If you're hailing from Derry / North Ireland and you're in a band, of course the usual cliché bands spring to mind: Thin Lizzy, Rory Gallagher, Gary Moore, U2... What have all these outfits in common? They're no real Metal bands. Nothing wrong with that - regarding Metal, Ireland still is a bit behind, even today.
SANDSTONE, though, could change this status pretty soon. These four young men have just released their second album, titled "Purging The Past", and have all the necessary prerequisites to be an international success. Their mix of tight Power Metal spiced with a decent dash of melodious Progressive is riveting and reminds you a bit of Fates Warning, Iron Maiden, Queensryche, or even Guns'n'Roses. The latter may be a bit odd, some will say, but SANDSTONE dare and manage the almost impossible, creating a versatile, exciting, and unique style. 2003, the band is established by Stevie McLaughlin (lead guitar) and Sean McBay (vocals / guitar) - and from the start, they are eager to write and play their own material.
Even at this time, both youngsters are already experienced musicians, and, shortly after SANDSTONE has seen the light of day, it is obvious that the chemistry between the two of them is just right. They start recording songs in their own studio, and get better and better at it, improving their skills continuously. Stevie's brother David McLaughlin (bass) and Paddy Flemming (drums) join the two, completing the band. The foursome wants to perform their songs live as soon as possible - which they do, turning SANDSTONE into a household name in the Irish scene very fast. 2006, they sign a deal with Casket Records, and the label releases their debut album "Tides Of Opinion", consisting mainly of material written since 2003. The album, containing twelve songs recorded in their own studio, is very well received by the press, the gist of it being "I haven't heard such an impressive Hard Rock album for a long time".
"Tides Of Opinion" opens a lot of doors for SANDSTONE: they play numerous gigs, and also a tour in England 2006/2007. Even hyper-critical British music magazine Kerrang! is crazy about the band's outstanding live performance. 2008, they start working on the successor of "Tides Of Opinion" - that means less live performances. Once again, the band is recording in their own studio, thus being independent of tight time schedules and pressure - and the new compositions mirror that advantage.
Right from the start, "Purging The Past” is a statement: these young men have matured as a band, and they have honed their songwriting and stylistic skills remarkably. This album is also released by Casket Records and gets brilliant reviews. No wonder LIMB MUSIC is interested in this gifted combo (being a perfect fit for their band roster): the label licenses the album right away.
So, finally "Purging The Past" is released beyond Ireland - with a new artwork, remixed by the band, and remastered by Uwe Lulis (Rebellion, ex-Grave Digger). There is no doubt that "Purging The Past" will cause a sensation. The 12 songs on the album are versatile, catchy and impress you with classy songwriting. The opener "Anymore Lies", for example, emphasizes the band's assets: a heavy track with progressive influences and a great melody line - just like old Fates Warning. "Hiding In The Shadows" once again could be compared to Fates Warning, but also bears comparisons with older Queensryche songs, as does the great, pumping uptempo composition "Fingerprints". Remarkable on this one: Sean McBay's intense, charismatic voice, sometimes reminding you of Axl Rose (Guns'n'Roses), but then again, he's also influenced by his past NWOBHM days. SANDSTONE master even emotional half ballads easily - just check out "Karma", an extremely catchy song with an incredibly intense melody. That's material for the Rock Hall of Fame! Rhythmic "Son Of Carthage" contains cleverly arranged passages à la Iron Maiden. Irate, crispy "The Road To Guantanamo" is an excellent neck wrecker demonstrating the band's modern, up-todate approach regarding lyrics.
After the critical success of second CD 'Purging the Past' described by Bruce Dickinson as "the most promising thing to come out of Ireland in years", Sandstone present their latest release 'Cultural Dissonance'. An embryonic concept for this new work was already forming just as sophomore 'Purging the past' was hot off the press.
This latest offering depicts a band that is not afraid to grow and evolve both as performers and as songwriters: Still apparent is Sandstone's hallmark, dynamic and emotive lyrics and meticulously crafted melodies, but now with a new directness and technical intensity. They had finally found a way to forge their diverse influences and creative ideas into one coherent style that somehow manages to be ballad-like and heartfelt yet bone-crushingly heavy at the same time. Sandstone make a virtue of walking the fine line between hard rock, metal and progressive rock, allowing all three approaches to constantly battle each other and never conceding a victor. The result is addictively compulsive listening.
It became clear that Sandstone's previous method of recording would not serve the potential of this new material, so the summer of 2010 saw Sandstone's home studio BoxRoomStudios demolished and rebuilt from the ground up to provide a new working environment that could grow with the bands ambitions. Armed with a new drummer and a new studio the band began tracking the full production of cultural dissonance in late 2010.
The challenging demands of the new material proved to be an epic yet rewarding undertaking for Sandstone resulting in ten songs that call to mind contemporary influences such as Symphony X, Vanden Plas and Pagan's Mind, yet somehow evoke the classic traditions of Queensrÿche, Helloween and Fates Warning. At the core of Sandstone is the songwriting team of Sean McBay and Stevie McLaughlin who had, until now, been writing separately. This approach was abandoned for 'Cultural Dissonance' in favour of a more collaborative approach resulting in a larger melting pot of ideas and increased compositional scope for individual songs.
Sandstone’s hard work and vision for this new album had been vindicated when in 2011, Limb Schnoor of Limb Music Products agreed to release the album worldwide. Now that the album is finished the band are looking forward to honing their live skills on the European circuit.