Album Review

Reign of Terror

Reign of Terror

By Sleigh Bells

Mom + Pop Music
8 / 10
13th February, 2012

By Courtney Sanders

Reign of Terror is the mature, self-reflective follow-up to Sleigh Bells' aggressive and unrelenting debut, Treats.

The ninth track on Reign of Terror, ‘Road to Hell’, is shocking. Not because it’s an aggressive assault on one’s eardrums – that’s saved for almost every other track – but because it’s heartfelt, subtle even. Alexis Krauss’ honeyed pop lyrics delicately head-up the melody as guitar feedback and mechanical percussion restrain themselves. It happens elsewhere on the album, most notably on ‘You Lost Me’ and ‘Born To Lose’ and even on classic Sleigh Bells tracks Krauss’ vocal is a crucial part, ingrained into Derek E Miller’s signature cacophony.

The hierarchical climb of Krauss’ vocal between Treats and Reign of Terror is symptomatic of a couple of things. Firstly, Sleigh Bells’ debut was largely penned before Miller met Krauss while he was serving her dinner in a restaurant and she offered up her – vocal – services, whereas eighteen months in a tour van together made Reign of Terror an obviously more collaborative affair. Secondly, Miller suggests this sophomore is extremely personal. Written carthartically while he was going through “some really difficult stuff with my family”, the lyrical countenance of the album is about survival. Track titles – ‘Born to Lose’, ‘End of the Line’, ‘Leader of the Pack’, ‘Comeback Kid’, and ‘Road to Hell’ – are so fatalist! The dual thematic threads of life / death and success / failure are cemented by lyrics like ‘You gotta turn around, never let your guard down’ (‘Comeback Kid’) and ‘Heard you say suicide in your sleep / Just get on with it you were born to lose'. Heavy.

Speaking of heavy, Reign of Terror is really loud. Opening track ‘True Shred Guitar’ has a self-fulfilling title as a live cut bleeds into feedback over which anthemic repetition of “true shred guitar” sits. Lead single ‘Comeback Kid’ takes the radio-friendly formula of Treats tracks ‘Tell ‘Em’ and ‘Infinity Guitars’ further as Krauss’ vocal makes you want to listen and Miller’s crushing sonic wall forces you to. The linchpin of the Sleigh Bells project is the contradictory nature of both Krauss and Miller’s approach and Miller’s past experience as a producer for MIA and member of Poison the Well and it's demonstrated best in the aforementioned.

Ultimately Reign of Terror afflicts both the head and the heart and is the band's most powerful release to date.






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