Universal Dice’s journey has carried the band through three albums and individual long careers that cut through the essence of American music. Songwriter, musician, producer, mixer and band leader Gerry Dantone works alongside an equally capable crew. The talents of Bob Barcus, Ed Canova, Vin Crici,, Sam Cimino, Tom Beckner, and other important contributors fashion modern classic rock that does not simply attempt to knock you back into your seat, but reaches for higher ambitions.
The band’s re-release of two older songs, “Out of Many, One” and “Last Prayer”, isn’t a sign of creative stasis. It is a sign of a band whose material enjoys continued relevance long past its initial release. The first of the two older tracks “Out of Many, One” has a near magisterial sound that nevertheless retains genuine rock power. The pomp and spectacle of the arrangement, however, does not strike listeners as bloated. Instead, Universal Dice, specifically Dantone, harness a fully realized vision that is musical, thoughtful, yet dramatic.
The lyrics are poetic without ever being pretentious. Dantone’s impassioned delivery further elevates the words and the swirl of musical colors invoked by his voice and the production equals the music. “Last Prayer”, the second single, is different, but no less involving. It has a bit more of a meditative tone, as reflected in its lyrics. It does not lack for power, however.
Universal Dice’s ability to address serious themes such as the United States’ involvement in the Iraqi War sets them apart. That long, absurd conflict finds painful expression in “One of Many, One” as Dantone’s lyrics practically grieve for America’s long since thwarted idealism. Dantone and the band pull no punches.
The haunted qualities of “Last Prayer” are difficult to ignore. It never sounds stilted, however, or threatens to descend into melodrama. Dantone and his cohorts wring every ounce of emotion inherent in the piece with particularly effective guitar work help accentuate the aforementioned tone. Universal Dice are mainstays of the East Coast music scene reaching back over two decades and poised to release their fifth album.
It’s these two tracks that matter right now, however. They serve as reminders for newcomers and longtime fans alike that the band has been playing at a high level since they first formed. There is no sign that will not continue. Gerry Dantone and the revolving cast of top flight musicians who have filled the ranks of Universal Dice since its founding are invigorated artists and kickass musicians who will continue to break new borders and push their musical ambitions to the next level.
First time listeners to the band and longtime admirers will greet these two singles in different ways. For the former, it will be revelatory. For the latter, it will be reacquainting themselves with a longtime friend. Universal Dice’s “Last Prayer” and “One of Many, One” are fine modern rock and extraordinary reminders of topical songwriting’s enduring power. These songs and the band’s music will not soon fade, so check them out today.