The first work they did was The Four Riders of the Apocalypse, an all-instrumental opus based on the biblical prophesy and Albrecht Durer’s engravings. The two shorter pieces (around 8 minutes each) are complex and fusiony, but surprisingly upbeat for such a dire themed album. The star of the show is one Orjan Strandberg who plays lightning fast but very melodic lines that are essentially just very complex riffs, around which the tracks seem to be based. Keyboardist Leif Larsson provides sturdy accompinament on organ, mellotron, and synthesizers. The two longer pieces are around 11 minutes long and are the highlights, in my opinion at least, as they go through a wide range of styles but still flow together nicely. Some people have complained about a few of the many sections like the part that sounds like “Larks Tongues in Aspic, part Two” (there is a section that sounds very much like that piece, but it only occurs briefly, so it’s more of an homage than a ripoff, and I have to admit that I didn’t even notice the similarity the first several times I listened to it since the rhythm is commonly used in a lot of prog music) or the quote from an old big band jazz piece that I can’t identify (I actually really like this part as it’s so unexpected). In spite of those brief controversial parts, the rest of the two long tracks are full-fledged masterpieces of symphonic rock that push all the right buttons and do a pretty good job of depicting the apocalyptic situations dictated by the concept. One of the great obscure masterpieces of 1970’s European progrock.
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.