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DICE

Eclectic Prog • Sweden


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DICE was a Scandinavian band, gaining an immediate great reputation mainly among musicians. Their music is frequently compared to the major acts in the field of art-rock; GENTLE GIANT, YES, ELP, GENESIS etc. Though they have not existed as a band since the start of the '80's, they still have a quite large number of devoted fans. "Four Riders of the Apocalypse" is definitely worthwhile if you like bands like AMENOPHIS or MIRTHRANDIR. The music follows a theme of sorts, with occasional reprises and repeated rhythms.

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DICE discography


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DICE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.26 | 36 ratings
Dice
1978
3.44 | 51 ratings
The Four Riders Of The Apocalypse
1992

DICE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.57 | 5 ratings
Live Dice
1993

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DICE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Four Riders Of The Apocalypse by DICE album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.44 | 51 ratings

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The Four Riders Of The Apocalypse
Dice Eclectic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Symphonic Rock Swedish band, formed in early-70's by two friends, keyboardist Leif Larsson and guitarist Orjan Strandberg.As a duo they had already started writing original material, influenced by the likes of Procol Harum, Gentle Giant, The Nice and King Crimson, before meeting drummer Per Andersson and finding also bassist Fredrik Vildo through an ad.Dice recorded material for a full-length release already from early 1977 at the Frescati Studios, what was actually to become the ''Four Riders of the Apocalypse'' album, released only some 15 years later by Belle Antique.

At this point Dice had no lead singer and focused on writing complex and progressive all instrumental material with a dense and pompous sound, influenced by the likes of E.L.P., KING CRIMSON, KAIPA, FOCUS and GENESIS.I am pretty sure that you find every note in this album like if played previously by a Prog legend, so in terms of originality Dice had not much to offer.But musically their ideas were pretty nice, complicated, intricate, romantic and definitely out of fashion, when talking about 1977.They made proper and continuous use of the Hammond organ and Mellotron and had a deep sense of Classicism in their arrangements, which ended up to sound quite melodramatic with bombastic, laid-back and pompous passages.Guitar work appears to land somewhere between ROINE STOLT, JAN AKKERMAN and ROBERT FRIPP and the keyboard parts are coming straight out of a GENESIS or KING CRIMSON album.The arrangements are mostly impressive with symphonic overtones and some light jazzy pinches, going from organ-drenched fanfares to melodious themes and from rich, powerful interplays and sudden tempo changes to fairytale-like tunes and harmonies.Belle Antique made a great work on refining the sound and the recording quality sounds pretty fine to my ears.

Do not expect a personal style by this Sweidish band.Be ready though to listen to some well-crafted Symphonic Rock with Classical variations and grandiose musicianship all the way.Warmly recommended.

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 The Four Riders Of The Apocalypse by DICE album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.44 | 51 ratings

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The Four Riders Of The Apocalypse
Dice Eclectic Prog

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 'The Four Riders of the Apocalypse' - Dice (63/100)

Barring the band logo (did Disney ever see fit to sue their butts?) the cover to The Four Riders of the Apocalypse was enough to get me interested in Dice. Though technically a 1977 album, the album apparently didn't get a substantial release until '92, long after the original progressive zeitgeist had died down. With that sort of enigmatic history, Four Riders is practically begging to be called an obscure gem of prog rock, and prior to listening to it, I was begging right along with it- after all, there's nothing like discovering a lesser-known masterpiece. Indeed, Dice were onto something interesting with their concept-based instrumental prog. The fact that there are shades of excellence in Four Riders of the Apocalypse makes it all the more disappointing that so much of the album underwhelms me.

There's something about the classical bombast of symphonic prog that suits it to images of battle. Yes' "The Gates of Delirium" (from 1974's Relayer) was a perfect example of what Dice tried to accomplish here; it was tense, chaotic, and formed a distinct arc outlining the beginning, middle and end of a battle. Dice certainly nail the rising action of a battle in "War" (complete with a martial whistle and marching rhythm during "Fronts", but they have a tougher time capturing the energy and violence of the battle itself. The "Battle" itself is distinctly less pretty than the rest of the suite (it sounds like an impression of ELP's "Toccata") but never once do Dice ever reach the heights of energy so much of the album seems to hint at.

While I'm most sold on the diegetic charm of "War"'s marching sequence, "Disease" is arguably Dice's best composed and performed track. It has a firm basis in Genesis' pastoral beauty, but jumps time and again into chaotic "Toccata"-esque forays. "Greed" is the most jovial of the four compositions, led by Örjan Strandberg twangy electric guitar in a way that puts them somewhere in the neighbourhood of Yes. Even though "Death" should have had more stopping power than the other 'Riders', the album's longest track feels like a mess compared to the first three. Some blatant musical references to King Crimson's "Larks Tongues in Aspic II" aside, there's little that stands out in the album's last chapter.

Dice echo the pomp of classical composers well enough, and the idea of writing a progressive mini- epic for each of the riders of the apocalypse is a great idea in theory, but the way Four Riders of the Apocalypse has turned out feels anything but consistent. The production is middling at best, and the two longer pieces lose steam before the end. These are black marks on an album that had the potential for greatness; as tends to be expected for bands of the genre, Dice are great musicians who sound well at home in the instrumental format. Sadly, like so many of the obscure gems that lay hidden in wait for prospective listeners, they weren't active long after the album was made, fading to the status of a footnote, to be admired by some of progressive rock's more adamant fans.

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 The Four Riders Of The Apocalypse by DICE album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.44 | 51 ratings

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The Four Riders Of The Apocalypse
Dice Eclectic Prog

Review by Anon-E-Mouse

3 stars I feel compelled to reflect on effort here - in place of achievement. So, what's wrong with this album? Nothing really, but everything. Let me explain.

These rather talented cats have obviously been inspired by ELP and to a lesser extent perhaps Gentle Giant. Their combined skills appear to be very credible, but sadly, the same is not reflected in the structure of the compositions. Pretty much every piece here suffers from being repeatedly fragmented, falling apart in mid-flight. Spirited runs abruptly change to pastoral images, before resuming wild runs again, yet to fall apart ad nauseum over the entire work. One may perceive an Avant approach - something I can relate to in small doses, but this work fails to reach Avant territory - only irritation in place of such.

Ambitious and fairly credible effort that has missed the mark. A real pity, but I could not recommend it for anyone looking for quality enjoyment. 2.5, rounded up to 3 - if only for the well intended effort.

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 The Four Riders Of The Apocalypse by DICE album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.44 | 51 ratings

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The Four Riders Of The Apocalypse
Dice Eclectic Prog

Review by Matti
Collaborator Neo-Prog Team

4 stars Swedish prog group DICE released one album in 1978 and disbanded, but one year before the album they had recorded this work that saw the light of day in 1992. My first impression, listening to the 11- minute opener 'War': a bit muddy production but very powerful, ambitious and dramatic symphonic instrumental prog with lots of organ. ELP reference is therefore obvious but maybe the compositions remind me more of YES and GENESIS, with some Scandinavian touch ŕ la KAIPA. Oh, now the guitar got very Steve Howe-ish! Followed by Emersonian organ fireworks.

'Disease' starts in a more careful manner but the tension increases along the way. Indeed there's an Apocalyptic feel in this hectic music. Again, some Foxtrot-era Genesis type of sounds. Good melodies, and apart from slight sense of less natural cut-and-paste progress in multi-part composition, the dramatic, narrative feeling stays pretty well in balance. 'Greed' has a fast tempo and by now I'm getting a bit frustrated at the ELPish, virtuotic approach. Tiresome prog in large doses to me. Happily there are delicate piano interludes, more in the style of Wakeman than Emerson. Hmm, it's soon followed by a hilarious, jazzy section that makes the ELP side stronger again.

The four-part 'Death' starts very doomily with sinister organ joined soon by the whole band. I like the creepy, quieter part with Mellotron's flute sounds. Death approaches, help us dear Lord! The final section ('Heaven') has a cathartic grandiosity.

Could have been nice to hear some occasional vocals too, but I respect their decision to stay instrumental. The musical talent in this quartet is very notable. The named influences are rather clear along the way but still this is a worthy addition to a prog collection, so I'll round my 3˝ stars up.

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 The Four Riders Of The Apocalypse by DICE album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.44 | 51 ratings

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The Four Riders Of The Apocalypse
Dice Eclectic Prog

Review by Atavachron
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars Ambitious and dynamic second entry from these unsung Swedes, Four Riders of the Apocalypse is a dense mass of musical energy not unlike A Passion Play in its bold attempt to fit with the skill of a mortician and finesse of a four-star chef every loose scrap of edible meat and passable backfat into a single delicious galantine. The result is a most imperfect but uniquely satisfying affair. The nausea accompanied by illusions and frequent trips to the toilet later that night are well worth it. You only go around once.

Forget the even then passé arranging in four "suites" (it was a demo from the '70s), the album wouldn't sound any different if it'd been one long piece; 'War' full of military references, marches, fanfares, cadences, salutes, ruffles, and other quotes from martial music. And mid-period ELP, of course. Despite its title, 'Disease' is not sickly but bucolic mixed with wonderfully aimless prog rock led by Leif Larsson's more than capable keys, and reminds somewhat of American proggers Happy the Man. The rhythm section of Fred Vildö & Per Andersson must be commended for holding this potential mess of a record together, turning it into a reality and not just a band having fun. The cut closes on a single organ chord which in turn opens lively 'Greed' overflowing with polyhedral lines and deft playing, these four showing the unmistakable signs of a team committed to, more than anything, playing together. Great track.

Finally big and funereal 'Death' hallows the bitter end with its overdriven mics and near mayhem, and for a moment King Crimson's Red flashes through the synapses. The mix on Four Riders is not great, which is a shame. On the other hand, a perfect recording might have diminished this explosion of marvelous if rushed and deeply flawed rock energy. Who knows. I do know I'm glad they never re-recorded it. Here's hoping they never will.

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 Dice by DICE album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.26 | 36 ratings

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Dice
Dice Eclectic Prog

Review by Atavachron
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Other than being a wonderful set of music, it is the "unfinished" quality of Dice's first that makes it so good and so unlike much of the over-groomed product that was coming from the Scandinavian prog scene. In fact it reminds me more of the raw excitement in the tiny but edgy U.S. scene around the same time; think Yezda Urfa, Cartoon, et al. Sure Robert Holmin's vocals are subpar and they're playing with the urgency of a band on a very tight studio schedule and small budget, but that doesn't mean this ain't prog rock of the utmost ambition and sincerity. The compositions are developed beyond the call of duty, the group dynamics are solid, and the fun but serious attitude is just right. For a debut, the quintet did a marvelous job.

A roll of the bones crackles open 'Alea lacta Est' crammed full of sudden but perfect changes as the band keeps us guessing, finally settling on a narrative about war, peace and politics. But the music, not the message, is the centerpiece, sloppy mistakes and all. Bass player Fredrik Vildo is extraordinary and Leif Larsson's keys provide gorgeous layers of texture and emotion as on 'Annika', with Orjan Strandberg's muti-tracked guitars filling in space with volume swells and chiming harmonies, even funny 'The Utopian Suntan' has room for great elaboration. And I suspect 'The Venetian Bargain', though resembling Yes, in turn had an impact on the very band it was emulating. Listen to this cut with Yes' Drama in mind ~ an album that came out two years later ~ and you'll hear what I mean. It is a beautiful track and the disc finishes with twenty-two minute operetta 'Follies', a baroque-rock epic lush with synths and the inspiration of a great, great musical unit.

If you ever see this one at a good price, nab it. Someday you'll be glad you did. At least I hope so.

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 Dice by DICE album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.26 | 36 ratings

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Dice
Dice Eclectic Prog

Review by VOTOMS

3 stars Walt Disney Symphonic Prog

Dice. A balanced mix of Yes and Gentle Giant for my ears. A skillfull hard listening swedish band, interesting, but lacking originality. This debut album is weaker than the next one, the Four Horses Of The Apocalypse, an instrumental album released . Yes, the vocals are boring and unnecessary. The weak vocals kills the full enjoyment of the side-track Follies, which has some good moments. It really reminds me of Disney music singers and chorus. The album has a list of complex and entertainment fills, but nothing really memorable. The great track of the album is The Utopian Suntan, a funny track, bending between some kind of childish melody to a heavy tempo breaker mastery. There's something missing on their music. They were technical and yeah, they were good, but a band in their level could write a masterpiece of progressive rock. And they didn't.

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 Dice by DICE album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.26 | 36 ratings

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Dice
Dice Eclectic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Not achieving to sign a contract with a label, Dice started rehearsing on new compositions, but now they had also added singer Robert Holmin to the line-up.Eventually the band signed with the obscure label Marilla to release their self-titled debut in 1978.

Very much influenced by compatriots KAIPA as well as FOCUS, GENESIS and YES,Dice offer some excellent Symphonic Rock arrangements often with a humurous edge but far from something trully personal.The compositions are quite grandiose, based on Larsson's talented keyboard playing,including mellotron,organ,piano and synths, and Strandberg sensitive guitar playing,sometimes though reminding also of STEVE HOWE's nervous approach.At moments they even flirt with the complex nature of GENTLE GIANT or even YEZDA URFA with sudden breaks and unusual changing themes with complicated keyboard parts on the forefront.The band decided to hire a vocalist in order to make their sound more accesible,but I do not see any signs of accesibility in here.The whole material is definitely far from commercial with complex time signatures and changing moods in a blink of an eye.The highlight is of course the 22-min. exciting suite ''Follies'',actually pieces of music written between 1972-1975 and stuck nicely together to deliver this grand opus.Classical-influenced pianos, romantic flashy moog synthesizers, warm electric guitars, orchestral mellotron passages and some schizophenic fast interplays offer a great Symphonic Rock experience,spoiled only by the mediocre vocal exercises of Holmin.

Another fine work of the Symphonic Rock scene of Sweden along the lines of KAIPA, ATLAS, BLAKULLA and AUTUMN BREEZE.Complex musicianship, sensitive passages, bombastic moments but little originality.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

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 The Four Riders Of The Apocalypse by DICE album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.44 | 51 ratings

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The Four Riders Of The Apocalypse
Dice Eclectic Prog

Review by toroddfuglesteg

3 stars The artwork promises a lot. The music is not that interesting though.

This is an instrumental album from this Swedish band (not to be confused with the German band with the same name) and it goes down the ELP/Fusion path. That means bombastic intros and keyboards. The rock-classic music fusion is combined with jazz/ fusion. The tracks mostly starts out with a rock-classic fusion and then dips into jazz/fusion in the middle party with some samplings of for example The Nutcracker Suite (from the Russian composer which name escapes me) before it concludes with another stab at rock- classic music. The music is sadly predictable.

Despite the lack of orginality, the quality of the music is good. I have maybe heard this type of music before by other bands and I get a "here we go again" feeling. But as a sound collage, this album is good. This album is well worth checking out if a mix of ELP and fusion is your cup of tea.

3 stars

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 Live Dice by DICE album cover Live, 1993
2.57 | 5 ratings

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Live Dice
Dice Eclectic Prog

Review by victor77

2 stars The live heritage of DICE is this compilation of live recordings between March 78 and Spring 79 in Denmark and Stockholm. On the whole, the musical result could be best described as a mix between ELP and GENTLE GIANT but, unfortunately, it doesn´t really represent how a live performance was.

The first two pieces are, by far, the more interesting section of the whole record. "Greed" and "Disease", from their very first record, are great examples of their musical talent, and are part of the superb symphonic rock of the late 70s, full of changes and great dialogues between guitar and organ, including some dark and mysterious passages.

"The Drum Thing" is a percussion set performed by the four members of the band. It has an explosive start, but it later turns into fairy and circus music, not really interesting at the end, and you have the sensation that all the high expectations won´t be satisfied. Something similar happens with "Life, Where Have You Been All My Life", a ballad by guitarist Örjan Strandberg, with great vocal chorus, but the overall result isn´t excellent at all.

"Follies", the longest piece of the record with 14 minutes, is the next disappointment. It has an impressive start, with frenzy guitar and great vocal arrangements very close to GENTLE GIANT, turning later into keyboard oriented music (FOCUS comes to my mind); lots of tempo changes, including an interlude with mellotron and guitar, very interesting and with that typical scnadinavian flavour, dark and melancholic. But by the secondnd half, the sound becomes more in the traditional symphonic school, less original, despite a tremendous finale. The overall impression is that the song is not really a cohessive work, because there are too many ideas, but not well connected.

"Alea Iacta Est", the last part of the live section, includes Robert Holmin, lead singer on the second record. It is a very ELP oriented song and, despite the great quality of the music, it lacks originality.

The bonus tracks are very representative of what happened to many bands on the late 70s, placed between the glorious days and what was yet to come, so there isn´t a clear stylistic direction. "Merchandise" is like a parody of musical trends, quite funky oriented. The band describes it as an experimentation, but for me, it lacks inventiveness. "Spring Time" and "Drowned in Time" are simple tunes that, despite the vocal arrangements and incredible keboard playng by Leif Larson, don´t offer anything special. The last song of the record, "An Urgent Request", is nothing but a short and delicate effort to conclude the recording and, in the artists´words, it could fit well "at the end of a great Broadway musical".

Despite being a great admirer of this band, I can´t give this record a high punctuation. The overall result is not vey impressive, with a superb beginning that slowly turns down. Furthermore, despite the great talent and musicianship of the artists, the sound quality is a bit poor sometimes, so the result is not brilliant.

I reccommend this record only to admirers of the band interested in completing their recordings. For the rest, they should better check the previous studio recordings, much more interesting than this one. 2 ˝ stars.

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Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition.

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