CD: Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror | New music reviews, news & interviews
CD: Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror
'Difficult' second album from Brooklyn duo isn't very difficult at all
Ah, the difficult second album. Except that’s a music hack cliche, isn’t it, rarely a statement of truth. Sleigh Bells sprang fully-formed and perfect, as if from nowhere, back in 2010, and if they have a tough act in following their bombastic debut Treats then it's our fault, not theirs. Not that it’s stopped me anticipating, half-dreading, their second album; knowing that nothing the Brooklyn duo could produce now will ever punch me right between the eyes the same way “Rill Rill” did the first time I heard it, but at the same time half-hoping...
Certainly they've made all the right moves. The album’s name, Reign of Terror, hints at a heavier direction, to say nothing of the trailer video that teased with one chuggy, menacing riff and Alexis Krauss’ perfectly shiny black hair. Single “Born to Lose” was a brutal first taste, showcasing a darker lyrical direction, but then the breezy “Comeback Kid” reset expectations.
In the end the album is something in between. "True Shred Guitar” has, it seems, been opening the duo’s recent shows and on record mimics that live feel. Krauss leads a crowd screaming and whether it’s real or an effect is negotiable underneath the wailing of Derek Miller’s guitar, drowning the song in a wave of sound and screaming that belies his background in hardcore band Poison the Well.
"Loud" has always been the go-to word to sum up the duo’s sound and Reign of Terror doesn’t disappoint on that score, although there’s never so much going on that the vocals are lost. This time around they’re breathier, verging more towards the sultry than the childlike Treats’ cheerleader riffs seemed to encourage. It’s a style that lends itself as much to playfulness (“Crush”, “Comeback Kid”) as the plaintive (“End of the Line”, “Road to Hell” and “Leader of the Pack”, with its Shangri-Las referencing sonic sweetness and lyrical despair).
While certainly a darker album, with something particularly ominous about its closing tracks, the band’s talent for throwing visceral, poppy hooks among the madness shows no signs of fading.
Watch "Comeback Kid" by Sleigh Bells
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
more New music
Here's Johnny: the PIL singer lifts the lid on 'Metal Box'
Are these pared-down, country-tinged arrangements a career junction or a wrong turn?
The director of the charismatic venue celebrates its history and its work transforming young lives
Has the post-Sambora line-up found its feet?
A slow joy-ride through the depths of the underworld
Historic collection of scattergun gags
Indispensible collection of previously unheard 1967 tracks from the great singer-songwriter
The Quo strip back layers to reveal rather more than you might think
The Danish singer-songwriter opens up about her third album ‘Citizen of Glass’
Chrissie Hynde goes to Nashville, but can she revisit former glories?
The post-minimalists reclaim studio electronica for the stage
Collaboration with Snarky Puppy’s Michael League is a tender restatement of identity