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Approaching two hours in length, there's a near-certainty that Sacrum's "Criminal" will be a more time-consuming album than what you're normally used to. Even for progressive metal, bands rarely throw this much material under a single title, and when you consider the fact that this is an album without any of the genre's signature twenty minute epics to flesh out the length, one begins to wonder why they didn't simply opt to split it into two or three albums. What's really incredible about Sacrum's third album to date however, is the fact that this exceptional length does not define the experience of listening to it. Thanks to their dynamic approach, strong songwriting and openness to variety, "Criminal" is an album that keeps the listener engaged throughout. It may be cliché to say in a review, but “Criminal” has no filler to speak of. What we have here is a bold dive into the world of progressive metal and each of its many faces.
Sacrum bring a great diversity to their sound. Although they are rooted in the traditional progressive metal style modelled after Dream Theater canon, the band’s blend of melodic, electronic and heavy metal influences bring something relatively fresh to the ‘progressive’ formula. This variety is not so apparent on a song-by-song basis, but as the album progresses, there’s a gradual shift in style. With “Bautizame”, Sacrum introduce themselves as an atmospheric industrial metal hybrid, blending overtly danceable electronic rhythms with warm vocals (sung en Espanol) and chugging metal riffs. From there, Sacrum slowly lean towards a more traditional progressive metal sound as the album goes on, exchanging electronica soundcapes for guitar-induced atmosphere by the time the album is halfway through. The most noticeable (and sudden) change on “Criminal” is the shift from Spanish to English lyrics with the second disc of the album. Estanislao Silveyra is an excellent vocalist, and his voice suits both languages well, although the melodies are decidedly superior on the English half. This is less a cause of the language switch however, and more a result of the shift to a more traditional metal sound. On the album’s second half, Sacrum retain some of their electronic undertones, but it’s replaced in part with sounds one would more likely here on a progressive rock album. Sacrum get well-acquainted with Floydian ambiance on the English half, and when mixed with segments of Dream Theater-esque progressive riffs and rich power metal choruses, it becomes very apparent that Sacrum deserves the two hour investment.
Although some of the more straightforward metal riffs feel plain, “Criminal” enjoys a strong mix and production. Silveyra’s vocals are particularly memorable, and Martin Guerrero’s melodic lead work achieves a pleasantly soaring beauty in contrast to the aggressive riffs. Although it’s arguably the longest studio album I have come across this year, “Criminal” really doesn’t feel like it. Sacrum’s style stays fresh throughout; there is no sense here that the second half of the record is retracing the steps of the first, as is prone to happen with double albums. However, “Criminal” may have been best left as two albums nonetheless. Sporting some of the album’s best tracks like the single-worthy “One Minute of Rage” and the epic “Home”, the English half is arguably better, although in truth, it’s hard to choose between the two. “Criminal”s greatest strength is its consistency; you’re not likely to come across too many albums that toss this much material at you without slipping up at least once. In regards to their style, Sacrum’s riffs run a little close to the commonly-emulated style of Dream Theater at times, but taking into consideration the strong electronic element and quality of songwriting, Sacrum stand their ground.