Musicians these days have found themselves with tape over their mouths, catering to the influx of minimalism like deft politicians vying excessively for just one more moment in the spotlight. It’s become exceedingly commonplace for artists to garner the most attention by restraining their true potential. We can see this trend clearly in the fact that the Mars Volta, the craziest crazies in the realm of music, have found themselves holding back tremendously, and so this collective moment of silence naturally has led to a newfound appreciation for a group like Sleigh Bells. World-renowned schoolteacher Alexis Krauss found it surprisingly easy to wreak havoc onstage with Derek Miller of Poison the Well fame; this exceedingly loud match made in true shred guitar heaven has been received quite amicably by the protohipsters and Pitchfork pseudosavants prowling college campuses across the globe. Such exciting beats never have really been handled in such a professional, respectable manner. Music plunderers could bask in the mayhem of ‘Treats’ and be able to rejoice to the basic riot rhythms while basking in the more subtle complexities of it all. To the crowd looking for something refreshing in the indie scene, this attribute has been highly alluring. Sleigh Bells deem having fun the most important ingredient for creating worthwhile music, and so with this ideology in mind they have found themselves a figurehead of a bombastic scene they weren’t even planning on pursuing. This has left them with the ability to adjust the scene a little bit, to lean in another direction if they choose.
This is precisely what they accomplish with their sophomore release, ‘Reign of Terror’. The songs are still loud as hell, and there are even some contenders for their punchiest tracks yet. “True Shred Guitar” and “Demons” are briskly youthful and sport that infectious vitality that led to the duo’s debut being so universally well-received. It’s incredibly satisfying that the group has retained the characteristics that made their musical formula so potent. However, what’s even more impressive is the fact that ‘Reign of Terror’ packs quite the emotional wallop. Sleigh Bells have never felt this absorbed in their music, and while the admittedly immature anthems of ‘Treats’ were revitalizing in their simplistic nature the passion that this latest release exudes is increasingly rewarding with each listen. The songs now seem to find a more important place in the listener’s mind because they’re much more vividly personal, much easier to connect with.
One more notable difference with Sleigh Bells’ latest outing is the utilization of actual lyrics. I’m not one to complain about Alexis’ nonsensical chants in ‘Treats’, because there was an undiluted charm to singing along to tracks like “A/B Machines”. However, it’s very respectable that they seem to make much more of a stride towards legitimate storytelling. Granted, it’s not anything revolutionary, but it’s sure as hell a lot better thought-out than “Straight A’s”. The instrumentation is also a lot more thoroughly dynamic - as opposed to the beats-driven tendencies of the band in the past, ‘Reign of Terror’ prides itself on being much more concerned with melody and how well it fuses with the grooves at hand. For instance, “Leader of the Pack” is the greatest track the pair has ever written, merging dreamy landscapes sweet-as-saccharine vocal melodies. This is Sleigh Bells with their hearts on their sleeves, exposing a side that we haven’t quite witnessed before.
This is what’s most comforting about ‘Reign of Terror’ as a whole, that it’s representative of a band familiar with their sound and its most successful characteristics, as well as a group that’s willing to evolve to keep their fanbase intrigued enough to stay right where they are. They’ve discovered a method to achieve a goal that both they and their fans desire, and while they still haven’t quite met their potential that’s bursting at the seams, they just seem to have a knack for remaining infectious, even when the lights of initial success are on the verge of dimming. This commendable persistence is what’s propelled Sleigh Bells to the forefront of the indie scene, and will be what someday pushes them to take their beats and their true shred guitars just one step further.
for some reason I'm finding "world-renowned" a little bit ridiculous and probably pretty fanboyish, but maybe that's just me.
However, it’s very respectable that they seem to make much more of a stride towards legitimate storytelling, like in “Crush” when Alexis croons about having a crush on a gentleman who she simultaneously wants to crush.
In my opinion, something like this doesn't actually back up a claim like "oh look they're focusing more on lyrical content here." Re-read this sentence and maybe you'll see why it seems so elementary and even a little bit banal to include? Again, I think you let a little fanboyism slip out here - or maybe I'm just being harsh haha
solid review Jacob
I need to listen to this some more
World-renowned is referring to the fact that Alexis has fans all over the world, but I can see why that would be confusing combined with the school-teacher bit, since that isn't exactly what she's known for.
And yeah, you're right. That wasn't the best example; I need to find one a little bit more fitting for that role.
Thanks for the feedback, man! Your comments are the most helpful. And yeah, this is pretty solid stuff. I was unsure on the first listen, but overall it's the debut being twisted into a really neat direction. But you are right in that I'm a fanboy, so take that how you will!
On a side note, it seems our ratings have been quite similar these days! Glad to see you've also enjoyed this one - the feedback's been a bit more negative than I was anticipating. Most indie seems to get pretty scrutinized anyways, though... It's rare to find one with a rating over a 3.8.
Interesting. The first song feels a bit forced but I still really dig it.
The only ones I don't care for as much are Comeback Kid and D.O.A. - I was in shock when I found out that Comeback Kid was one of the songs that people are into the most. It just feels a lil' awkward in parts
FromDaHood Contributing Reviewer February 27th 2012