Nick is right to call this “top-class prog metal.” It’s the sort of thing that is right up my alley.
But what makes this disc a cut above all the others in its class, and truly worthy of being in the upper echelon in that beloved genre, is the outrageously distinctive jazz sensibility that Leslie Hunt brings to these songs.
In fact, it is hard not to classify Trouble with Machines as the best jazz album of the year!
Just listen to all those wildly intricate jazzy vocal lines that Leslie does. Totally mind-blowing. And all in perfect coordination with her bandmates.
I was going to put Map of the Past by It Bites into this slot in my top ten, but Trouble with Machines won out instead. Partly this is because of my own metallic predilection, a longstanding gravitation towards riff-tastic guitar work.
But mostly this is because the prog-pop excellence of It Bites was eclipsed for me by the more purely pop perfection of Bend Sinister, which won a spot in my Top Ten this year instead. Beautiful as Map of the Past is, the purer power pop perfection of Small Fame wins out.
In other words, for me the prog on the It Bites disc is less innovative than District 97’s prog-giness, and the pop less perfect than Bend Sinister’s pop-iness. But darn it, this was a tough call to make.
I love how District 97 has a bunch of my all-time favorites as their prog influences: e.g., you can catch them live doing eminently satisfying covers of Rush and Genesis. But then they transcend all that and do something amazing: i.e., they are able to be their own audaciously unique selves.
What a great album this is. Don’t miss it. I think it exhibits a magical truth of prog: viz., how a truly great group must be one that is made up of extremely talented individuals but who then become something even greater than the mere sum of their parts.
Moreover, this amazing group is arguably what jazz was always meant to become, in order to articulate the maximum impact of its full musical potential. At least that’s what their amazing jazz metal is for a guy like me.