Sleigh Bells // Reign Of Terror // February 20 // Sony
I like fun music as much as everyone else does. Probably more so as long as it is original and bigger than life. Maybe those are some of the reasons why I still think that Treats, Sleigh Bells’ debut album, is still one of the best pop, noise, whatever albums to come out this decade. It was an ear shattering chaos trapped inside half an hour of relentless noise, energy and just pure kick ass value. Treats is not that sort of record that could be followed easily. We know the trick now, Sleigh Bells lost one of their main weapons, they are now predictable. The duo would get criticised for repeating the same trick again, yet they would get abused for dropping what made them good in the first place. Out of two inescapable evils Sleigh Bells have chosen the latter on their sophomore LP Reign Of Terror.
All of a sudden the duo found themselves being alternative stars. They grace the cover of big magazines, their new video is being played on mtv during daytime. All of this required a cost that Sleigh Bells have paid on Reign Of Terror, the album is way more tame than Treats. The gleeful bursts of noise backed by cheerleader chants have been replaced by some actual songwriting. No wonder, Treats was written by guitarist Derek Miller while Reign Of Terror is a collaborative effort. Alexis Krauss used to be in a teen pop group and the poppier songwriting is visible on tracks like Born To Lose, End Of The Line and Road To Hell. The whole album is slower and more reserved than anything these guys have done before but those moments show Sleigh Bells at their most melodic shape yet with plenty of pop hooks to enjoy even if lyrically this is a much darker affair with most lyrics dealing with break ups and other relationship related stuff.
Not to say that Reign Of Terror is a mellow listen. The duo still know how to open an album. True Shred Guitar, while is not as amazing as Tell ‘Em, is a terrific opener that also ends up being one of the most adrenaline fuelled tracks on the whole LP. Crush and Demons are few other songs that could’ve made the cut on Treats. Overall Reign Of Terror tone down the noise levels and add pop songwriting to their sound. Instead of duo having one great side, now they have two decent ones. The slower tracks follow a similar patters and the faster ones do not rock as hard as their old material. It’s not bad to mellow out a little bit to get some radio playtime but on their sophomore full length Sleigh Bells feel like they’re expanding their sound at the expense of their spirit, some stuff is overly repetitive and the last three tracks are lacking passion, excitement or just about anything that one would associate with the duo.
Reign Of Terror was one of the most anticipated albums to come out this February and while it is not a disappointment, it is going to be overshadowed by Treats. Maybe because it was such an unexpected and original outburst of excitement and enegy that can never be repeated. Nevertheless, with their debut Sleigh Bells have crafted a perfect moment of fury and fun that was never to be repeated. They made their own sound and it was near impossible for them to branch out as their aesthetic already felt perfect. Reign Of Terror has its fair share of wounds and scars and while Treats is always going to be the magnum opus, at least now Sleigh Bells feel like they could take their sound anywhere they want to and cause some more of their trademark ruckus without making it feel like they’re sacrificing a big part of their identity.