wed 23/04/2014

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

Sleigh Bells' 'Reign of Terror': 'particularly ominous'

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

This time around they’re breathier, verging more towards the sultry

rating

4

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