Thursday, 23 February 2012

Sleigh Bells - Reign Of Terror

2010 saw Brooklyn’s noise-pop duo Sleigh Bells released their debut album, the aptly named Treats. Containing eleven short but sweet tracks filled with the wonderful combination of Derek Miller’s ear-splitting electric guitar, ferocious drumbeats and Alexis Krauss’s saccharine sweet vocals, the album was literally a treat for the ears, although I’m convinced that if you listen to it at full volume, there’s a strong likelihood that you will actually go deaf. (This is yet to be medically proven)

It’s only February but 2012 is already a good year for Sleigh Bells, having appeared on Saturday Night Live a few weeks ago and then, of course, the much anticipated Reign of Terror being released. Perhaps this album, like Treats is accurately named, as Sleigh Bells seem set to take over the world with their own 'reign of terror'.

The album itself manages to combine some of the traits that made Treats so brilliant – that GUITAR, turned up to 11 as always and Alexis’s innocent whispery vocals and yelps – yet also tries to go in a different direction. Reign of Terror begins with 'True Shred Guitar', which clocks in at only 2 minutes 20 and could easily be a distant relative of Treats rowdy foot-stomper 'Riot Rhythm'. So far it seems that sticking to their original formula seems to get the best results for Sleigh Bells, as is proved in 'Crush' and 'Born to Lose', two songs which both could’ve fitted perfectly onto Treats. In fact, it’s when they try to change the formula that I started losing interest. With the exception of 'Rill Rill' from the first album, which shows off the band’s softer side yet still manages to be a lovely song in it’s own right, Treats managed to keep a listener hooked and interested by making all the songs really really loud with sinister and distorted lyrics. Taking the lead from the success of 'Rill Rill', it’s clear that the duo wanted to show off their lighter sides on this album, and it pains me to say that this was probably not the best idea. At first the more vocal-heavy tracks seem interesting purely because they’re so different, but after a while I find myself having to check the track names just to see if the song has changed because they all begin to merge into one.

This may sound petty but another element of Reign of Terror that could be seen as either a good or a bad thing is the fact that it contains – shock horror – real lyrics! On recent single 'Comeback Kid' and fiery standout song 'Demons' for example you can... understand what Alexis is singing! I’m still unable to decide how I feel about this.

So overall, my final verdict of Reign of Terror is a reluctant “meh”. While a few tracks such as Comeback Kid, Demons and Leader of the Pack stand out, the rest of the album managed to lose my interest entirely. Is this the fault of Sleigh Bells “new direction” or merely just second album syndrome? Who can say? All I know is that I’ll stick to their first album until Sleigh Bell’s “reign of terror” blows over.


Grace Barber-Plentie

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