Album Review: Sleigh Bells’ ‘Reign of Terror’
In 2010, Brookyln-based rock duo Sleigh Bells released their full-length debut, Treats. What followed was a slew of tour dates, festival appearances, and raucous moshpits of zealous fans wanting to hear songs like “Infinity Guitars,” “Crown on the Ground,” and “Rill Rill.” Since then, the band was hard at work on their sophomore effort, Reign of Terror. On December 2, 2011, a teaser trailer was released, showing singer Alexis Krauss and guitarist Derek Miller looking ready for battle. On Reign of Terror, a battle does ensue, but between the band’s use of hard and soft sounds.
The album opens with “True Shred Guitar” and it’s exactly that. A live introduction to the raw power that is Sleigh Bells, you can hear the crowd going wild for Krauss and Miller. But while the first track is the noise-rock the band has become synonymous with, Reign of Terror has little “terror” to it at all. What follows are tracks with strong pop and r&b sensibilities with guitar accompaniments that seem to hug the songs rather than give them a good punch in the face.
Tracks like “Born to Lose” and “End of the Line” are mid-tempo, showcasing the sonic change. But while “Born to Lose” comes in heavy, “End of the Line” is mellow, with recognizable r&b influences. Though the foray into something more mellow is new for the band, and fans, the change of pace is complimentary to what follows. “Crush” an “Comeback Kid” are quintessential Sleigh Bell’s rallying songs. Krauss’ vocal come complete with bad-ass, almost cheer chants while Miller’s loud riffs duke it out with step-team beats. “Comeback Kid” features the catchiest hook on the album and the backbeat is absolutely punishing.
Reign of Terror is vastly more accessible than the riotous Treats. The band’s near ballad, “You Lost Me” is the album’s most beautiful track, creating a dream-like atmosphere around glistening arpeggios and lyrics like “You’re holding hands through your favorite bands.” But where there is accessibility, there’s still that hard-hitting intimidation factor. “Leader of the Pack” is definitely not a cover of the Shangri-La’s classic, but a track that busts down the door to make room for other tracks like “Demons” –an evil, yet oddly seductive, romp where Miller’s guitar battles Krauss’ roar, and “Never Say Die.” The opposite of the inviting “You Lost Me,” “Never Say Die” is creepy, nightmareish even. The vocals are shapeless and vaguely ghost-like while the mix of a constant, rumbling drum and repetitious guitar scale are spine-tingling.
While the album may not be the mosh-inducing fanfare that drew crowds as Treats did, Reign of Terror is good, REALLY good. What separates Sleigh Bells from everyone else is the control of loud, hard, and soft. Lyrically and sonically, Miller and Krauss have grown. Whether they’ve grown enough to be comfortable in the music they’re creating and true to the sound they’ve created remains to be seen. But the next time Sleigh Bells comes to town, I’ll be there –that’s for sure.