The Soft Moon – Criminal

Fresh experiments stemming from the depths of Oakland, California. The Soft Moon (aka Luis Vasquez) returns with his new ten-piece record, Criminal, an utterly twisted and delightfully morbid album from start to finish. Prepare yourself, as this is one record which aims to tread deep into the very fabric of what constitutes horror and guides us through a disturbingly darkened journey.

I really wanted to make it my personal task this year to explore and delve into genres which are outside of my comfort zone, and The Soft Moon has been the perfect artist to start doing so. Going into this album with a fully blank mind made the listen immensely more intense and really allowed each track to hit its desired intention. The record kicks off with ‘Burn’ and we’re flooded into an immediate state of chaotic torment, the drudge of the rapid bass riffs and an instant aura of uneasiness. As Luis’ vocals come into play they inject a harsh raspiness which only adds further to the track’s demeanour, it almost feels like something out of an old Prodigy album and I couldn’t be happier!

There is no better feeling than not knowing what to expect next when listening to any album and The Soft Moon has mastered this art; the transitions from heavily intense tracks such as ‘Like A Father’ elegantly blend alongside the slower numbers such as ‘Criminal’ and ‘Give Something’, where Luis places his voice far more in the spotlight. These tracks emphasise a great deal of personality behind the lyricism and really allow you to sink into the song’s harrowing imagery and messages in a manner which is hard to achieve when specialising in this style of electronica. This being said, there are still certain times where the lyricism does hold the sound back from reaching its true power by bordering on the classic 00s emo vibe of “Why does no one understand me?” However, these incidences are relatively few and far between so don’t overly distract from the listen too much.

The production behind Criminal should definitely not go unmentioned as The Soft Moon has been able to find a very personalised sound and place amongst producers and artists. One of the most terrifying but exhilarating parts of this album is the purely instrumental ‘ILL’. I can’t honestly say I’ve ever really experienced the feeling of being genuinely terrified whilst reviewing an album, but placing this track on full blast in a dark room is definitely enough to get your hairs standing! The song is nothing but blunt, brutal and bizarre sounds but all are blended under a screeching, sinister guitar, which leaves the simply terrifying feeling of torturing your mind. This is seriously a Marmite track, you’ll either love every second or despite every bar, but either way, it’s certainly a track that you won’t be forgetting anytime soon and is more than worth experiencing at least once.

It takes a great deal of not only strength, but also risk to create albums which go against the social norms and it is this aspect which makes Criminal such a delight of an album. The Soft Moon’s determination to broaden the listener’s comfort zones and introduce them to horrifying sounds which they have never heard is mesmerising and admirable to say the least. There is no doubt that this is a record which many may simply not understand and dismiss no matter how many times they listen to it. Yet for those who ‘get it’, The Soft Moon has created an album which truly embeds itself into the roots of your nightmares in the best way possible. Whether you’re a fan of the style or not, I implore you to at least give this album a go, it will definitely be one that will stick on your mind when you’re all alone in the dark.

Ben Walker