Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Album Review: Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror (2012)

Derek Edward Miller and Alexis Krauss start this record like it's a Van Halen concert. They're tricking you into thinking that maybe after the Skins commercials that had everyone humming "Kids," after the Williamsburg and Pitchfork royalty fame, and after all the music festivals they attended last year, they were going to take things in a different direction - maybe a little more heavy metal. Before Reign of Terror came out, the band even described the album as "heavy, immense, and huge." Sounds pretty metal, to me. But instead, they hit you again with a distorted, loud, synthesized ballad with Krauss' eerie, soft almost Marilyn Monroe-esque tone - "Born to Loose" and that's when you start to feel the relief of something familiar.

A sophomore album needs to be tactfully done these days if you want to even make a third album. A lot of fans are complaining because the record is too "safe". I too, would have liked to see this record be a little more experimental than it is, but I think Miller and Krauss are smart and they're going to do everything they can so they don't suffer from the dreaded sophomore slump. They're going to do what they do best and they do it well on Reign of Terror.

Speaking of them doing what they do best, that brings me to the next track, "Crush" which is an thrash infused version of Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" with an attitude. "Leader of the Pack," "Comeback Kid" and "Demons" come next which are all fast, loud and actually, lyrically inspiring without being cheesy (for Sleigh Bells, at least. If you've heard their debut album, Treats, you'll know their lyrics aren't exactly what I'd call deep. Not necessarily a bad thing though). I've heard that "Comeback Kid" is actually about something that happened that was tragic and hard to deal with this past year in Miller's life. You would think that this would warrant a more serious feel to the song, but it's actually one of the more upbeat, party sounding songs. The lyrics, however, will give you a little hint - "I know you tried so hard, but you can’t even win / you gotta try a little harder, you’re the comeback kid."

Remember that song on Treats, "Rill Rill" formerly known as "Ring Ring" when they originally wrote it? There are a lot more "Rill Rill" influenced songs on this album than their last and they're also some highlights of the album. "End of the Line," "Road to Hell" and "D.O.A." are three of the best songs on this album. They're a lot more intricate with their sound, using different instruments and arrangements to create it. Krauss' voice is used as an instrument, even. It almost has a shogaze sound where the instruments blend together with her voice. I predict that their third album will actually have more of this sound - I think this was their way of experimenting with this record.

One thing that will always ring true about Sleigh Bells is their rough attitude and their eagerness to party. I guess they're like Van Halen in some ways, after all.

Rating: 8 out of 10

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