Sleigh Bells
Reign of Terror


3.0
good

Review

by Nathan Flynn CONTRIBUTOR (69 Reviews)
February 17th, 2012 | 25 replies


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Sleigh Bells try to build on their already unique sound and ultimately found themselves sinking under the weight of all the new parts.

Perhaps the second-most important thing that self-appointed critics look for from an artist between their first and second albums is growth. Growth is a term that can’t really be quantified; much like pornography- I know it when I see it. For example, Weezer grew as a band by writing Pinkerton instead of sticking with their more humorous stylings of the Blue Album; and Bon Iver grew by incorporating a full orchestra instead of his baseline acoustic guitar and drum accompaniment. Now take Sleigh Bells- a band that reduced pop to its most basic by incorporating just loud guitar, lyrics that were more-often-than-not indecipherable moans, and the occasional loud drum track. The band really had no choice but to grow from its baseline ingredients and, by incorporating too many changes, has crafted an album that ultimately falls short of its predecessor- Treats.

The most noticeable change that Sleigh Bells has incorporated is evident on the cheekily titled “True Shred Guitar,” which begins with Krauss yelling to what sounds to be a riled-up crowd before the guitar line comes in- except it kind of doesn’t. The once blasted power chords are still there but not with the punch that they used to pack. Compared to Treats’ opener “Tell Em,” it sounds like a Shih Tzu trying to yap over a Rottweiler’s powerful bark. Granted, the volume was occasionally overpowering on Treats, but the guitars sound neutered on Reign of Terror as a whole, with the wonderful exception of “Comeback Kid,” the single that made every Sleigh Bells fan believe that this album would be more of the same from the noise-pop duo. “Comeback Kid” is the turning point for the guitars of the album- they begin to regain their former power but ultimately, it’s too little too late. The first five tracks of Reign of Terror tend to deviate too much from Sleigh Bells’ comfort zone to be considered effective.

This discomfort is found in two areas: the programming and singer Alexis Krauss’ vocals. Producer (and guitarist) Derek Miller has grown immensely as a producer, but the creative liberties that he takes tend to muddle the mixture for often than provide a line of clarity. The most blatant example is the introduction of a synth line to the formerly spartan backing track. Using a synthesizer could have provided another cool layer to Sleigh Bells’ sound but ultimately are too invasive and wouldn’t sound out of place on a Crystal Castles album- especially on more subtle songs like “End of the Line.” Even on standout “Comeback Kid,” the synths overshadow the drum machine throughout the song despite the blatant aggression in the drum programming. It’s a strange juxtaposition that confuses more often than wows, and that is consistent throughout the album.

The most positive example of growth exemplified by Sleigh Bells comes from Krauss’ vocals, but she still doesn’t seem ready to carry an album with her vocals alone. Instead of using her trademarks moans and coos, Krauss assaults us with actual vocals all the way through Reign of Terror. She is a naturally talented vocalist, but seems uncomfortable when her vocals are at the front of the mix rather than being overshadowed by the noisy guitars, as they were on Treats. One of her biggest vocal triumphs- “Demons”- is a direct result of her being hidden underneath Miller’s once-again cacophonous guitars. Her vocals aren’t bad, just frequently shaky, and don’t pack enough punch to make up for the loss of consistently true loud guitar.

So yes, Sleigh Bells did manage to grow a great deal on Reign of Terror, but growth is just the second-most important thing to look for. At the end of the day, the number one question will always be ‘did they equal the success of their first album?’ It seems that Sleigh Bells did not meet this criterion because of the leaps and bounds that they took to evolve their sound and grow as a band. It’s an honorable thing to do, but when the product suffers one must wonder- was it worth it? Regardless of what the answer to that question is we must consider Reign of Terror for what it is- a puzzle with too many pieces that don’t quite fit. It’s still a fun puzzle, but an exceedingly frustrating one to do.



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user ratings (257)
Chart.
3.2
good
other reviews of this album
Jacob Royal STAFF (4)
As sweet as saccharine....

Adam Thomas STAFF (4)
A hell of a drug...

Dylan S. (4)
Sleigh Bells hold on to their traditional sound, but throw some obvious improvements into the mix....


Comments:Add a Comment 
FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
February 16th 2012


9064 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Alexis Krauss will still by my Valentine if she sees this, right?

thatoneguy726
February 16th 2012


1636 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Aww, maybe. I like this a lot though. Wish you did too.

Knott-
Emeritus
February 16th 2012


10198 Comments


nope this fucking rules

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
February 16th 2012


15069 Comments


"Growth is a term that can’t really be quantified; much like pornography- I know it when I see it."

did you get this from david foster wallace. also "qualified" would be the word if anything

FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
February 16th 2012


9064 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Not from David Foster Wallace, it's from Potter Stewart's decision in Jacobellis v. Ohio.

Captain North
February 16th 2012


6791 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Pos'd even though I disagree

PistolPete
February 16th 2012


3644 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

I really started to get annoyed by the repetitive drum lines in most of the songs, they are the same to me, just recycled in many of the songs on here. "Comeback Kid" is amazing and "crush" grew on me. But Sleigh Bells really let me down on this one.

Digging: Skyharbor - Guiding Lights

Aphrodisiac
February 16th 2012


1739 Comments


good review correct rating

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
February 16th 2012


16789 Comments


Good review fromdahood, will check this out

Digging: Damien Rice - My Favourite Faded Fantasy

FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
February 16th 2012


9064 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Why thank you Sowing, I hope you enjoy it.

fuckthatnoise
February 16th 2012


1479 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

so much better than Treats

Recspecs
February 17th 2012


9830 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Good review, not sure if I will like this though.

iFghtffyrdmns
February 17th 2012


7047 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

hey
i agree

good job

FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
February 17th 2012


9064 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks y'all

STOP SHOUTING!
February 17th 2012


638 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"Growth is a term that can’t really be qualified"

you were right first time, it should be "quantified".

Apollo
February 17th 2012


10362 Comments


band sucks chode

immersedreality
February 17th 2012


29 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Lol at robertsona not knowing how to use the word quantified.

Double lol at FromDaHood hence changing his review and rendering the second sentence utterly meaningless.

Also, album's mad disappointing. Oh, well.

FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
February 17th 2012


9064 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Can't believe I wrote 750 words and you guys only care about one of them.
and Apollo, I don't even know how to respond to that aside from different strokes.

klap
Staff Reviewer
February 17th 2012


10545 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

hahaha^

good review but i like this a lot more than treats

Digging: Jessie Ware - Tough Love

gaslightanthem
February 17th 2012


5209 Comments


did you get this from david foster wallace. also "qualified" would be the word if anything


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