In the latter part of 2006 Chicago based musicians Jonathan Schang (drums), Sam Krahn (guitar), Patrick Mulcahy (bass) and Rob Clearfield (keyboards) formed progressive rock band District 97.
Initially an instrumental group, the foursome decided that a vocalist was needed to complete their sound. Leslie Hunt, a 2007 American Idol Top 10 Female Finalist, joined the band and enabled them to pursue a direction that forged accessible and catchy vocal melodies with an adventurous and technical instrumental foundation, as well as giving them an obvious focal point – something that many progressive rock bands do not have.
Soon Krahn was replaced by a new young guitarist, Jim Tashjian, and with the new line-up complete the band was ready to enter the studio.
Debut album “Hybrid Child” was released in 2010 to positive reviews, and followed by 2012’s “Trouble With Machines”. Now in 2015 comes studio album number three “In Vaults”.
It’s often said that it’s album number three that will determine whether a band is going to be successful or not, artistically and / or commercially in the long term. So, where are we with album number three for District 97? Well, clearly this is a band that have grown in confidence during the three years since their last album.
Hunt’s vocals are clear and assured and really do give the rather complex musical compositions an accessible edge. Instrumentally, the band are right on the money. Schang’s drumming is technically demanding stuff whilst solid as a rock and together with Mulcahy’s bass lines perfectly underpins the musical colour supplied by Clearfield’s keyboards and Tashjian’s excellent guitar textures.
There are elements of progressive rock, metal, jazz and classical music all contained within this expansive piece of work. Like so many good progressive rock albums this one really needs to be listened to as a whole rather than in bite size chunks, and is all the more rewarding when taken that way.
Outstanding tracks for me are “Learn From Danny”, “Snow Country”, “All’s Well That Ends Well”, “Death By A Thousand Cuts” and the closing eleven-and-a-half minute epic “Blinding Vision”. In fact, that could apply as a description for the record as a whole – the realisation of a superb band’s blinding vision!…
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