken a backseat to carefully crafted melodies where atmospherics are maximized and pulled taut over the listener. While not a radical departure from Mer de Noms there is a real progression here. However, the explosive, heavier-than-heavy rock-ism of A Perfect Circle is so well known for it is readily evidenced on cuts such as “The Outsider” and “Pet.”
As moods shapeshift from the sepia-toned murk of “The Package” and “The Noose,” the over the top hard rock to the Baroquely scaled “The Nurse Who Loved Me” and “Gravity,” with its beautiful guitar effects and crystalline bassline, the listener becomes aware of just how much water has traveled under A Perfect Circle’s bridge. The Thirteenth Step is the sound of a musical and lyrical maturity that normally doesn’t occur until a band’s third or fourth albums. Lyrically, musically, sonically, The Thirteenth Step is proof positive that mainstream rock has plenty of life and vision left in it.