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District 97

Crossover Prog

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District 97 In Vaults album cover
3.60 | 63 ratings | 3 reviews | 21% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2015

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Snow Country (6:09)
2. Death By A Thousand Cuts (5:34)
3. Handlebars (4:52)
4. A Lottery (5:42)
5. All's Well That Ends Well (7:49)
6. Takeover (5:44)
7. On Paper (4:47)
8. Learn From Danny (8:37)
9. Blinding Vision (11:29)

Total time 60:43

Line-up / Musicians

- Leslie Hunt / lead & backing vocals
- Jim Tashjian / guitars
- Rob Clearfield / keyboards, guitar
- Patrick Mulcahy / bass
- Jonathan Schang / drums, percussion

Releases information

Artwork: Björn Gooßes

CD The Laser's Edge ‎- LE1072 (2015, US)

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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DISTRICT 97 In Vaults ratings distribution

(63 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(21%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(43%)
Good, but non-essential (29%)
Collectors/fans only (8%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

DISTRICT 97 In Vaults reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Wicket
2 stars I'm not going to review this album through my typical track-by-track summary, not because I don't want to, but rather, I really can't with this album.

And that's a shame, because I really want to like this album. I really do. And the fact that I can't do a track-by-track summary explains its most fatal flaw. A track-by-track summary highlights all the great moments in each track.

But I can't do that with this album, because I can't remember ANYTHING on this album. Seriously.

I will correct myself from this standpoint. It's not the sound quality that bothers me (the quality is very good actually), what bothers me is the sound of the guitars. They sound way too grungy 90% of the time, and it just doesn't fit the character and nature of this album. Singer Leslie Hunt sounds beautiful here, and I really like the incorporation of jazz and blues scales here. It's a nice touch, but they're both constantly set in opposition to the guitars, and it's a conflict of interest, where neither side is winning and both sides lose, and it hurts their sound and this album.

Don't get me wrong, though, these guys know how to rock out, they can shred like no one's business (as on "Hybrid Child"). The problem still remains from their first debut album, though: "They just don't know what to play".

And frankly that's one of the pitfalls of this generation of bands. Genre walls and stereotypes have been knocked down, so you can essentially play whatever you want and no one's going to think differently. The problem is that because you can play whatever genre you want, doesn't necessarily mean that all combinations of genres are going to work together, and I can hear many different genres on this album: Blues, grunge, classic prog, radio rock, piano ballads. They're all great genres. Put them all together on the same album, though? Ehhhhhhhhhh....

Songs like "Snow Country" and "On Paper" are great tracks, identities in themselves that work brilliantly, whereas others like "All's Well That End Well", "Handlebars", "A Lottery", they're just completely lost on me, no catchy hook, no purposeful direction, no signature flash. Nothing. "Learn From Danny" is an excellent example. It starts off beautifully, but I can't enjoy it because i know it'll change dramatically from then on out and never sound as good, and sure enough less than a minute in, a Hunt verse fades out into a guitar solo like the traditional end of huge prog epics, as if the song is already over, and from then on out weird phrase. awkwardly transitions into weird phrase. Coming from Between The Buried And Me's latest albums, these transitions are jarring and uncomfortable, proving just how difficult music like this is to perform.

This, to me, is another example of proof that these guys still don't know what kind of music to play, from beautiful, string laden ballads, to Nirvana-esque grunge, to shades of Morse-era Spock. It sounds brilliant "On Paper" (heh, I made a pun), but the aural results just aren't there, and it really makes me sad. This gang has the talent and ability to breakout, and this should have been their breakout album, but they just haven't put it all together yet.

Perhaps this IS the sound they're looking for (it's been noticeable since "Hybrid Child", and if the song remains the same going forward, than this isn't the band for me. Still, there's oodles and oodles of promise for these guys (and gals) to put their heads together and create a full album that's full and rich and smooth, not at all disjointed and conflicting like this album. "Blinding Vision" gives hope, at least. It closes out the album with a saving grace. It's the most polished of all the songs, and I hope it (somewhat) follows that kind of direction going forward.

After "Hybrid Child" and "Troubles With Machines", I'd be moronic to call this album a "setback". The best way I can sum this all up? It's still a work in progress.

Highlights: "Snow Country", "Blinding Vision:", "On Paper"

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars American female fronted hard prog band District 97 are now three albums into their career, and the band seem more inspired and completely devoted to the progressive rock cause than ever on their third album, 2015's `In Vaults'. Like on their previous releases, the band offer a mix of gutsy and heavy tunes that work in plenty of fragmented little twists, all driven by little Leslie Hunt's big massive powerhouse voice. A mix of hard-rock, tough near-ballads and lengthier prog-rock workouts, the band are just as likely to drop into jazzy diversions, or some out and out proggy keyboard wig-outs, but always the tune remains the priority, and `In Vaults' keeps the band truly progressing, honing their skills and challenging themselves nicely.

As usual for their albums, repeat listens is an absolute must. On the first couple of spins, the album, like their previous ones, sounds like a bit of a mess of styles and ideas, and it's either a little too straightforward or darting off in too many directions! But repeated plays show the different styles and tunes flowing well together, where the transitions between passages are expertly delivered with cleverness and subtlety. Despite always remaining melodic, there's nothing on this album that is overtly aimed at commercial radio station play (even when, if the current musical climate were different, it would probably be a great idea for the band to deliver many pieces with that audience in mind), and considering Hunt's background (the fact she was an ex-finalist on an early season of `American Idol' is still hugely fascinating for us prog-snobs!), it's really admirable that she has stuck with and remains firmly committed to this proggy/hard rock band, surely the more satisfying direction for her! Another plus are the intelligent and unobvious lyrics written by all the members, challenging and interesting without ever becoming completely self-indulgent or difficult.

First track `Snow Country' grinds back and forth between Opeth-like acoustic guitar laments and harder distorted mud-thick electric riffing, and a versatile vocal from Leslie moves from angelic reflection to unhinged danger! The mix of electric piano amongst the heavy guitars that will also pop up constantly throughout the disc even reminds of French band Nemo, and the piece pulls together into a catchy chorus here and there too. The brilliantly titled `Death by a Thousand Cuts' bristles with snarling danger, full of wild drum fills, Hammond organ blasts, mangled soloing guitar noise and relentless purring bass that strive for a Dream Theater-like technical workout! The next two pieces slow things down and step aside from the heaviness, and `Handlebars' floats with a classy and brilliantly controlled vocal from Leslie, with smooth multi-tracked harmonies and backing voices from the group, plus there's a cool bubbling Hammond organ solo in the middle. `A Lottery' is one of the most mature tracks from the group yet, slow-burn electric guitar simmers, cascading electric piano tiptoes and even loopy Moog spins.

`All's Well That Ends Well' broods with power, and moments of wistful piano and a dreamy vocal lurch to life with King Crimson/`Red'-era skittering drumming, programmed electronic trickles and heroic Moog and Hammond fanfares. Sweaty groover `Takeover' smoulders with a spunky vocal and dirty bluesy guitars, and while `On Paper' holds male/female vocal country rock/bluesy verses, it leads to a ballsy chorus, a thrashing heavy run in the middle and even a stream-of-consciousness Gentle GIant-flavoured quirky break for good measure! The album then concludes on the two longest and most adventurous pieces, first up `Learn From Danny' mixes heavy grunting guitars, mysterious piano, slinking jazz sophistication with a victorious guitar finale, and the I.Q-like Moog and synth runs and Neo-Prog flavours are a welcome surprise that the band pull off beautifully. Stringed instruments weave through the eleven and a half minute closer `Blinding Vision', a melancholic epic of theatrical drama and powerful build. Male/female vocals in perfect unison, doomed piano, plodding drums and despondent guitars raise the tension, and careful cymbal crashes and electric piano ambience calls to mind early King Crimson moments. This overpowering, sombre finale is a very sobering way to close the disc, but is a brave and defiant choice by the band.

With this album now done and dusted, 2016 is going to be an interesting time for the group. Keyboard player Robert Clearfield and bassist Patrick Mulcahy have since departed, but their replacements are already locked in place, so hopefully there's plenty of life and inspiration left in the group to come. But for now, this serves as a nice wrap-up of the current version, and considering it was realised by the crowd-funding efforts of their loyal fanbase, District 97 delivered the very best of their abilities on this superb work. `In Vaults' is a confident and exciting musical statement of intent from a talented young group more devoted than ever before to proper progressive rock, and is their most diverse, mature and strongest collection to date.

Four stars - and bonus points for beautiful Leslie looking the spitting-image of 60's Grace Slick in the CD booklet!

Latest members reviews

5 stars I haven't written too many reviews here, but after repeated listens of this album, it warrants me to let you know- the readers, to go out and purchase this amazing album. Myself being from Chicago, I am so proud to praise this band- all their albums have affected me positively, but this one is a ... (read more)

Report this review (#1431555) | Posted by Droidmaster | Sunday, June 28, 2015 | Review Permanlink

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