Lacking In Excitement

This week Casket Music throw some Northern Irish erm…rock/metal type thing at us with mixed results. 'Purging The Past' is Sandstone's second full length studio release, 'Tides Of Opinion' being their first. The band have been together for almost six years and it's obvious that Sandstone are comprised of some excellent musicians especially in the guitar and drum department. Sadly, as is quite common with great musicians, their ability to pen a decent tune leaves a lot to be desired.

The album starts in unspectacular fashion with 'Division'. The opening riff promises a bit of a rocker but the rest of the band, plus an acoustic guitar of all things, join in to spoil the song just as it was about to kick off. The badly timed 'The Road To Guantanamo' is a hotch potch of tempos with the song not working at any speed. 'Karma', and its ballad tendencies, is an ok song but after the dour opening pair the song really drags you down. With shoulders rounded and posture hunched 'Fingertips' tries to inject some life into the album but the song loses all momentum at the first verse when the drums and bass stop, why? With the song slowing down at the bridge any excitement that was created disappears and then morphs itself into a finger that is desperate to press the 'skip track' button on the CD player. What is even more soul crushing is there are another eleven tracks to wade through.

The sixth song, 'Enigma', contains a decent rhythm style riff but is backed up by an AC/DC style drum track causing it to become devoid of any drive or excitement. If I'm being honest it took four attempts to get past track six. Even after a couple of songs I was aching to put something a little more exciting on. However, when the poison-acoustic ballad style of 'Y' finally managed to hit the airwaves the albums suddenly changed. Although pretty downbeat the song is the first sign of class and demonstrates that vocalist/guitarist Sean McBay is a better ballad singer than rock singer. This is followed by the preposterously named 'Son Of Carthage' which really sets you back on your heels because it's as if the band have had a shot of adrenaline and tried to write a song akin to that of Dragonforce. Was this the same band? (I did check). It is a complete contrast to the first half of the album and it also beggars the question why didn't they start with this belter of a tune?

But it's back to the ballad bollocks with 'Sleep', which takes away the sting the previous song injected. However, as 'Purging The Past' progresses the stronger material emerges in 'Happy Birthday', 'Skulkadin' and 'All Operations' before the ass is bored off you with the final dirge, 'Critical'. After finally getting to the end of this album it is obvious there is far too much material on offer. There are five or six decent tunes almost masked by the mediocrity around them. Had I not reviewed this album I doubt track seven would've been reached. The first part of 'Purging The Past' sounds like a band without direction relying on their musicianship to get them through. But if Sandstone can concentrate on the up-tempo ideas in the second half of this album and drop three out of the five slow numbers then they may get the blood flowing (let the drummer go mental a little more often).