Dice - The Four Riders of the Apocalypse. 1977 Sweden
CD issues: 1992 Belle Antique (Japan); 2007 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP); 2016 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)
In 1992, there was quite a bit of buzz surrounding Dice's pre-album work. A full album that was "in the can" and promised to be better than their sole album from a year later (that was surprisingly well known among the prog faithful in those days). I snapped a copy up without hesitation, a rather expensive venture (especially then), given that it was - and still is - a Japan only product. I was not disappointed, and in fact I enjoyed it more than the album proper at the time. I would not make such a claim today, but it's still a fine effort worthy of ownership status.
The Four Riders of the Apocalypse borrows heavily from classical motifs, and other familiar themes, and then blends that together with the melodic European progressive sounds as projected by fellow countrymen Kaipa, and especially the Dutch ensemble Focus. It is the former aspect that keeps this one from the higher echelons of enjoyment, at least for this listener. They needed to take the training wheels off, and be more bold with their own vision. One will also note that many of their proprietary compositions will later show up on the 1978 album, especially concerning the melodies.
The sound quality is very good for an archival album, though it still wasn't quite ready for prime time either, and we've heard better productions from albums not released in the 1970s. All in all, if you're a fan of the Marilla album, then this one comes as an easy recommendation, as you can hear the band fumbling through their creative thought process that lead to their next work.