DISTRICT 97 – Stay For The Ending (2023)

DISTRICT 97 - Stay For The Ending (2023) - full

Recorded, mixed and mastered by Noam Wallenberg (Alan Parsons), ”Stay For The Ending” is the culmination of everything DISTRICT 97 has worked toward in its decade and a half of existence. Over the years the band have received acclaim from a multitude of sources but particularly the late John Wetton (King Crimson, ASIA). So impressed was Wetton that in 2013, he and the band joined forces and toured across Europe and the US.
This new 2023 CD sees the band significantly upping its game in the areas of composition, performance, arrangement, production and sonics. The album embraces a vast array of themes and musical influences – progressive, melodic, metallic at places.

Opening with the title track, the differences with previous works are immediately noticeable. All the quirks and riffs that were so prominent on previous efforts have now been massaged to sit comfortably within the context of the song, not to exist alongside it. The rhythm guitar and keyboards are much more prominent this time around while Leslie Hunt’s vocals are more consistently melodic. The instruments are now all working in tandem, so when Hunt asks you to “Stay for the ending”, you already want to.

‘Mirror’ kicks off with a marvelously restrained and beautiful synth and guitar introduction before being brutalised by bass and percussion. Guitarist Jim Tashjian’s harmony vocals are up front and a perfect foil for Hunt, enriching the vocal parts with deeper dimension, a nice contrast to the crushing rhythm attack going on beneath them. Using Andrew Lawrence’s piano as the lead instrument supporting Hunt’s solo vocal turn gives the song a lift, enabling her to flaunt her range as the boys in the band get to demonstrate their formidable chops.
The song is full of light and shade, even gentle at times. The guitar/synth interplay towards the end is a delight that magnifies the harmonised lyrics: “The mirror always shows/The one who’s really in control”. Everything about this song is right on point, from the writing to the performance to the production, revealing everything you knew District 97 were capable of.

The pleasant surprises just keep on coming, and 0Many New Things0 is one of the more outstanding of them. At first blush, it sounds like an ’80s power ballad, Hunt’s voice almost sweet-sounding. Synths and a drum machine pound out the beat before a new monster synth riff gets doubled on piano, sending the song in a whole new direction. The layering instrumentation adds more edge to the riff and the vocals respond in kind. A brilliant guitar solo leads to the tune breaking down again, showcasing the chemistry of Hunt and Tashjian’s harmonies.
This just keeps getting better.

‘Divided We Fall’ and ‘Life Cycle’ stand in contrast to one another. The former uses a gargantuan wall of sound to assault the listener, the latter seduces you in with a contemplative piano and guitar introduction. Divided takes the remnants of the old band and gives them a greater sense of expression, exposing the emotion previously locked within the machine. Life Cycle has an almost jazzy sheen at times, thanks to the chord structure and Schang’s percussion approach, making this song one of the standouts in the District 97 canon.

Tracks ‘X’ and ‘X-Faded’ work in tandem. The first is a short instrumental with an aortal beat and a one-note piano riff setting up a spacey instrumental leading into Hunt singing gently over an acoustic guitar for ‘X-Faded’. Make no mistake, though – this is no folk tune. Bass, drum and synth pulses quickly ratchet up the tension before Tashjian’s guitar blows it all up. The band is firing on all cylinders.

Hearkening back to their old riff-tastic days with ‘Deck is Stacked’, Hunt’s sing-songy vocal approach is a reminder of why this band is so different. The attitude and clever little musical nuances that are new to the band give this throwback a time-jumping feel, honouring their past while existing in the present. Schang even takes a drum solo, a tactic that for me rarely works on a studio recording.
On closer ‘The Watcher’ there’ a lot of depth mainly due to Lawrence’s keyboards. Tim Seisser’s bass notes bend and stretch while keeping pace with the guitar, Schang’s drums play in opposition to the riff, and there is a brief solo keyboard interlude that repeats amidst the mayhem. It’s these little details that represent the maturity and growth District 97 have undergone during the creation of this album.

Finally, District 97 managed to keep their unique style while at the same time resulting accessible, even commercial at places. Every song on ”Stay for the Ending” is special, both in terms of artistic growth and as an addition to their body of work.
If you admired this band more than you enjoyed them, give this new disc a spin. If you’ve never heard them before, there is no finer place to start. This is the crowning achievement of their fifteen years together to this point. If ”Stay for the Ending” is any indication of their future direction, we will most certainly be hanging around for the duration.
Highly Recommended


01. Stay For The Ending
02. Mirror
03. Many New Things
04. Crossover
05. Divided We Fall
06. Life Cycle
07. X
08. X-Faded
09. Deck Is Stacked
10. The Watcher

Leslie Hunt-Vocals
Andrew Lawrence-Keyboards
Jim Tashjian-Guitars, Vocals
Tim Seisser-Bass Guitar
Jonathan Schang-Drums & Percussion


Pre order:

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.