Sleigh Bells slump?
Sleigh Bells’ latest record Reign of Terror brings up a tricky question: Is it important to see growth in a sophomore album or should the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality apply to new material?
Reign is, without a doubt, a good album. Alexis Krauss’s signature war cry vocals are still intact and guitarist Derek E. Miller sounds just as heavy as ever. The cheerleading chants are still there and quick throwaway lyrics continue to dominate most of the tracks; really the only notable change that the band has made is a shift away from hip-pop to metal rock.
Essentially, this album could be considered part deux of the Treats saga. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but Reign does leave listeners wishing for a little more substance.
Krauss and Miller have got the talent and the heart, but at times they sound like they’re just going through the motions.
The record kicks off with a flashback to the hair metal days of the 1980s. “True Shred Guitar” flaunts some mean guitar licks. Krauss punches out simple, repetitive lyrics that speak to the listener’s inner headbanger.
“Born to Lose” is a dark, sing-songy number about a suicide. In standard Sleigh Bells fashion, Krauss’s vocals are layered over one another: she sings breathily and chants like a punky cheerleader at the same time. Miller has a nice guitar solo towards the middle of the track; however, he has yet to experiment with his instrument. His solos serve more to encourage rhythmic headbanging from the listeners.
“Crush” and “Leader of the Pack” are twisted, spirited numbers that target cutesy, teenybopper music, turning that sound on its head. “Leader” in particular seems to be Sleigh Bells’ response to the Shangri-Las’ classic pop hit.
Without a doubt, “Comeback Kid” is the “Rill Rill” of Reign. Complete with a catchy chorus, memorable guitar solos and thoughtful lyrics, this track is destined to be played not just on college radio, but probably commercial radio too. It’s not too mainstream and it’s not too much dance-metal either.
It’s no surprise that Sleigh Bells draws inspiration from popular metal bands, considering they are prone to including anthem on every album.
It isn’t hard to imagine “Comeback Kid” being performed in a large stadium, though the rest of this album is more appropriately destined for trendy club venues and early evening performances on the summer music festival circuit.
Overall, Reign offers everything that Treats gave to listeners. It’s an easy listen, especially if you enjoy head dropping beats and a slammin’ guitar, but don’t expect to see a different side of Sleigh Bells.
To toss Sleigh Bells into the pile of pleasant rave-style music seems insulting for artists like Krauss and Miller. Their sound is memorable, and leaning on black metal influences was a good choice.
Sleigh Bells is, to put it simply, a good band, and when a band has talent, they have to push themselves to the limit. Reign of Terror is a fun album, but I look forward to hearing what Sleigh Bells has to offer as their music develops in the future.