If there was just one word to describe the whole of What Normal Was, the latest from A Perfect Circle co-founder Billy Howerdel, it’d have to be “haunting”. Or maybe “evocative” is more fitting as it conjures up less a Gothic setting and more an expansive one. Which is exactly what WNW is. As massive sounding as What Normal Was is, it isn’t meant to sound like the aforementioned moody Alt of A Perfect Circle nor is it the more straightforward Alternative Rawk of Ashes Divide (Howerdel’s 2008 outfit). What you get with this collection of Electronic/New Wave-tinged sonic soliloquies is just Billy Howerdel being the most Billy Howerdel ever on probably the most (And maybe best?) Billy Howerdel sounding record of all.
“Selfish” is this neat Moby meets Howard Jones beginning to the record and nicely segues into the synthetic godsend that is “Free And Weightless” which , on a contemporary front, is in the vein of Electro Rawkers Julien-K. “Ani” is both steady and steadfast with Howerdel projecting a calming tone vocally and instrumentally for a subtle pulsating cleanse before “Beautiful Mistake” enters and delivers something that is simply iconic from start to finish with Matt McJunkins’s bass contrasting Howerdel’s lush guitar tones as Josh Freese (And Tosh Peterson) drive with their syncopated drumming amidst Howerdel’s wistful vocals bringing about that previously mentioned haunting feel.
“The Same Again” has an enduring quality that’s immediately apparent with Howerdel’s powerful performance hovering over towering synth tones and an equally impressive riff off, “Poison Flowers” delves between the realms of Goth and Darkwave exquisitely, and “Follower” is another that immediately stands out within a record that’s full of stand outs. “Bring Honor Back Home” is a tantalizing track that shimmers and shines with pointed piano lines cutting through Howerdel’s ethereal vox while “EXP” expands the etherealness by enlisting Valeria Hylytukha, Melissa Nadler, and Cassandra Church on backing vocals for a song that is probably the most A Perfect Circle sounding track on here with tempered tenderness applied to each note (And not to speculate, but one of the background vocalists to start sounds a LOT like a certain front person whose initials are MJK).
And then it all comes to a head with “Stars” which is a yearning, broad closing number plucked straight out of the magical ’80’s when Falco and Lamar and other one word outfits were discovering such beautiful sounds for the first time.
What Normal Was arrives through Alchemy Recordings/Rise Records/BMG on June 10th. You can pre-order and pre-save yours now in a variety of formats when you head here. For the latest on Billy Howerdel, including upcoming tour dates with VOWWS as direct support, follow the socials across the information superhighway by clicking here, here, or here.
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