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District 97: In Vaults

Chicago's District 97 have been somewhat of the 'new prog darlings on the block' over the course of their short existence, and with the release of their third album In Vaults, it's probably time to stop looking at them as newcomers and more as the serious force they actually are. Most probably know by now that lead singer Leslie Hunt was a top 10 finalist on America Idol back in 2007, but in District 97 she's not only using her exquisite pop talents but also mixing things up a bit to broaden her horizons in the scope of the bands eclectic form of progressive rock.

The rest of District 97 is made up guitarist Jim Tashjian, keyboard player Rob Clearfield, bassist Patrick Mulcahy, and drummer Jonathan Schang, all very capable musicians who have a firm grasp of all things progressive rock, jazz-fusion, and metal, with all these elements coming together here on In Vaults. Opener "Snow Country" and the follow-up track "Death By a Thousand Cuts" concentrate on the heavier aspects of prog, with Tashijian's metallic riffing coming across quite thunderous and letting Hunt soar to the heavens over the top of his heavy metal bluster. "Handlebars" is a lovely little slice of pop/jazz, with Clearfield's majestic layerings adding a nice touch, and "A Lottery" again sees the keyboard player and Hunt work wonders around alluring pop melodies. Atmospheric prog seems to be the name of the game on "All's Well That Ends Well", a lush tune that features some wonderful '70s styled prog-rock keyboards from Mr. Clearfield. Fans of modern heavy rock will love the catchy "Takeover", as crisp King Crimson styled riffs and memorable vocal hooks drive this melodic little number, while the engaging "On Paper" meshes quirky prog with meaty metal and atmospheric pop/jazz. The lengthy "Learn From Danny" is a charming epic that sees Hunt playing many roles, as she adapts quite well to the more symphonic prog sections, gets more aggressive on the crushing metal parts, and then dazzles with cunning & grace on the intricate jazzier passages. However, it's on the final track "Blinding Vision" that she really grabs your heart and pulls it tight, as this near 12-minute takes you on a ride through airy, floating prog, melodic pop, and ominous King Crimson styled progressive rock.

Overall, In Vaults is a very enjoyable listen, and I can see how a recent collaboration with John Wetton playing some classic Crimson material has potentially influenced the band to inject some varied elements into their new music. I would have liked to have seen some of the heavier elements of the first two songs to reappear more often, but it's a minor gripe on an otherwise very solid third release from this great young band.


Track Listing

  1. Snow Country
  2. Death By A Thousand Cuts
  3. Handlebars
  4. A Lottery
  5. All's Well That Ends Well
  6. Takeover
  7. On Paper
  8. Learn From Danny
  9. Blinding Vision

Added: July 1st 2015
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Score:
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 1853
Language: english

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