Style: Progressive Rock
Release Date: 17 Jul 2019
Sites: Official Website | Prog Archives | Wikipedia
I've reviewed a lot of albums this year from well-established bands, names I know well, who just haven't recorded anything in forever. The first album in ten years, the first this millennium, the first since I was born... it seems like they're expanding the gap each time out. Well, I have to call Dice as close to the opposite of that as can be found. They're well-established, as they were founded as far back as 1974 and haven't lost a founder member yet, but that's about it.
I'd never heard of them before, which continues to underline just how much I don't know about German rock and metal, even though I've thought of myself as a fan for decades, not just Rammstein and the Scorpions but Warlock, Can, Destruction, Uli Jon Roth, Sieges Even, Tangerine Dream and many more. Well, I've been really schooled this year, having finally discovered bands as not new and not minor as Lucifer's Friend, Iron Savior, Oomph!, Illuminate and, now, Dice. They're certainly not new, having released an album every single year since 1997: twenty of them studio releases and three live.
They tend to be labelled as prog rock, which is fair, but there's a strong element of space rock here too, albeit not in the way old school Hawkwind fans might expect. Dice are more like Pink Floyd if Pink Floyd were aliens. Or, perhaps as the title of their 2004 album suggests, If the Beatles Were from Another Galaxy, but there's certainly a lot more Floyd here than the Fab Four.
This is like Floyd's Wish You Were Here, not quite so laid back but looser, less cynical and with stranger vocals, Christian Nóvé's accented and oddly disconnected English making him seem like a shaman from otherspace who's floating over a lake of liquid guitar chords waiting for us to locate his frequency. He also drifts in and out, because each of the five tracks proper here run over ten minutes and there's plenty of instrumental opportunity.
I was a little put off by the experimental intro and that ghostly voice on Alive in the Galaxy but, by the end of the track, I was hooked. I know that I need to throw this onto headphones in the wee hours of the morning as the music swirls around, drifting from speaker to speaker and back. If the goal is to make us feel like we're out there in the great beyond, seeing things, as Roy Batty would have it, that you people wouldn't believe, then they're certainly on the right lines.
It's patient stuff, the drums of Tommy Tomson adding texture to the tracks rather than setting a pace. The most overt instrument in play is the guitar of Peter Viertel, which spirals off wherever he wants it to go, even during times when Nóvé is singing. It feels like the other band members can choose to follow him or not, as if they're a rock band supporting a jazz guitarist who's firmly in charge. Arguably, it's Nóvé's band, because he provides the bass and keyboards in addition to the vocals, and writes and produces, but, listening dry, it's Viertel's show.
Some songs are jazzier than others too, Alive in the Galaxy playing more as space rock but Living Day to Day often reminiscent of a jazzy cross between Steely Dan and Jethro Tull, with very lively cymbals. Black Stars feels yet more psychedelic than its predecessors, not just because of the spaced out keyboards but because of a late sixties pop influence, even though it ends up in familiar territory soon enough. Cybersky carries an industrial sound to keep things even more interesting.
I liked this a lot but a little more as an experience than a musical album. Suggesting that an album feels longer than it is usually tends to mean that it drags. That's not the case here, even though this is a mere snip shorter than an hour but feels like it sucked me in for a week and dropped me back home mind expanded and body recovering. That's a good thing. It's an album well worth losing yourself inside.