UniversalDice recently dropped a 16-song album called birth, love, hate, death. Not only does it encompass a lot of tracks, but it’s a rock opera. If I sound astonished, it’s because at the current juncture, when pandering to Spotify’s deification of singles is prevalent, no artist in their right mind contemplates writing a rock opera, except Gerry Dantone and UniversalDice.
“I have a philosophy about lyrics and music. I need to have a reason to write the next song. Each piece needs a reason for existing,” says Dantone in the band’s press release.
A rock opera of grand scale, birth, love, hate, death relates the narrative of a Mother and her Son, along with Danielle, the Son’s lover, and Sugar Daddy, who is Danielle’s pimp.
Based on Long Island, NY, Universal Dice is made up of Dantone (vocals, guitar, producer), Bob Barcus (guitar), Ed Canova (bass), Walter Sargent (keyboards), and Vin Crici (keyboards).
The first track, “Welcome To The World,” introduces the Son to the world. There’s a Byrds-like flow to the music, as well hints of The Who’s Quadrophenia. “I Wish I Could Tell You This” is vaguely reminiscent of Pink Floyd, dreamy and undulating. Dantone’s rasping tones invest the tune with flavors of regret and nostalgia.
“Better Man” exudes dark bluesy colors, as well as cutting energy imbuing the song with tension and gravity. “Man Enough” radiates a SoCal soft rock quality akin to Don Henley post-Eagles, not only because of Dantone’s scratchy tones, but because of the tune’s dynamics, soft yet declarative.
The closing track, “Forever,” emphasizes the power of love within the human heart. Floating gently on a beautiful piano, the tune weaves a tapestry of gossamer textures. The song can be interpreted in two ways: one, the Son and Danielle never get together, but are sustained by their memories, or two, they live happily ever after.
Dantone and UniversalDice capture the elation and pain of all-consuming love on birth, love, hate, death, as well as the obstacles imposed by human frailty. The simple telling of the tale proves to be cathartic, making the album a worthy listening experience.