|Greg Northrup||15-August-2002||Dice - s/t|
This is a pretty spotty album considering the apparent general acclaim for it. I think this probably a case of an obscurity coming to unjust prominence because someone got it for dollar somewhere and decided that, because of its obscurity, it must be pretty good. Do not buy this album for full price, whatever you do. This album is okay, but pretty much mimics bands like Yes and Gentle Giant. Instrumentally, it's quite good, but it's nothing original. The band plays nice melodic themes on a variety of instruments, and can come off as fairly cliched at points, though the playing is solid. You've heard everything this band does before.
Vocally, this is pretty bad. This is another case of a self-
parodying, heavily-accented vocalist basically reading the lines off the lyric
sheet. People seem to enjoy the "humor" of the lyrics and such, but I didn't
shell out good money to be amused, and I really wasn't anyway. "Utopian
Suntan" for instance is a particularly lame waltz in the style of Queen. The
liner notes explain it as "a catchy tune about epithelial cancer." This might
be funnier if someone else had bought the album and I got to read that. The 22-
minute "epic" is patched together and drawn out, hampered by the silly
narrative, but it has its moments. The lyrics are pretty stupid, so it's
really the music that does the talking here. Again, it's decent, but nothing
that hasn't been done better elsewhere. This is without a doubt lower-tier
progressive. That said, Dice released another all-instrumental album recently
from old master tapes entitled Four Riders of the Apocalypse. That album
is considered a classic in some circles. Based on the instrumental prowess
shown by the group on Dice, I can believe it. However, one should only
seek Dice out if he really has a need for obscure 70s progressive, and
would simply be pleased with competence.
Ugh. I've had writer's block on Dice for close to three weeks now. Can I just say they are a solid, can't miss but won't blow-you-away progressive rock group? Well I just did. OK, maybe a little more info is needed.
Dice were an obscure Swedish band from the late 1970's who released one album and then disappeared until the rabid Japanese symphonic progressive fans caught wind of their existence in the late 1980's, and legend status was born. According to insider information, box loads of their private album were sent to Japan from Sweden and then auctioned off to an enthusiastic following. A CD press shortly followed and then, low and behold, a whole album of unreleased instrumental music from the year before their debut surfaced! And once again Belle Antique of Japan issued this as a CD and remastered it from the original two track recording.
And the music? Dice, the debut from 1978, is a like a direct
mixing of Focus 3 and early Caravan. I swear the track "Annika" is
an outtake from the Moving Waves sessions. And the vocalist has an
uncanny resemblance to Richard Sinclair. Tracks like "The Utopian Suntan"
are pure Canterbury fun. And the 22 minute "Follies" is "Nine Feet
Underground" played by Focus with Richard Sinclair as vocalist (that is to
say, no Canterbury rhythms or fuzz organ). While it sounds like the album
may be Dutchlish, it really has that unique Swedish slant. The highlight of
the album is the close to eight minute "The Venetian Bargain", an
all-instrumental complex exercise focusing on the cool organ and double-neck
guitar (remember those? Think Led Zeppelin). Best of all, as it turns out,
this track is more representative of the posthumous 1977 recording The
Four Riders of the Apocalypse. This album proves that Dice were more
effective as an all instrumental group with great chops than one with
singer-songwriter sensibilities. Four long tracks with joyful titles such
as "War", "Disease", "Greed" and "Death". Though funny enough most of the
music is of a joyful nature (ahh Sweden - it does stay dark there all
winter). While neither album is a bona fide classic, both are must owns for
the progressive rock fan.
|Links for further information|