“In Vaults”

By Dr. Abner Mality

Pay attention. This might be the only time that somebody connected to American Idol gets discussed by Wormwood Chronicles.

That would be female vocalist Leslie Hunt, who in 2007 made it to the last 10 contestants on the insipid talent show. 9 times out of 10, anyone and anything connected with American Idol would be complete anathema to the fiends here at Wormwood. Ms. Hunt proves the exception, as she has added her vocal talents to Chicago band District 97. Now District 97 can be considered rather lightweight compared to the usual Worm-fare, but a careful listen will show that this band has far more to offer than typical pop pablum.

In no way a metal band, District 97 seems to be a rather heady combination of power pop and hard-edged progressive rock. What kind of influences can you detect here? There’s a healthy dose of classic 70’s progressive rock, some 80’s female fronted New Wave, 90’s alternative rock and just a smattering of prog metal in the vein of Dream Theater and Threshold. They blend it in a very clever way and just when you’re ready to maybe fall asleep or tune out, they switch gears to thumping riffs, dissonant sounds and tasty instrumental jams. Echoes of King Crimson, Yes, Blondie, No Doubt and more arise. And then there are the vocals of Miss Hunt…sharper than a knife, light as a breath of a air and shinier than diamonds. She’s compared to Ann Wilson of Heart and that indeed is not far off the mark.

On the whole, this is still more easy listening that I would prefer, but the instrumentation and songcraft is very upper echelon. “On Paper” is a good song that exhibits both the softer and harder edges of District 97.

Melodic prog rock that definitely has its moments. There’s more going on here than meets the eye.