Monday, February 20, 2012

Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror review

I've spent the last week listening to the new Sleigh Bells record and it almost feels hard to review it objectively. The reason I say this is because I find their sound so irresistible - big guitars, monstrous drums, girly vocals and while they've dialed it back a notch from their debut album Treats, it sounds fucking undeniable and awesome. I guess the root of my trepidation is that I loved Treats immediately but found it had a pretty short shelf life. While Reign of Terror has that similar sugar rush that makes you love it instantly, it does seem more considered with greater dimensionality, dynamics and diversity across the album which makes it a more enjoyable listen rather than a purely visceral one.

A prime example is Born to Lose which shudders and lurches as it begins but makes more and more sense as it progresses as it embraces its melodic core. The bombast of its opening drops away for the final section of the song revealing a delicate foundation. Even better is the wistful End of the Line which positively floats on minimal instrumentation and Alexis Krauss's beautiful vocals. First single Comeback Kid embraces the best of both the band's strengths - charging riffs with a big chorus that drop away into restrained stops before firing up again. I think it's the first great single of 2012 and is a rock-pop bubblegum fist to the face.

While there is more mellow on the album, it is still dominated by a brutish sensibility. Crush has Krauss reprising her demented cheerleader shouts from the first album and comes off like a demonic Toni Basil. Demons is built on a riff derived from a 80's metalhead's wet dream and sounds like a wrecking ball destroying an orphanage brick by brick - if my 14 year old self had heard this he'd probably have said it sounded pretty rad. Less successful to my ears is the winding Never Say Die which meanders meaninglessly but the final track D. O. A. is a tricked out slow burn which is a fitting closer to the record.

The album is powered by Derek Miller's Jackson + Marshall stack combo attack but as I've mentioned, there is more light and shade here with greater embrace of melody. I'm confident this record will have more staying power than Treats and I think there may be some sonic depths to it I'm yet to hear (I'm waiting for my vinyl pre-order to arrive but have been listening online to it here). I think Mark Lanegan's record is by far the best new album of the year but Sleigh Bells easily comes second.


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