Dice - Dice

Year of Release: 1989
Label: Bella Antique
Catalog Number: 8906C
Format: CD
Total Time: 45:47:00

Dice was a very good, very tight and instrumentally talented, symphonic progressive rock group that formed in 1972 in Sweden. They are not to be confused with the poppy, German prog band that currently has appropriated the name, ok? During the years the band was active they produced just this one self-titled album which was released only in Japan. This album, Dice, recorded in 1977, has aged rather well despite its minor faults and it is an absolute classic of 70s Euro symphonic prog. This was a band that had talent to burn and, indeed, they reach combustion at regular intervals on this outstanding disc. In addition to loads of instrumental ability, and the gall to use it, they possessed a strong classical influence, an influence that pervades this release. Imagine, if you will, a cross between Yes and Focus with Todd Rundgren on lead vocals. Yeah, I think that's it, if I do say so myself.

The band is best known for a disc which was recorded several years before this release, The Four Riders Of The Apocalypse, a rehearsal studio tape that was eventually cleaned up and released by Bella Antique in 1992. That disc shows the band in full classical mode, whereas their self-titled debut has a mix of classical, hard rock and even carnival music to display. The five piece band even pulls off almost Queen style vocal harmonies with four of the five participating in the "choir" as they like to call it. While the lead vocals may not thrill every listener, this is a band that can definitely play and sing very, very well.

The disc features five tunes, including a 22 minute epic and two quite nice instrumentals. The instrumentals sound a great deal like Focus, especially track two, "Annika," and the rest of the disc leans towards a more traditional symphonic sound like Yes. The disc starts off with "Alea Lacta Est," which sports arppegiated chord progressions from the keyboards and brittle, twangy guitar in the style of Howe or Akkerman. Track three, "The Utopian Suntan" is the best vocal tune on this album and the most fun as well, with off balance circus music surrounding a pulse quickening center section with edgy guitar and keyboards. "The Venetian Bargain" is another Focus-like instrumental which will please those looking for more complexity. With its many changes of time and tempo and its flashy playing from guitarist Orian Strandburg, it is one of the standout tracks from this great album.

Most of this disc's shortcomings are to be found in its finale, the epic "Follies." Broken into a six part suite, it sometimes sounds a bit forced and the band would have been better off developing the best themes from this epic into two six to eight minute songs that would have stood better on their own. Still, the first two sections, "Esther" and "Labyrith" are good enough to get one to sit through this monster and derive a lot of satisfaction from it.

This is without doubt one of the gems of Golden Era symphonic prog, and, while I won't give it five stars, it gets real close.

Originally released 1978 by Manilla Records

Alea Acta Est (6:13) / Annika (3:47) / The Utopian Suntan (5:51) / The Venetian Bargain (7:47) / Follies (22:03) - including: Esther (5:46) - Labyrinth (4:17) - At The Gate Of Entrudivore (3:52) - I'm Entrudivorian (2:01) - You Are? (1:49) - You Are? (4:13)

Leif Larsson - keyboards, choir
Fredrik Vildo - bass, choir
Robert Holmin - lead vocals, saxes
Orian Strandberg - guitars, choir
Per Andersson - drums, choir

The Four Riders Of The Apocalypse (1977/1992)
Dice (1978/1989)
Live Dice (1993)

Genre: Symphonic Prog

Origin SE

Added: March 18th 2006
Reviewer: Tom Karr
Hits: 1584
Language: english


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