It was really time now for a new studio album of District 97. The previous studio album “In Vaults” was released in the year 2015. A few months later Rob Clearfield and Patrick Mulcahy left the group and we’re succeeded by Andrew Lawrence on keyboards and Tim Seisser on bass guitar. “Screens” the new studio album is the first one with this lineup. The album came about through a kickstarter campaign and is released on the MindScan Records label. Drummer and leader Jonathan Schang provided progVisions with a physical promo copy after a sparkling show at “de Boerderij “ Zoetermeer, The Netherlands. Fronted by the lovely Leslie Hunt the band made quite an impression and played a lot of material from the new album. The energetic Leslie is one of a kind ... The band is very lucky with this front woman. Not an easy job to sing during all those weird time signatures and tempo changes.
Leslie Hunt - vocals; Andrew Lawrence - keyboards; Jim Tashjian - guitars, vocals; Tim Seisser - bass guitar; Jonathan Schang - drums and percussion
The album opens with a song called “Forest Fire”. Several times I had to think of the band Bruford of Maestro Bill Bruford. (Still remember that Bruford gig that I attended as a young Prog boy in Paradiso Amsterdam, The Netherlands). Not only because of the complex mix of jazz fusion and Prog music but also because of the drum style and technique of Jonathan Schang. The appreciation for each other’s work is mutual because Bill Bruford recently praised the band for it in the Rolling Stone Magazine. He mentioned District 97 as “the next generation of so-called progressive guys who played much better than we ever played”. “Forest Fire” is a typical District 97 song with complex rhythm structures on the one hand and catchy vocal choruses sung by Leslie on the other. The next song “Sheep” is also a song with diversity. A mix of heavy and complex structures and more melodic vocal parts, a very strong composition of the Seisser Hunt duo. “Sea I Provide” is a shorter song which is more rock oriented. Bread & Yarn a Tashjian composition is a song in which keyboardist Andrew Lawrence plays an important role. But in the end composer guitarist Jim Tashjian is showing his guitar skills accompanied by impressive drumming of Jonathan Schang. Like opener “Forest Fire” the next song “Trigger” is a Schang / Hunt composition. Also in this track you will find amazing drum work and a lot of rhythm changes. The track ends in complete organized chaos ... yes the band did this also at the gig I attended. In the short instrumental track “After Orbit Mission” composer Tim Seisser seems to be influenced by the late Maestro Allan Holdsworth. Interesting piece. The next couple of songs are my personal favorite part of the album. In the last three tracks vocalist Leslie Hunt is really shining. First one is called “Shapeshifter” and after a nice fusion oriented intro Leslie Hunt sings beautifully vocal melodies. Here she shows us that she is a great vocalist. Not only she can handle powerful and freaky stuff but also the beautiful and melodic material. In those parts the beauty of her voice is shining through the music. Just listen to the jazzy opening of the next track “Blueprint”. What a great song this is. A mix of complex rhythms and nice melodies. In those songs the fusion side of the band is shining through the music and I have to think again of the music of the Bruford band and some work of Allan Holdsworth. The album ends with the longest track of the album. In the almost eleven minutes long “Ghost Girl” everything is coming together. The beautiful vocal opening, the powerful and rough rock stuff, the adventurous and complex rhythms, the Prog metal and Jazz Fusion influences.