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The Noteworthy Music Reviews

Rock-Opera

May 2, 2017

By Bryon William

 

UniversalDice is a band who delivers classic-rock-operas with huge musical landscapes, in-depth story-lines/characters and lyrical explorations of life's complexities, mysteries and meaning. The band features: Gerry Dantone, lead vocals, guitars, programming; Bob Barcus, guitars; Ed Canova,bass; and Walt Sargent and Vin Crici on keys. Songwriter, singer, political and philosophical writer/activist Gerry Dantone delivers more than music in his song-writing; he delivers a complete experience. If you close your eyes and listen, you will be transported into ta colorful, world as if you are reading a novel. Inspired by artists such as the Who and the Beatles, UniversalDice's new self recorded and produced 16-track album 'Birth, Love, Hate, Death' is a great way to introduce yourself to the band's captivating, page-turning performance. 

 

 

Each song on the album is strung together in a cinematic fashion sung from different perspectives representing the "characters" viewpoint.  For example, track three "Your Son" depicts a toxic relationship between a mother and a son, told from the son's perspective.  Kicking off the song is a guitar progression with slight distortion, accompanied by a rocking drum beat and synth keys droning in the background. The vocals enter to suit the mood, mellow with a haunting timbre. When combined with the instrumentation, UniversalDice  sets a stormy mood that captivates you right from the start. “Your Son” is a very moving song about childhood abuse showing that UniversalDice doesn't shy away from serious and difficult topics. 
 

Another stand-out composition on the album is “My Hands Are Tied” (Track 5).  "My Hand Are Tied" changes up the vibe with a strong pop-theater flavor, an upbeat tempo, with catchy melodies and memorable chorus.  Nice electric guitar leads compliment this arrangement. This song is a great example of how well the compositions on the album reflect the mood and emotion of the lyrics. Vocally, Dantone shows incredible diversity, moving to a tenor-ranged, clear pop presentation with ease.  The song's perspective is from a boy who has a larger-than-life crush on a girl - he "takes a pill to gather up some courage, but instead get an awful headache."  There is an innocence that is revealed as the words delve into the humanistic themes of inadequacy and humiliation.  

Sung from the same perspective is “Danielle,” a song about pretentiousness. "Danielle, you're the life of the party. Danielle, you'll never say you're sorry. Does the new car mean you've got it made? Do you have a friend you won’t betray?"  The band demonstrates tight musicianship in this multi-layered track.  Both "My Hands Are Tied" and "Danielle" have a musical-esk vibe bringing the drama to life.  Another song from the perspective of "the Boy" is“Better Man.” This song has a classic rock instrumental track that rocks out with great electric guitar riffs and a solo jam section. "Better Man" is about the Boy’s fear of losing love and his willingness to do what it takes to keep the love alive."I love you so much, I’d risk losing you. I can’t do nothin’, ‘cept what’s right by you." The song is sung with passion as if Dantone is inside the character's heart.

 

As the engaging album progresses, the images of the opera grow stronger and come more into focus, like a good page turner, each song unfolds with suspense. Following "Better Man' is the ballad "Honesty,' which is a duo between the Boy and Danielle. This moving ballad, which was my favorite track on the album,is sure to be a fan favorite with its intricate piano playing, infectious melodies and harmonies.  The beautiful performance demonstrates UniveralDice's ability to write raw and genuine emotion."Honestly, honestly, do you really love me? Are you thinking of me? Honestly, honestly, are you trying to use me? You think you’ll seduce me?"
 

“Sleeping Alone” marks a climactic point in the rock opera that explores doubt and insecurity and the desire to feel grounded in love. It opens with a melodic piano line accompanied by synth strings. This duet changes from a soft ballad into a tense rocking jam and is sure to get your blood pumping in suspense for what is going to happen next. The final song on the album is sung solely from the perspective on Danielle and is titled, “Forever.” The song opens with a gentle piano progression that is soon accompanied by lovely acoustic guitar and a steady drum beat. "Forever" wraps up the rock opera with lessons learned. "Love is the warm embrace, love is the saving grace. We need to help each other." It has a memorable hook that is sure to stick with you leaving a lasting memory of this rock opera in your mind.


'Birth, Love, Hate, Death' is an extremely highly developed musical concept album that gives listeners substantial musical content while delivering insight on the struggles of love and growing into yourself. UniversalDice has found their niche with an ability to write songs that build insightful stories with memorable melodies and hooks that would allow each song to stand alone and shine, but when pieced together form a grand work of art. Other albums by UniversalDice touch on themes like faith, meaning and purpose, politics and social issues. Their music, along with more information on this prolific band, can be found on their website.

Contemporary Fusion Reviews

http://contemporaryfusionreviews.com/provocative-multilayered-rock-opera-universaldice-birth-love-hate-death/ 

provocative multilayered rock opera UniversalDice – “BIRTH, LOVE, HATE, DEATH”:  Right up front, I want to say that I listen to (probably more than) a hundred or so “rock bands” a year who want a featured slot… it goes without saying that most of them never make it (except in their own minds, mayhaps).  Gerry Dantone leads this high-energy rockin’ group (check the CD Baby page for the complete player list; it’s far too long to paste here) in a most excellent rock opera set that, in places, even surpasses the old-school bands their songs are modeled after.  Please note that I said “modeled after”, too – they are their OWN band, not “wannabees”…

Gerry & his pals are even able to carry off that “psychedelic” sound that I was weaned on… just listen to the opener, “Welcome To The World“, and you’ll hear (in the immediate) what I’m talking about; they project that kind of “universal energy” we were all seeking back in those long-ago days – and they do it their own way; I particularly liked the integration of strings and vocals with the great guitar leads (think “THE WHO”)!

The “opera” feeling is best captured in the musical and vocal styles on the longest tune on the album, “Take Me Home“… the lyrics are especially notable, as they are easy to understand… simple, yet evoking strong feelings and emotions you may have forgotten you had.  Absolutely loved the integration of instruments (particularly the guitars) on this piece, and found myself listening to it over and over again.  One piece of advice – at least for your first sitting, make SURE you do it with your headphones ON – you’ll hear something different each time you listen to it.

I think the key thing about this great band is that their music and lyrics “provoke” you to think a little more deeply than you might on a regular basis… a most refreshing quality, and something that’s certainly needed in today’s highly-charged world… if you actually “listen” to songs like my personal favorite of the sixteen offered up, “I’m No Good For You“, you’ll quickly realize that life demands your attention, and that you need to think about your situation a bit, rather than just “rushing right in”… the guitar leads on this track just SOAR!  I predict that this song will make it right up to the TOP of the charts – we’ll see if I’m right. 

This is an astounding album that’s full of surprises, both lyrically and musically; I give them a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with a (perfect) “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 5.00… that means, of course, this gets my “PICK” for “best rock-opera”!  Keep your ears on this band, they will RISE!  Get more information on the UniversalDice website (and tell them you read about them here, of course)! 

Island Songwriter's Showcase

Island Songwriters Showcase This is an epic, folks. What makes it 'epic' is not its length, but its depth. UniversalDice tackles more big questions in 45 minutes than some artists tackle in an entire career. It's not heady music, though. It's 'rock' in the classic rock vein with a big sound and melodies that can stalk you for days.

I am tempted to say this is his best work yet, but I really like ALL of his previous recordings. Gerry's work is consistently excellent. 

Bravo, Gerry, on an ambitious work - nailed.

Note: Walt played keyboards on this CD

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