SANDSTONE is one of Ireland's most persistent and most prolific metal bands. Established in 2003, the band can look back on four weighty albums to date, with their third album from 2009, "Purging The Past", even sparking the interest of Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson who noted that "this is the most impressive album to come from Ireland in many years" - honour to whom honour is due from a genuine connoisseur. To back up this statement, the band raised the bar even higher with the follow-up album "Cultural Dissonance" and the international metal press honoured this with very good to excellent reviews. Only two years later, they delivered "Delta Viridian", which again presented a finely balanced mix of power and progressive elements and brought up comparisons with bands like Pagan`s Mind and Symphony X. Nevertheless, in 2013 the Irish decided to take some time off to recharge the batteries, analyse the situation and think about further creative challenges. Now, in 2021. the time has come, SANDSTONE report back with their fifth studio album "Epsilon Sky". Darker, heavier, more sophisticated and detached from all current trends, they present an album that is completely oriented towards the preferences of the musicians involved.
In 2003, SANDSTONE is founded by guitarist Stevie McLaughlin and singer Sean McBay. They play their own material right from the start because both musicians can look back on a somewhat significant musical past at this time. While the first own songs are completed in the studio, the search for further comrades-in-arms begins. Stevie's brother David McLaughlin (bass) and Paddy Flemming (drums) complete the band soon after its foundation. The quartet is eager to perform their songs live and within a very short time, SANDSTONE become a force to be reckoned with in the Irish scene. This attracts the attention of the small English label Casket Records, which signs SANDSTONE and releases their debut album "Tides Of Opinion" in 2006. The album largely contains material by the band written in the years since its formation. The press reviews are uniformly enthusiastic and positive. Statements like "haven't heard such an impressive hard rock album in a long time" are not an exception, but the rule. This also brings the troupe to England for a first tour. Even the extremely critical English music magazine Kerrang! likes the band, gushing about their live performance.
In 2008, the band starts working on the second album in its own studio. Since there is no time pressure, there is a lot of experimentation. The album titled "Purging The Past" is more versatile, the style is more consistent, the musical character of the band is consolidated, and all that is clearly appreciated by the press. Due to the excellent reviews, Limb Music becomes aware of the band and licenses the album for a worldwide release. Equipped with new artwork and remastered by Uwe Lullis (Rebellion, ex-Grave Digger, Accept), the 12 sophisticated, yet catchy tracks receive powerful attention from press and fans. Until 2010, things run smooth, and in the summer, the combo begins working on their third album. However, a line-up change is also imminent - drummer Paddy Flemming leaves the band and is replaced by Chris Towe. Shortly after, the line-up is reinforced with a second guitarist. Noel McGuinness completes the band, and they are officially in labour with "Cultural Dissonance". With a second guitarist, the guitar power is hefty and dynamic, without losing the usual melody lines. The Irish hone their skills, move confidently between the genres of heavy rock, metal, and progressive metal, developing their own sound. Soft melodic passages, heavy song structures, and partially complex elements sound compact and natural. The success of their third album offers the opportunity to tour Europe as support band for Tim 'Ripper' Owens (ex-Judas Priest, Beyond Fear, Dio Disciples...). The recent line-up change at the second guitar and the drums is not noticeable. The longer the band plays live on stage, the more they become a perfectly oiled rock machine.
They say a break means standstill. The Irish see it that way, too, and in 2012 they crank out yet another album. "Delta Viridian", released in 2013, is a semi-concept album based on the novella "Cat's Cradle" by Kurt Vonnegut. The quintet stays true to its style mix, hones the new song material to perfection and comes up with the best album of its career so far. Ex-Judas Priest front man Tim 'Ripper' Owens, with whom the band had formed an intimate friendship during the last European tour, delivers a strong guest vocal performance on the song "Vitruvian Man", which fits perfectly to the smashing song. The album is received extremely positively by fans and press, and the band is off on tour with Tim 'Ripper' Owens once again. This time, on double-duty as support and backing band for the American, rendering the SANDSTONE musicians on stage up to four hours a night.
But 2013 is also the year of reset for the Irish band, the members decide to take a break and rethink their whole situation. They took some time off - and are now surprisingly back with a new album: "Epsilon Sky". As an entity, SANDSTONE`S fifth album seems harder, darker, more adult compared to its predecessors and above all, it does not submit to any trends.
The band describes "Epsilon Sky" as "an album for fans of deep, thoughtful songs in a compact ‚all killers no fillers‘ package, with the supporting elements of metal, hard rock, and progressive tendencies unite perfectly". No objections here, your honour! But you can notice that the guitar runs trigger clearly more progressive moods, also due to increased heaviness in wide parts (think Dream Theater here). One listens to "Silhouettes Drown": short, terrific meldodic parts just add to a crushing heaviness with progressive elements woven in very elegantly. "Fractured Time" is somewhat catchier but with a very determined guitar and a tight rhythm, still very intricate. That The band members just brim with progressive vibes – just listen to "Worm Soul" from the beginning with its gripping, dominant guitar work. Singer Sean McBay has developed enormously, providing the songs with a completely new depth with his matured voice. "Epsilon Sky" is a firework of strong songs that can't really be assigned to one genre, thus appealing to different target groups.
"Tides Of Opinion" (2006)
"Purging The Past” (2009)
"Cultural Dissonance" (2011)
"Delta Viridian" (2013)
“Epsilon Sky” (2021)
Sean McBay (vocals)
Stevie McLaughlin (guitar)
Dee Kivlehan (guitar)
Thomas Alford (bass)
Eamonn McNaught (drums)