Sleigh Bells Reign of Terror Review

Released 2012.  

BBC Review

The Brooklyn duo mix loud and quiet elements in a most compelling fashion.

Chris Beanland 2012

There are some interesting contradictions at play on Sleigh Bells' second album. For example, when Alexis Krauss purrs her way through Road to Hell, the pointed language she uses is disconnected from the delicate way in which she delivers it.

The manner in which Krauss' vocal chords remain calm in a crisis is a key characteristic of Sleigh Bells' canon. She sings serenely even during the most intense periods of background bluster created by co-conspirator Derek Miller. It's all a far cry from his former band, Poison the Well – a hardcore act whose vocalist's guttural roar dominated proceedings for much of the time.

The way this Brooklyn duo whisks together loud and quiet elements is compelling. The best moment on Reign of Terror comes during a lull halfway through Comeback Kid, where Krauss sweetly intones that "You're gone away but you'll come back someday". The words are layered over a sugary-sweet melody which sounds like it could soundtrack the opening titles to a very gentle sitcom. The momentary solitude immediately gives way to synthesised, super-powered beats and shredding guitars that wouldn't sound out of place on an Atari Teenage Riot track. This juxtaposition drags you into the world of Krauss and Miller, an odd couple who claim to have met purely by chance at a Brazilian restaurant in Williamsburg – he was waiting tables and she was dining (with her mum).

Throughout the record there's a constant craving for loudness, yet all the while the end result is pure pop that – as in the case of a YouTube video of small kids rocking out in the back of their parents' car to breakout single Infinity Guitars – clearly has mass market appeal far beyond the hipster shtick that forms part of the duo's slightly tiresome marketing campaign.

Miller says he was hung up on AC/DC when making this record – and the pumped-up riffs and echo chamber wobbles here are a love-it or hate-it feature. That said, Reign of Terror still showcases boy-girl group pop-rock that's polished and pleasing, and so much better than fare from the likes of The Kills or The Tings Tings. End of the Line and You Lost Me are touching efforts which feel like songs on which Krauss has had more input (her writing credits were limited on debut LP Treats), while the enjoyably bolshy Crush sounds like it was specifically designed to accompany a particularly brutal hazing session down at the sorority house on Main Street.

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