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Dice - The Four Riders Of The Apocalypse CD (album) cover

THE FOUR RIDERS OF THE APOCALYPSE

Dice

 

Eclectic Prog

3.46 | 68 ratings

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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.

Conor Fynes | 3/5 |

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