Two years ago, Sleigh Bells took Brooklyn and the world of noise pop by storm with their debut album, Treats. While touring for the album, Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller began writing material for their sophomore effort, Reign of Terror, set to be released on February 21st. While, in many ways, a continuation of the style that the duo brandished on their first LP, Reign of Terror blends elements of--dare I use the word?--maturity with all of the best aspects of the playful and carefree experimentations that exist on Treats.
Opening with their typical brand of loud irreverence, “True Shred Guitar” is Krauss at her raucous best as the sound of a live audience is heard in the background and she puts on her best homage to The Runaways with her bleeped expletives during the first minute of the song. The second track, “Born to Lose,” was the first taste that fans of Sleigh Bells got from the album back when it was released in December. Its fanciful backbeat combines with Krauss’ malaise-tinged vocals to give the listener the genuine feeling that he is, in fact, most assuredly born to lose.
The following song, “Crush,” is, in this listener’s opinion, the standout piece on the album. Krauss’ affinity for the inner workings of pop music are more evident on this auditory assault than on any other track present on Reign of Terror. “End of the Line” exhibits a sort of subtle nod to Enya with the soft chanting and whisper-quiet (by Sleigh Bells standards) vocals.
“Leader of the Pack” (an admitted tribute to The Shangri-Las–in song title and motif) gives us drawn out guitar riffs combined with the soft, yet emotionally charged chorus, “Don’t you know he’s never coming back again?” The first official video from Reign of Terror came in the form of “Comeback Kid,” one of the most upbeat offerings from the album. In its own way, the song seems to be directed at the band itself, with lyrics like, “You’ve gotta try a little harder, you’re the comeback kid…you’ll go away, but you’ll come back someday.” Considering Sleigh Bells’ two year absence, the single is rather apropos.
“Demons” is perhaps the most noticeable example of a veneration for Def Leppard, a band that Sleigh Bells actively wished to emulate in terms of guitar rhythm on Reign of Terror. With a beat that is moody and repetitive, Krauss matches the gutteral screams employed on “True Shred Guitar.”
“Road to Hell” is among one of the most tranquil songs on the album, strongly mirroring the sound and vibe of “Rachel,” a song that appeared on Treats. One of the most lyrically vulnerable tracks, “You Lost Me,” succeeds “Road to Hell.” “You Lost Me” finds Krauss crooning, “I don’t want you to see me this way, what a way to die…I’ll never lie to you, but I’ll never have to tell the truth.”
“Never Say Die” has an ultimate 80s guitar intro that would make any hair band proud. Krauss’ voice is cultishly ethereal as the rhythm of the beat persists fiendishly. It’s kind of the perfect song for that last mile you have to run on the treadmill. The album concludes with “D.O.A.,” a perfect mix of a fast and slow tempo that, as usual, obscures the words that Krauss is singing in favor of emphasizing how she sounds saying them. But the truth is, she could be saying anything and it couldn’t detract from the perfection of this album.