District 97: In Vaults

Fusion of heavy prog with big-haired rock ballads.

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A Chicago prog-metal quartet fronted by former American Idol contender Leslie Hunt, District 97 are a duck-billed platypus-level rarity on the evolutionary margins of modern heavy music.

Their third album offers an incongruous but often thrilling blend of virtuosic jazzoid skronk with Eurovision-style power balladry, where intense guitar shredding meets windswept vocals on Death By A Thousand Cuts, and where Radiohead-style avant-rock reveries like Learn From Danny sit alongside shape-shifting symphonic epics like Blind Visions.

Flirting with pure jazz fusion in places, In Vaults is promiscuous in its influences. It makes perfect sense that these young neo-proggers recently recorded a selection of live King Crimson covers with Bill Bruford.

District 97 follow their maximalist muse down a few blind alleys in their commendably insane ambition to build a huge ornate bridge between Miles Davis, Metallica and Celine Dion. But the overall richness of the banquet makes up for a few overcooked dishes./o:p

Stephen Dalton has been writing about all things rock for more than 30 years, starting in the late Eighties at the New Musical Express (RIP) when it was still an annoyingly pompous analogue weekly paper printed on dead trees and sold in actual physical shops. For the last decade or so he has been a regular contributor to Classic Rock magazine. He has also written about music and film for Uncut, Vox, Prog, The Quietus, Electronic Sound, Rolling Stone, The Times, The London Evening Standard, Wallpaper, The Film Verdict, Sight and Sound, The Hollywood Reporter and others, including some even more disreputable publications.