The album opens with the sound of Alexis Krauss whipping up a live crowd into a shape of energetic excitement; as the other half of Sleigh Bells, Derek Miller, has described it, it is ‘a brass, arrogant, tasteless way to start a record’. It’s also unexpected, much like large chunks of this album will be even to those acquainted with the band’s debut, Treats. The tempo on Reign of Terror is a little slower than said debut but the band are still managing to capture the raw spirit and energy of music in an innovative way.
Much of the beauty of this album is in the layers in the music that were less present in their debut although tracks such as opener ‘True Shred Guitar’ and ‘Demons’ still have the immediacy of earlier tracks of theirs such as ‘Riot Rhythm’.
There’s also a lot of quirkiness, with the almost cheerleader-esque chanting of ‘I’ll break you!’ on ‘Crush’ being an obvious example of this. That track epitomises the contrasts in Sleigh Bells’ music, combining lyrics about teenage crushes and chanting layered over a big distorted guitar sound. Another major influence on this album appears to be the increased input of Krauss, whose pop sensibilities can be seen throughout but particularly on the more ambient tracks such as ‘End Of The Line’. Her breathy, sugar-sweet vocals also lift the album and prevent it from being overly heavy.
This album is all about Sleigh Bells finding the substance to go with their bolshy, in-your-face swagger that they have naturally. Reign of Terror oozes confidence out of every pore but doesn’t ram it down your throat quite as forcefully as Treats.
Their unique brand of distorted pop-rock is going to outshine the other male/female band duos around at the moment with this effort. It won’t be for everyone – despite the increased variety and slightly slackened tempo the album still takes a couple of listens to properly appreciate. Outside of the big guitar sounds, the intricacies take time to pick up and appreciate. By doing this though, the band have ensured they’ll have staying power. The viscerality and rawness of their debut wouldn’t have sounded as fresh if they’d simply reproduced it here, but by tweaking their sound a little Sleigh Bells have avoided the ‘difficult second album’ pitfall nicely.