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District 97: Hybrid Child

District 97 are a modern progressive rock band formed in 2006 by drummer Jonathan Schang, keyboard player Rob Clearfield, bassist Patrick Mulcahy, and guitarist Sam Krahn. Originally this Chicago based band played an instrumental style inspired by acts such as Liquid Tension Experiment or Planet X before they decided to change things up a bit and add a vocalist. In comes 2007 American Idol finalist Leslie Hunt to fill the vocal slot, guitarist Jim Tashjian replaced Krahn, as well as the addition of Chicago Symphony Orchestra cellist Katinka Kleijn, and the result is their debut album Hybrid Child on The Lasers Edge.

Honestly, it took me a few weeks and a bunch of listens for Hybrid Child to really sink in and start to uncover all its rewards. It's not an easy album to get an instant reaction from, so rather than fire off some immediate impressions I decided to give it plenty of time, and that was indeed the right way to go. You can hear how District 97 were an instrumental prog/metal outfit previously, as they obviously have the chops, and some of these songs sounds like they might have been written to include extended instrumental passages which have now been chopped down in favor of vocal section. Hunt's lovely vocals contain plenty of charm and whimsical playfullness on the fun opener "I Don't Want To Wait Another Day ", a tun that sort of reminded me of Finneus Gauge at first, until the dizzying cello from Kleijn took things in classic The Move or ELO directions. It proved to be a tune I just couldn't get out of my head for days on end. Pop meets prog meets metal on "I Can't Take You With Me", another track with an instantly memorable hook plus some crunchy power chords and kick ass Hammond from Clearfield. "The Man Who Knows Your Name" reminded me a bit of vintage Kansas, with cello replacing violin as one of the main ingredients, plus some intricate guitar and keyboard passages. Things quickly shift gears on the raging metal attack of "Termites", as Tashjian unleashes some punishing riffs and Schang flails on his kit while Hunt delivers her most aggressive vocal performance on the CD. Plenty of instrumental mania on this one towards the middle section, and the band even get in some 'mosh pit' friendly sections that will surprise some listeners with its intensity.

The 10 part, 25+ minute "Mindscan" suite takes up the entire second half of the CD, and it's quite adventurous and thought provoking. The band goes from atmospheric keyboard washes, calming cello passages, to breakneck metal, to soaring prog rock, to accessible vocal sections thoughout this extended multi-part epic, so there's something for everyone here. When they put it all together, the results are quite magical.

As good as Hybrid Child is, my guess is that this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as what we can expect from District 97. This band is very young, so dispite some killer chops that are on display here, it's frightening to think that they can only get better. Leslie Hunt has that 'American Idol' buzz, plus her voice is instantly accessible and charming, seemingly ready for the mainstream. Add in the wonderful cello, vintage 70's prog sounds, and a modern metal attitude, and you have a unique band that could very well be a quick breakout sensation.

Track Listing
1. I Don't Want To Wait Another Day (7:17)
2. I Can't Take You With Me (5:36)
3. The Man Who Knows Your Name (8:48)
4. Termites (5:53)
5. Mindscan I: Arrival (1:30)
6. Mindscan II: Entrance (3:07)
7. Mindscan III: Realization (2:45)
8. Mindscan IV: Welcome (2:47)
9. Mindscan V: Examination (2:53)
10. Mindscan VI: Hybrid Child (3:30)
11. Mindscan VII: Exploration (2:19)
12. Mindscan VIII: What Do They Want (2:42)
13. Mindscan IX: When I Awake (3:12)
14. Mindscan X: Returning Home (2:42)
Total time 55:01

Added: December 12th 2010
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band MySpace Page
Hits: 6451
Language: english

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District 97: Hybrid Child
Posted by Ryan Sparks, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-12-12 09:45:34
My Score:

The innovative minds over at The Laser's Edge are always combing the planet in search of fresh, new talent, and one of their latest finds is an exciting project called District 97. Formed in Chicago back in 2006 by drummer Jonathan Schang, keyboardist Rob Clearfield, guitarist Sam Krahn and bassist Patrick Mulcahy, the quartet focused on playing their own brand of complex, instrumental rock before they eventually decided to shift gears the following year. Krahn was replaced by new guitarist Jim Tashijan, and two new members entered the fold, cellist Katinka Kleijn and American Idol top ten finalist, vocalist Leslie Hunt.

Their debut disc Hybrid Child is an impressive fusion of progressive rock & metal with some classical elements thrown in for good measure. Judging by the photo's contained within the booklet some of the male members look barely old enough to shave, so yeah the band might appear to be young and somewhat inexperienced, but you'd never know it after listening to these songs. There's such a considerable amount of depth contained within these songs that you'd almost swear they were seasoned pros. Katinka Kleijn's dizzying and infectious cello work really adds an extra dimension to the band's metal meets progressive sound, especially on the first two songs "I Don't Wanna Wait Another Day" and "I Can't Take You With Me". Aided by the rich and inviting qualities of Hunt's voice these two compositions certainly come across as the most commercial ones of the bunch. "The Man Who Knows Your Name" is a nine minute tour de-force featuring some absolutely dazzling cello and keyboard interplay between Kleijn and Clearfield. The band opts for a more metallic approach on "Termites" as Clearfield turns in his keys for the baritone guitar, which gives the song a heavier feel while Jim Tashijan dishes out a brief but ripping solo. Hunt also gets into the spirit of the track by stepping up to the plate and proving that she really has a powerful set of pipes. Saving the best for last, these talented young musicians demonstrate that they have a firm handle on how to craft a progressive rock epic, as the twenty seen minute "Mindscan" makes up the second half of Hybrid Child. This track features several different movements that flow seamlessly from one to the next with relative ease as the band takes the listener on an engaging musical journey that has everything you'd want to hear if you're a fan of modern progressive metal.

I'll echo the sentiments of the other reviewers here and say that as good as Hybrid Child is, my feeling is we haven't even begun to see and hear what these incredibly talented young musicians are really capable of. Now that is a scary thought.

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