STEVIE McLAUGHLIN – Toy Empires (2018)
Irish guitarist STEVIE McLAUGHLIN is releasing today his first solo effort titled “Toy Empires”. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, he is part of UK metallers Sandstone, IronHeart and served as touring guitarist for the former Judas Priest singer Tim Ripper Owens.
McLaughlin is a skilled musician, and not only perfomed all instruments here but also handled lead vocals, and very well if you ask me.
For once, the press release perfectly describes what the promoted album is all about; “Toy Empires” is Melodic Progressive Hard Rock. Exactly.
These elaborated compositions at places feel like a melodic hard rock track, but McLaughlin adds unexpected twists such as progressive scales, light proggy atmospheres and riff-heavy groovy passages.
Starting with the heavy pounding rhythm and snake charmer melodies of ‘Between Life and Death’, McLaughlin shows that he is ready for business, and prepared to deliver a killer album.
Next, ‘Shadows Alone’ start with classic piano work, shifting into the driving thoughtful song that was commonplace during the Eighties and early ’90s.
‘Apocrypha’ continues moving into the thundering of the guitars and the story of old legends and new tales. Brilliant work by McLaughlin on all instruments.
‘Straw Men’ is riff-heavy, a punchy rhythm carries the song, as the music unfolds painting a beautiful image which, for the most part, it’s absolutely melodic.
‘Prophetic Skies’ has the triplet rhythm guitar intro of classics of old, and with the guitars pushing out into a melodic rhythm as things progress, one can tell this is going to be a blinder of a song. As the guitars shreds and the galloping riffs continue, the listener is proven right.
‘Immortal Rose’ provides more variation with a modern, almost commercial riff before exploding with swagger and grit. ‘Chimera’ is another track mixing melodic hard with progressive, and the vocals create a sense of desperation and a hint of urgency to proceedings.
‘Depletion’ continues with the piano theme, with the sad, mournful lyrics creating a haunting atmosphere, while title track ‘Toy Empires’ is a mix of soft and ethereal synths and solid riffage, a great combination, and a superb title track.
Stevie McLaughlin’s debut “Toy Empires” is one of those albums that you usually pass by or miss, perhaps because the name isn’t familiar, or simply ‘cos the CD got sink between a truckload of new releases.
Don’t make that mistake. “Toy Empires” is a very, very good album.
It’s like the ideal mix between hard rock groove, progressive twists, and melodic accessibility. And really entertaining as well; there is a playfulness to this that makes it a really “happy” listening.
01 – Between Life & Death
02 – Shadows Alone
03 – Apocrypha
04 – Straw Men
05 – Prophetic Skies
06 – Immortal Rose
07 – Chimera
08 – Depletion
09 – Toy Empires
Stevie Mclaughlin: all vocals, all instruments
BUY IT !