The Irish guitarist Stevie McLaughlin is better known for his riff attacks with the Irish metal band, Sandstone. The band has recorded four albums so far, one of which - the highly respected debut 'Tides Of Opinion' - will be digitally released for the first time along with this album. Now, in order to live out his full musical sphere, something he is unable to do when playing with the band, the talented guitarist, songwriter and singer has recorded his first solo effort. ‘Toy Empires’ is the title of the ten track opus, which can be described as being between hard rock and classical heavy metal. Progressive influences are just as recognizable as are influences to his style by guitarists such as Gary Moore, Rory Gallagher, Steve Vai, John Petrucci and Pat McManus.
Stevie McLaughlin was very young when he discovered the magic of playing guitar, which is the reason for him being influenced by Irish notables such as Rory Gallagher, Gary Moore and Pat McManus. As he grew up, other guitarists, amongst them John Petrucci and Steve Vai came to his attention of McLaughin, who lives in Derry, Northern Ireland. Emotional, melodically sensitive Irish influences were and still are an inherent part of the Irishman's songwriting, even when classical heavy metal influences take the upper hand.
During the ensuing years Stevie installed his own studio to which he welcomes local as well as international musicians and records with them. Furthermore, the former Judas Priest/ex-Iced Earth singer Tim Ripper Owens noticed the musical talents of the Irish musician and invited him to join his tour band. Despite all these activities he recorded his first solo album on his own and it is now to be released by Limb Music. ‘Toy Empires’ demonstrates McLaughlin's musical vision in all its significant virtuosity. He takes the listener on a journey through his musical cosmos, one which comprises passion, technical subtlety, creativity and honesty.
‘Toy Empires’ delivers ten songs which act as a colourful bouquet of flowers. Versatile, emotional and of the highest technichal standard, but basically always close to the heavy metal metier, Stevie McLaughlin is spot on, right down the line. Apart from the technically perfect guitar parts, melodies and harmonies are important components of this album. But also songs with a large portion of prog influences, such as ‘Apocrapha’ makes the listener sit up, and whilst listening to the groovy, impressive numbers such as ‘Immortal Rose’ it is impossible to sit still. On the other hand, the title track is exemplary melodic, tight heavy metal with clean lines of melody. Stevie McLaughlin’s vocals are pleasantly unobtrusive, yet also concise. On ‘Toy Empires’ all the musical fragments fit together to a perfect whole, pleasing the listener with its cleanly arranged, melodic metal songs, and further recommending itself with its strong, great melodies and classical guitar parts.
01. Between Life & Death
02. Shadows Alone
04. Straw Men
05. Prophetic Skies
06. Immortal Rose
09. Toy Empires
10. Memories Of Eden