It’s not every day you get a progressive rock band that has an American Idol finalist and a cellist from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Don’t let that fool you into thinking the band would be just another “gimmick” band. They are not, in fact they’re a high energy band that borders somewhere between a hard rock & metal vibe yet steering clear of being labeled as a prog-metal act.
Leslie Hunt’s vocals are by far one of the more original I’ve heard in a long while. One vocalist Leslie reminds me of in the more melodic parts is Lana Lane. She also can be mentioned in the same sentence as Kate Bush, Gwen Stefani, Ann Wilson and the afore mentioned Lana Lane.
Musically they remind me a little of a Canadian band called Half Past Four, yet with an original sound. Throughout their debut album, Hybrid Child, there’s nods to the giants of the 70’s.
Hybrid Child has two chapters, first four tracks - “I Don’t Want To Wait Another Day” (7:17), “I Can‘t Take You With Me“ (5:36) which can easily be a lead single, “The Man Who Knows Your Name“ (8:48) the longest single track, “Termites” (5:30) which is the most aggressive sounding track which includes a short screaming vocal part which heightens the musical experience. For those of you with a sensitive palate when it comes to vocals, need not worry it’s a short burst that is just exclusive to this song. So you’re safe…. for the most part.
The highlight for me is the ten-part epic suite called “Mindscan“. Each section or individual track takes you on a journey. The subject matter, something that evades me, could be left to the listener. Everything you could want in a prog song and more. It grabs the listener and never lets go, even in the more melodic parts.
The cool thing about “Mindscan” is it can be listened to as a whole (very recommended) or the individual vocal based tracks like “Part IV: Welcome” (2:47) which Leslie’s vocals gently introduces the lyrical part of the epic. “VI: Hybrid Child” (3:30) is the title track and Leslie’s soft vocals are simply sublime here.
“VII: What Do They Want” (2:42) returns to the similar energy as the first four tracks. It segues nicely into “IX: When I Awake” (3:12) with vocals that eases you and in a way returns you back to reality. The lyric “..and it all be gone when I awake” comforts you. It’s not until the last section, “Returning Home” (2:42) that the instrumentation takes you back to reality.
So you can add me to the list of many believers (or fan-boys) of District 97 that can safely say that progressive rock is in very good hands here. They’re one of the few bands that “progress” rather than rest on the laurels of the giants of the 70’s. I read that they won over the crowd at CalProg on October 2nd and makes the anticipation of seeing them live at Rosfest next year. I think they’ll surprises that audience as the did with the CalProg one. So as a final statement, I have to say this is the most highly recommended debuts of a long time. It ranks way up on the scale of my top favorite releases of 2010.
Reviewed by Ron Fuchs on October 6th, 2010