Crafting a sound and taking chances don’t always go hand in hand so elegantly, but The Soft Moon does both with room to spare. While previous albums have had a few rough spots along the way, Luis Vasquez and company create a consistent record that explores their sound in equal parts ambitious but invigorating writing.
The cutting riffs of “Burn” open the album with a raw and warped fury, as if Death From Above played with Nine Inch Nails. As overpowering as much of the album’s sound can be, the wall of energy behind it can be utterly intoxicating. “Choke” takes a more industrial direction, as Vasquez rasps harshly to create a sense of menacing terror in his lavish production. While the song’s monotonous delivery would be boring in the wrong hands, the constant sonic evolution throughout the track feels constantly intriguing.
The sense of place Vasquez creates for not only his voice but drums makes tracks like “Give Something” feel powerfully cinematic, adding a palpable depth to their already haunting melodies. Even the most sparse noises are enhanced by this subtle imagery, giving the song and album textural richness to really push the envelope. While “Give Something” really soars thanks to its immense sense of tension, there’s a subtler build in the electronic-punk sounds of “Like A Father.” The abrasive yet driving sound never eases up on this track either, making it one that will undoubtedly work just as well live as on record.
Vasquez is a master of booming dynamics on “The Pain,” throttling listeners to get up and move, while taking his sound work as far as it will go. As dense as Criminal’s sound can get at times, Vasquez still manages to give layers of riffs enough space to play off each other here. “It Kills” offers a stronger contrast in its composition, giving each of its quieter verses a sense of importance that much of the album is sorely lacking. This break in monotony makes the song’s shrieking finale a climactic moment, and allows him to introduce more variety into his writing with losing his momentum.
While so much of Criminal is a rush of percussion, “ILL” takes an atypical pop beat to create a marching sense of unease. Although the track is distinctly more of a thematic interlude than fleshed out song, Vasquez growing arrangements serve the track more noticeably than most of the album. “Young” dives the deepest into the Trent Reznor influence, with Vasqeuz’s raw growls coming out starkly dirty compared to neon sheen of all his synths. By letting the melodies stand out from the noise, the song has a much more distinthatct movement to its energy.
In the album’s final moments, “Born Into This” brings a pummeling and oppressive sound in its heavy bass and shrieking guitars. The endlessly abrasive sound is easy to get lost in but it’s the way Vasquez slowly expands the sound that makes the track feel like a budding riot. “Criminal” subdues the noise heavily for a dark and gloomy track laden in reverb. This moody push of energy closes the record in hopeless despair, but carries so much emotion you’ll be too lost to care.
Words by Owen Maxwell