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District 97 - In Vaults CD (album) cover

IN VAULTS

District 97

 

Crossover Prog

3.58 | 53 ratings

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Wicket
Prog Reviewer
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"

Wicket | 2/5 |

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