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Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror – review

A lot of hype has been placed on the new Sleigh Bells album, Reign of Terror.  The duo’s debut Treats was one of my favorite albums of 2010, taking me by surprise with their overdriven 80’s guitar sounds, and anthemic cheerleader chants.  It took me a while to get in to, understand, and appreciate the genius of that album, and attempt to understand where the band was coming from.

There’s something very compelling about listening to singer Alexis Krauss’s sublime bubble gum pop vocals, over shredding metal riffs that we haven’t really heard before.  The closest band that comes near to them might be Crystal Castles, but they’re coming from a much more electronic, dub oriented sound.

Reign of Terror sounds a lot poppier than Treats, which was written solely by guitarist Derek Miller, and that gives it a lot more space to work with.  The core of their sound is unchanged though.  They’re not trying to re-write themselves two albums in, and thank god for that.  To many bands at this stage in their career think; “This is it! Now we have more money to play with, more access to equipment and producers. Let’s make it HUGE!”  9 times out of 10 this would be the wrong answer.  Sleigh Bells gets it right.

The album sounds more cohesive as a whole and is stock piled with more songs that reach the epic pulse-pounding chorus of Kids and Treats from their debut.  Just listen to songs like Demons and Comeback Kid and you’ll hear what I’m talking about.   Then there are songs like Crush and End of the Line which sound like tormented Debbie Gibson or Go-Go’s songs.  One of the high watermarks of the album is a song called Never Say Die which is trance-like, reaching Massive Attack trip-hop status.  They’re playing around in a lot of genres and that’s what really makes the album enjoyable all the way through.

Reign of Terror isn’t much different from Treats, but it’s just different enough in all of the right places, and works a lot better from start to finish.  It’s an intelligent next step for Sleigh Bells and it’s a step in the right direction for music right now, which I think is on the cusp of a downward slide.  This year has been one of the weakest years in memory for releases so far, and that’s why this album sounds so sweet to the ears.

Grade: A-