Sacred Bones is a label mostly derived of different styles of near-droning, but engaged artists that range anywhere from new and genre defining, to the familiar but substantial. The Soft Moon is a band that flies under a relatively similar style of being familiar, and one that draws inspiration from a band like Nine Inch Nails that was at one time; genre creating.
The newest release, Criminal is similar to the way that the harsh noise and eventual computer-esque instrumentation files under the similarities of Nine Inch Nails. It feels as though it draws attention to the band and constructs the sound to fit a more modern mold. It does not do anything that is immensely groundbreaking, but it does feel as a solid representation of how The Soft Moon can form its own backbone and fill in the cracks of where their previous release, Deeper left off.
“Burn” is an attack within the first moments and the bitcrushing bass that is combined with the rigid guitar feels more as a stadium anthem than anything coming from a dark wave band. It stays consistent in the punch of the bass drum that pounds on a one, two, three, and four before letting the wall of sound come with Luis Vasquez and his rough, almost violent voice. It is grief-stricken, but matches for his own description that was written for Criminal, “Guilt is my biggest demon and has been following me since childhood, everything I do strengthens the narrative that I am guilty.” Criminal is a monster that is both intriguing and emotionally draining, without showing much hope for the redemption of Vasquez.
Criminal is at most points incredibly industrial and showcases the sense of the metallic overcoat that is present on “Choke”. The warping instrumentation provides a deeper attachment to the backstory of the record, giving insight to where the lugubrious style takes form. It continues to twist and contort, while revolving around the central theme of abuse and the inability to receive self-redemption. Vasquez describes, “Take your time, crush me right. Take your time, crush me fine. So long time, try these lies. Take your time, crush me right. Take your time, crush me fine.” The self-destructive is near masochistic and relies on the ability to showcase a downfall that is almost relatable in a sense.
This is how Criminal captures the listener and brings them down to a more personal level. As most of the tracks and lyrics involve an incredibly violent nature that lurks behind Vasquez. While nothing that The Soft Moon does is groundbreaking in any sort, or truly inspiring; it does the job well and feels fulfilling to the ear. In a sense that is almost personal, Criminal confides in the listener almost as a therapist as Vasquez pours his emotional weight through his microphone.
It is unfit to be showcased as a hero, but Criminal is just as the titled supposes. The record is a fit of wrongdoings that oppose the ability to become forgiven. It lurks in the shadows and consistently feels broken, the sheer veracity and strength behind Criminal is shocking, but something that is comforting in an odd, almost twisted sense.