Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror | B-
Sleigh Bells’ new album Reign of Terror will take the group from being a buzz band to a more prominent role in the music scene, regardless of how it sounds. They’re set to open for the Red Hot Chili Peppers for several dates of their tour, stopping at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., for two dates in early May. This will no doubt bring more exposure to Sleigh Bells, but the set will likely consist of some of the underwhelming music from the group’s sophomore attempt.
While it’s not a sophomore slump, Reign of Terror misses many marks that the band’s debut, self-titled release hit on the head. Throughout the album, which has a very dark, discouraging theme with track titles like “Born to Lose,” “End of the Line,” and “Road to Hell,” lead singer Alexis Krauss’ soft-spoken lyrics get lost in a mess of heavy, over-powering guitar courtesy of Derek Edward Miller, former guitarist for heavy metal band Poison the Well.
If Treats was Krauss’ album, Reign of Terror is certainly Miller’s. What worked for the first album was the seemingly bizarre combination of Krauss’ sweet vocals combined with Miller’s abrasive guitar riffs. There was the standout hit, “Rill Rill,” which during live shows, Miller left the stage for to let Krauss do her thing, with a sampler providing the track. But it’s hard to point to one song as the standout on Reign of Terror. It would probably be “Comeback Kid,” a single released before the album came out. Instead of beginning with heavy guitars, Krauss’ voice is more prominently featured for an all-together catchier track than the rest of the album.
There’s a very cheerleader-esque vibe to several tracks on the album, like “Crush,” which begins with heavy clapping and transitions into Krauss’ interspersed melodic singing with pumped-up shouts, “Make you, or break you!”
But Sleigh Bells’ ironic balance works for the album. Krauss’ singing evokes a sense of innocence, but at moments when she shouts, she turns harder. Miller’s guitar is explosive at times, but there’s always the poppy sound of an electronic track countering it. And the overall dark tone of the album’s theme is complemented by the poppy, light theme that the music at times takes on.
Another bonus to Reign of Terror’s release — the live shows that Sleigh Bells headlines will be longer than 40 minutes.