Oh, frabjous day, District 97's latest album In Vaults has come to brighten up my summer lethargy. I've been all about this Chicago quintet since I heard their sophomore effort Trouble With Machines nearly three years ago. Suffice it to say, I was pleasantly and amazingly caught off guard with some of the best sounding progressive tuneage I've heard in a long time with no small amount of credit going to vocalist Leslie Hunt's brilliant voice. Don't get me wrong, even without Hunt in the equation this is some stellar progressive jamming and no mistake.
The opening track, Snow Country, sets the stage for proving my case with a sinuous riff that sounds like an amazing cross between Genesis and Black Sabbath. Death By A Thousand Cuts escalates things nicely with more chunky rhythyms - I can't get enough of jams like the verse line. Handlebars keeps the proggy train rolling with a tasty keyboard solo (3:27) and some Leslie rotating outro vocal jittering that blends into the bassy beat of A Lottery. The second half of the album, heralded by All's Well That Ends Well's mellow noodling, is where the band turns up the knobs on that old school progressive feel (save for the grungy Takeover that exemplifies the District 97 signature sound). And the coda of On Paper (2:25) is the closest the album gets to its more Liquid Tension Experiment groove many have mentioned before. I think Leslie's voice shines on the wistful opening to the most diverse tune of the album, Learn From Danny, before kicking into a Spock's Beard-style guitar solo before winding its way into some chunk before progging out hard for a bit and getting into some trippy call and response vocal riffing (4:16). Lastly, you'll float away on the high of an eleven and a half minute jam session as Blinding Vision closes out the proceedings. All in all, this is another home run for prog fans as District 97 gives us more of what fans loved with their previous album. I'm loving it.
The Bottom Line: District 97 is absolutely one of my favorite new progressive bands and their latest album, In Vaults, is a perfect example why: Fearless musical invention executed with flawless ability. If you're a progressive music fan, you've got to be a District 97 fan. 'Nuff said.
- Genghis is sitting by the window awaiting a sign that this band is coming to town...