Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror: Album Review

February 21, 2012 § 5 Comments

Sleigh Bells dropped a grenade onto the music scene with 2010’s Treats, a debut album that was filled with messy distortion and deranged guitar riffs. Their sophomore effort Reign of Terror (released today) has softened that blow, reflecting the duo’s understanding of sonic refinement.

The album opens with “True Shred Guitar” – an arena-like prelude that pumps up the listener for the wild journey they are about to take on Reign of Terror. Following is the first single “Born To Lose”, the weirdly cool mash of Krauss’ euphoric vocals and Miller’s thrashing guitar riffs.

80’s pop is the driving factor on this record and is best found in “Crush”. It begins with cheerleader-inspired handclaps, crazed hair metal melodies, playful guitar wiggles and Krauss repeatedly breathing “Oh Oh/I got a crush on you…”

“End of the Line”, an unexpected mid-tempo ballad, serves as the isolated comedown to the other fast-paced tracks. It is oddly romantic and has an air of nostalgia as the lyrics reflect on a lost love. John Hughes is looking down wishing he had it for the Pretty in Pink soundtrack.

“Comeback Kid”, the second single off the album, shows the duo’s growth of creating complete songs of traditional pop’s verse-chorus-verse formula that is ridiculously catchy. Who could resist the shockingly 90s-sounding vocals, slight R&B influence and weird metal riffs?

Reign of Terror exemplifies its vicious message with “Demons”, a dangerously unfuckwithable theme song made perfect for a Brooklyn street gang. Warning: may provoke listener to smash someone in the head with a bottle.

“Never Say Die”, a haunting Michael Myers-esque track, continues the menacing theme with its effect of a killer chasing you through the woods. It makes your skin crawl as Miller’s guitar riffs sink into your eardrums and Krauss’s moody vocal echoes show no mercy.

Sleigh Bells has cemented a depth in their music via actual melodies, with the album taking obvious influences from 80s metal instrumentals from bands Def Leppard and AC/DC and 90s teen pop vocals from S Club 7 and B* Witched that makes the album sound cleaner than Treats.

But with a name like Reign of Terror, referencing the deathly violent time period after the French Revolution, one wouldn’t expect such breezy songs like “End of the Line” or “You Lost Me”. At times, Strauss’s teenage vocals are aggressively stomped on by Miller’s delirious guitar riffs to the point where her lyrics become too distant to hear. While the thematic harmony is lost, the record’s strength comes through its production clarity.

Sleigh Bells were not kidding when they said Reign of Terror was going to be loud, but the record’s rambunctious power almost tips it over the edge.

Here is my small advice for the next record: turn down the volume.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Songs on Repeat

“Comeback Kid”

“Demons”

“Road To Hell”

Songs to Skip

“D.O.A”

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