Progressive Metal • United States
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District 97 are an progressive metal band who draw extensively on 70s progressive rock. Fronted by American Idol finalist Leslie Hunt, the band also included Chigaco Symphony Orchestra cellist Katinka Kleijn on their first album Hybrid Child (2010) in addition to Jim Tashjian (guitars), Rob Clearfiel (keyboards), Patrick Mulcahy (bass), and Jonathan Schang (drums). Since their debut they have also released the live albums Live at Calprog (2010), Live at WFPK FM (2012) and One More Red Night (2014), which is a collaboration with John Wetton performing the music of King Crimson and their second studio album Trouble With Machines (2012), which Wetton was a guest on.

- Biography by Time Signature, Updated by adg211288 (October 2014).
Thanks to Time Signature for the addition and Time signature, adg211288 for the updates

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DISTRICT 97 Discography

DISTRICT 97 albums / top albums

DISTRICT 97 Hybrid Child album cover 4.00 | 6 ratings
Hybrid Child
Progressive Metal 2010
DISTRICT 97 Trouble With Machines album cover 4.48 | 9 ratings
Trouble With Machines
Progressive Metal 2012
DISTRICT 97 In Vaults album cover 3.89 | 5 ratings
In Vaults
Progressive Metal 2015
DISTRICT 97 Screens album cover 4.00 | 3 ratings
Progressive Metal 2019

DISTRICT 97 EPs & splits

DISTRICT 97 live albums

DISTRICT 97 Live at CalProg album cover 4.00 | 1 ratings
Live at CalProg
Progressive Metal 2010
DISTRICT 97 Live at WFPK FM album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Live at WFPK FM
Progressive Metal 2012
DISTRICT 97 Live at Rites of Spring album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Live at Rites of Spring
Progressive Metal 2012
DISTRICT 97 One More Red Night (with John Wetton) album cover 4.00 | 1 ratings
One More Red Night (with John Wetton)
Metal Related 2014

DISTRICT 97 demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

DISTRICT 97 re-issues & compilations

DISTRICT 97 singles (5)

.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
Progressive Metal 2009
.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
It Takes Forever
Progressive Metal 2009
.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
I Don't Wanna Wait Another Day
Progressive Metal 2009
.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
I Can't Take You With Me
Progressive Metal 2009
.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
Quartet for the End of Time: Dance of Fury, for the Seven Trumpets
Progressive Metal 2010

DISTRICT 97 movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

DISTRICT 97 Reviews

DISTRICT 97 In Vaults

Album · 2015 · Progressive Metal
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Around two and a half years ago I discovered American prog band District 97, and was immediately impressed by their overall sound and their ability to mix very complex music with accessible, at times pop-ish sounding vocal melodies. All in all, their 2012 sophomore release Trouble With Machines was one of my favorite albums from that year, so I had high expectations for the band going forward. Now in 2015, they have just recently released their latest album, In Vaults, for which they received financial support from their fans through Kickstarter,. My initial thoughts on the album weren’t favorable in the least. In fact, I was very underwhelmed by the songwriting on first listen, and was afraid the band has taken a big step backward. Luckily, the album got better over time, but I have to say, I can’t recommend it as wholeheartedly as I could their previous one, and I’ll explain why below.

Stylistically, not much has changed: This is very much still a balanced mix between classic prog rock and metal, though the metal elements do tend to come in much quicker bursts this time around, and it still shifts between extended complex instrumental sections and more melodic, vocal driven sections. It must be said, before anything else, the band is extremely talented in all areas. Instrumentally there is some extremely technically impressive work done by all musicians, and everything sounds very tight and well executed. My biggest problem this time around is that the songwriting is definitely more limited and more predictable, lacking the big surprises Troubles in Machine had, with nothing nearly as impressive as the two massive tracks “The Perfect Young Man” and “The Thief”, nor anything as fun and catchy as “Open Your Eyes”. Instead, most tracks are very slow, mellow and often laid back for the most part, save for those long instrumental sections and some occasional heavy bursts, which I also find to be less impressive than before. With that being said, dedicated prog fans like myself are likely to enjoy this album a lot, but I find it to be much more challenging compared to its predecessor, and definitely not as inviting to newcomers.

As with the musicians, vocalist Leslie Hunt is extremely talented, and she’s given a ton of room to work with. I find her vocal melodies often aren’t as inventive as they were on Trouble with Machines, but she’s definitely given opportunities to show off both her wonderful tone and her ability to sing with a bit more aggression. In fact, on the first two tracks she sounds much more intense than usual, though for the most part her vocal are still very smooth and help make at least parts of the music a bit more accessible.

Another flaw of the album is that it has a bit of a shaky start. Opening track “Snow Country” has a solid build up, and Leslie’s rougher vocal during the verses mix in well with the very distorted guitar sound, and then the song picks up during the chorus and the instrumental sections in the second half. That track is great, and the rougher guitar riffs at the end help to transition nicely into the next track, “Death by a Thousand Cuts”. Unfortunately, this is easily my least favorite song by District 97, and the reason why is because while the verses and choruses are nice enough, there are far too many heavier sections where it feels like they’re simply showing off how technically proficient they can be, which comes at the cost of good songwriting, as the track stalls several times due to overlong instrumental sections that don’t do anything except bore the listener. I usually enjoy their instrumental sections a lot, as they tend to mix technique and melody very well, but on this one track I find they have way too much of the former, and not enough of the latter, so it quickly gets boring.

After that one weak track, the album picks up and never hits any other bumps along the way. Tracks like “Handlebars”, “All’s Well That Ends Well”, “On Paper” and “Learn From Danny” show the more melodic side of the band, while also sounding much darker and more mellow compared to their previous album, while “Takeover” is a bit heavier but is also the the catchiest and probably the most accessible song on the album. It’s also the track that stands out the most in the second half, as everything else tends to blend together a bit.. My favorite on the album is “A Lottery”, a more keyboard driven track which showcases Leslie’s vocals very nicely, and has a very nice chorus. My only slight disappointment in the second half of the album is the closing track “Blinding Vision”. It’s a nice track, with an especially dark tone even compared to the rest of the album, and the accompanying male vocals in the middle are very nice, but I find it to be surprisingly straight-forward and lacking those big moments compared to the previously mentioned epic length tracks from Trouble With Machines.

And really, I think that’s what it comes down to, for me: If I hadn’t heard Trouble With Machines, I likely would have been blown away by the expert level musicianship and vocals, as well as the flawless production, and I wouldn’t have been as harsh on the songwriting. As is, I think In Vaults is a great prog album, sure to please fans of the genre, as well as existing fans of District 97, but as a reviewer I feel the need to compare one album against another, and in this case I find this one to be not quite up to par with its predecessor, at least in the songwriting department.

(originally written for myglobalmind: http://myglobalmind.com/2015/07/14/district-97-in-vaults-review/)

DISTRICT 97 Trouble With Machines

Album · 2012 · Progressive Metal
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Trouble With Machines is the second full-length album to be released by US prog act District 97. District 97 are one of a number of rock or metal band’s to have found their lead vocalist from the most unlikely of places – reality TV. In this case the show was American Idol, and the vocalist being Leslie Hunt. District 97 released their debut Hybrid Child in 2010 and at that time also featured a fulltime Cellist in Katinka Kleijn of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, however Kleijn has since left the line-up and now only appears on one track as a guest musician. Trouble With Machines was released in 2012.

Although I heard a bit of hype for Hybrid Child, I didn’t check the album out. The band, I recall at the time though, were being lumped in with the host of female-fronted progressive rock acts that were starting to really make names foe themselves at the time though. I’m talking about acts such as Touchstone, The Reasoning, Panic Room, etc. Having not heard Hybrid Child I’m not qualified to call on how accurate this grouping together was, but Trouble With Machines can be put in with this crowd easy enough, although District 97 are most definitely on the same end of things as Touchstone when it comes down to the heaviness of their music. The thing is, although there is a fair bit of music in the album which is rightly classified as progressive rock, if someone described the album to you as just that, well, they’d either be lying or completely ignorant of what it was they were listening to. You see, District 97 goes one better than Touchstone where heaviness is concerned. Trouble With Machines is not merely influenced greatly by progressive metal, it is progressive metal.

Well okay, to be completely honest Trouble With Machines isn’t the heaviness of metal albums you’ll hear, but the technique of the guitar riffs is most certainly there and more so, it’s consistently there, appearing in every song on the album in at least a small margin and more often than not those riffs are the driving force of the song, to the point that the lighter, progressive rock parts, although equally frequent, come across as simply being used for flavour.

However I’ve always been of the view that if you make good music, what genre you ultimately fall into is completely irrelevant, so go ahead, consider Trouble With Machines metal, or rock, or just call it prog if you like, there’s one constant to consider regardless of what genre you think the album falls into, and that is that this is great music, and when music is as great as this, it transcends the boundaries of genre.

While there are only seven tracks on the album, it does clock in at close to an hour’s worth of music, and several of the songs are lengthy epics. The Thief is the longest of these, having a total time of close to fourteen minutes and doing what else but to close the album in style, the way that saving the best song for last always does, making me want to start the whole album over again because of how great the track is. For other long tracks you also have The Perfect Young Man, a duet between Leslie Hunt and a male vocalist, John Wetton. On the surface this track seems a bit soppy poppy but it’s actually quite sinister if you follow the lyrics, which is easy to do when you have a vocalist as clear as Leslie Hunt. You could also count the opener, Back and Forth, as an epic, since it is closer to the nine minute mark than not. Or, if you share the same view as I do that an epic need not be a lengthy composition, but also a shorter mini-epic, than you could list off each of the seven tracks as one, as Trouble With Machines never ceases to amaze me as District 97 weld their metallic riffs, which are damn fine riffs I might add, with progressive structures and sounds, topped off with Leslie Hunt’s excellent vocals.

The album just flows so well even with the many changes in sound, which include some more hard rock styled parts like Open Your Eyes and the solo cello intro of Read Your Mind. I can honestly say that Trouble With Machines was an album that I loved after a single listen, so obvious were the band’s qualities. A couple more listens and I didn’t need any more convincing that District 97 had a masterpiece on their hands with Trouble With Machines. If it wasn’t obvious already, a top tier album rating is deserved.


(originally written for Heavy Metal Haven (http://metaltube.freeforums.org))

DISTRICT 97 Trouble With Machines

Album · 2012 · Progressive Metal
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District 97, from Chicago, was formed in the fall of 2006 by drummer Jonathan Schang, keyboardist Rob Clearfield, bassist Patrick Mulcahy, and guitarist Sam Krahn (who was eventually replaced by the current guitarist Jim Tashijian). This foursome started out playing instrumental rock, which was heavily inspired by Liquid Tension Experiment. Eventually, the band decided they needed a vocalist who would complement their style and sound, and 2007 American Idol finalist Leslie Hunt was chosen. Yes – I said American Idol. I bet you never thought you'd read about an American Idol in a Progressive Rock band, did you?

In any case, Trouble With Machines is District 97's sophomore release, and I feel that - while their debut, "Hybrid Child", was a wonderful and unique album - this album shows maturity and development in style and sound from the previous release. And it is no surprise that the band has earned praise from some big names in the Prog world such as Bill Bruford, John Wetton, and Carl Palmer, as well as chart topping fan support. It is actually quite difficult, in my mind, to place this band into any particular sub-genre, as it presents a unique blending of styles with some Neo Prog, melodic rock, symphonic impressions, hard rock, and even some Progressive Metal style guitar riffs. One of the songs, Perfect Young Man, even feels to my ears sort of like a Prog Rock infused version of a Broadway show tune, especially with the story telling aspect of this song. This melding of styles is complimented extremely well by Leslie Hunt's heavily Jazz-influenced style of singing. Some words and phrases I would use to describe the music of this particular album would be: eclectic, enigmatic, difficult to categorize, playful, clever, exploratory, sassy, and a whole lot of fun. The compositions are wonderfully well thought out, and present many twists and turns, good grooves, complex and playful rhythms, and some excellent musicianship. They even throw some twists at the listener with the choice of instruments, as they feature cello playing (which at one point strangely enough seemed to be played in a similar style to Flamenco guitar playing) and even a short Banjo section. This is truly an inspired piece of work, and an enjoyable and unique release and I highly recommend keeping an eye on this band, as I will be doing.

Originally written for www.seaoftranquility.org

DISTRICT 97 Live at CalProg

Live album · 2010 · Progressive Metal
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One of the few albums where female vocals really work.

*Note* Written for its progressiveness more than its metal-ness. District 97 is a relatively new American prog band who has released a studio album and now their first live album, their entire set list from the CalProg festival. On the album, they play three of the five tracks on the album, as well as a cover and quite a few new tracks. They cover UK's Presto Vivace and Genesis' Back in NYC in a great little medley. They also play the mammoth 27 minute long Mindscan off of the album in its entirety. This is a great album, with some fantastic tracks played along the way.

I Can't Take You With Me is a great Crossover track. These Crossover songs are the kind of songs where the pop influence really sounds legitimately good alongside the prog influence. Some creative songwriting is really seen in this track, with great polyrhythmic moments, superior melodies, and great harmonization between the guitar and the vocals. The instrumental section has some obvious Liquid Tension Experiment, Genesis, and Yes influences in the way it is structured.

Termites is one of the "hits" off the new album, and it still is a crushingly great song on this album too. Some really creative synchronization between the vocals and instruments occurs on this song, something you don't always see on other songs. The songwriting again has its influences in the right places, really mixing the prog metal influence with the prog rock influence really nicely. It has the perfect amount of heavy, as well as the perfect amount of symphonics. However, the guitar effects used on this song are a little cheesy and remind me of the midi settings found on a keyboard.

Who Cares? is a slower and more Flower Kings-esque song. More hesitant and delicate, the instrumentation lacks a little bit. The vocals are a little more compassionate and a little less "vocal." Overall, the song is alright, but doesn't match up to the greatness of it's predecessors.

The Back and Forth is by far my favorite song on the album. Right from the beginning, a really cool tapping synchronization between the guitar and bass reminds me of Steve Hackett's tapping in Genesis. Some really great crossovers between prog metal and prog rock. Fantastic songwriting and powerful vocals really makes this track a quintessential crossover track.

Presto Vivace/Back in NYC is a fantastic medley between UK and Genesis, which are two obvious influences of the band. Leslie Hunt's vocals are actually a spectacular representation of Gabriel's powerful voice. Sadly, in most prog bands who have female singers, the singers can't reach the depth needed to match up with the music, but she really can rip! What a great singer!

Mindscan is the massive psychedelic track lasting 27 minutes, with trippy instrumental sections and fantastic body sections. The songwriting can seem a bit cheesy at times, but the majority of the song is a fantastic ride.

Open Your Eyes is, I'm guessing, an original song and not some far out arrangement of the Yes song. However, it's an alright song, although it does drag a little bit.

ALBUM OVERALL: This is a great live album by a great band. The songwriting is top notch, with creative bits with a synthesis of a great many influences ranging from Liquid Tension Experiment to UK. Highly recommended to anyone who enjoyed the studio album, for the recording is very high quality and the new tracks are spectacular. 4 stars.

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adg211288 wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Becoming one of my all time favourites, especially since I went back and got the debut as well. I struggle to comprehend why most people/sites struggle to recognize this band as metal. I mean I guess the second album is borderline but the debut is much more obvious. Good to see them represented here.


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