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It's always interesting to observe the evolution of a band over the course of a number of years through their recorded output. District 97 emerged gently onto the scene in 2010 with their inconsistent debut album, 'Hybrid Child' - inconsistent in that a generic, prog-by-numbers approach in half the material compromised the promise they showed for a more genuine progressive flair in the other half. Sophomore full-length, 'Trouble with Machines', which appeared two years later, demonstrated a sonic step forward with a greater maturity and more refined approach to their songwriting, albeit still predominantly adhering to prog genericism. Now, with the imminent release of 'In Vaults', District 97 are set to showcase their most mature, naturally progressive and musically accomplished album to date, in terms of both performance and songwriting.

They most certainly seem to have found their own sound now; a discernible artistic autonomy rather than regurgitated pastiche of the prog genre's diachrony. They've now transcended genre as any self-respecting progressive band should do - after all, 'progressive' and 'genre' become paradoxical when uttered in the same sentence. Playing to their strengths and composing, it would seem, from a place that's rooted more in feeling than psyche, the musicians seem to be playing off each other in a much more natural manner, rather than succumbing to emotionless displays of flawlessly executed technicality. The music on 'In Vaults' is still flawlessly executed although it just sounds a lot more natural in its execution. Evidently, they've become more instinctive at arranging their compositions... at least, it certainly sounds as if that's the case. Songs' natural essence is also heightened by a very nice organic sounding production which eschews overly polished sonics in favour of a rawer edge (not overtly raw I must add; rather, just enough rawness to engender an organic quality).

At last, District 97's collective talents truly shine on 'In Vaults'. There's a genuine feeling that they're no longer 'trying' to be something; instead they're just being. And what they're being really is rather fucking great. Songs are stylistically diverse in the most subtle and non-subtle of ways, with a fusion of rock, metal, jazz, groove, alt-rock, and pop parts both blended and isolated during various passages of music. Vocalist Leslie Hunt delivers her finest performance to date too with some genuinely affective vocals that both stir and engender all kinds of emotions. The 2007 top ten finalist on that Simon Cowell karaoke contest known in the States as American Idol sings her heart out throughout the entire album; it's seriously moving stuff. Interestingly, press blurb accompanying the last two albums have included her American Idol participation as a selling point, but that's no longer the case. Now, it's no more than an interesting fact for those who choose to delve into the band's history. For me, that's symbolic of District 97's coming of age as a band, and it's here to be heard on 'In Vaults'. Amazing stuff... at last!
The Laser's Edge
Review by Mark Holmes
29th June 2015
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
"...their most mature, naturally progressive and musically accomplished album to date, in terms of both performance and songwriting."