Mer de Noms (French for "sea of names") is the debut album by American rock band A Perfect Circle. The album was released under Compact Disc format on May 23, 2000. It was certified platinum by the RIAA on October 31, 2000. The album entered the Billboard 200 at No. 4, making it the highest ever Billboard 200 debut for a rock band's first album. It sold over 188,000 copies in the first week, and stayed on the charts for 51 consecutive weeks. The album peaked at No. 27 on the BillboardTop Pop Catalog Albums on October 4, 2003, three years after the album's release. Mer de Noms has since been released on vinyl record format.
Musically, the album features a sound that "returns the listeners to the daze of prog rock" and "blurs between alternative rock and hard rock, with many slower tunes exhibiting an intense smolder rather than flash burn."The New Yorker magazine also noted that the band experiments with "the seam between heavy metal and alternative rock" on the record. Various instruments featured on the album include acoustic guitars, violins and xylophones.
Most of the album's lyrics were dedicated to various people that lead singer Maynard James Keenan knew. The track listing consists of various names such as "Judith", "Breña", "Rose", "Thomas", "Magdalena", "Orestes", and "Renholdër" (for musician Danny Lohner).
The symbols on the front cover of the album can be translated to "La Cascade des Prénoms," which translated to English means "the waterfall of first names".
Allmusic critic Ned Raggett praised the album's instrumentation, eventually concluding: "Alan Moulder adds in some fine help on mixing, polishing the glowering sheen of Mer de Noms to a hard, sharp edge."Entertainment Weekly critic Marc Weingarten wrote: "A Perfect Circle, co-helmed by guitarist Billy Howerdel, is less ominous, with the album Mer de Noms leavening guitar shrapnel with genuinely pretty melodies and frilly production flourishes — kinda like neo-Metallica, but with cojones."Melody Maker commented: "This is Killing Joke and Jane's Addiction; this is Soundgarden and Alice In Chains; Keenan's gorgeously intimate voice is shoved up front throughout and it's his throat's suckable folds that draw you deeper in."NME wrote: "In exploring their corrupt visions, A Perfect Circle have created a work of morbid beauty. In terms of darkness, it eclipses nearly everything else."Rolling Stone's Pat Blashill stated: "A Perfect Circle sound like a desperate dream of what rock used to be." Tyler Fisher of Sputnikmusic was positive in his assessment of the album, writing: "Among these brilliant songs, the album has much more to offer, most songs being extremely melodic and beautiful, a sound A Perfect Circle embraces on Thirteenth Step and takes to another level." Stuart Green of Exclaim! described the album as "a fairly straight ahead rock record, at least by Tool standards," further adding: "And with the addition of violin, courtesy of bassist Paz Lenchantin, flute and other prog-rock trappings, the record takes on a much more dynamic edge while retaining its ball-breaking heaviness."
In 2005, Mer de Noms was ranked number 443 in Rock Hard magazine's book of The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time. The album was also included as number 15 in Loudwire's "Best Debut Hard Rock Albums."