Dice - Four Riders of the Apocalypse(swe 1977 prog)
[Review originally posted at Progarchives]
After having heard lots of hype about this one, I was rather underwhelmed when I finally did get a chance to listen to it. Yes, on the surface there are strong similarities to Finch and Focus and the like. Yes, the musicianship is impressive and the songs are complex.
The problem is, the compositions are quite poor. The band members do come up with interesting motival ideas, but are absolutely clueless as to how to string them together into coherent musical pieces. As a result, there’s not one memorable moment on the whole album. Well, apart from the bit in “Death” where they blatantly rip off King Crimson’s “Lark’s Tongues In Aspic, Part 2”, cleaved in two by a cheesy rendition of “In The Mood”.
I suppose I should cut them some slack as this was for all intents and purposes a demo, never intended for general release. Still, it’s really not all that much in the end. All the elements are there, but something’s missing. It’s kind of like a jigsaw puzzle that hasn’t been put together yet.
Dice - Dice (1978)
The album Dice featured a decent but somewhat distracting vocalist, but is a little more polished than The Four Riders… There’s still the same mix between upbeat major-key ditties, lush symphonic epics, and dissonant ostinatos. All of the tracks are very strong, but I find the instrumental breaks on “The Utopian Suntan,” the Focus-like instrumental “Annika,” and the glorious mellotron dirge “Esther” to be exceptional. The 22-minute suite “Follies” is an interesting look at schizophrenia. The lyrics are often poorly written but still well-sung and they suit the music pretty well. As is often the case, this album sounds more professional but less distinctive than the rawer predecessor. A lot of the songs are based very much on chord sequences or academic-sounding melodic patterns without a lot else going on. That doesn’t bother me, but it seems to strike others as being bland and unmemorable and more like exercises than well-developed compositions. I think they’re great though.