Monday, February 20, 2012

Sleigh Bells: "Reign Of Terror" (album review)

Treats was a startling debut album from Sleigh Bells.  The band put together a complex, deep sound that drew in the surf pop of Best Coast and the intricate arrangements of My Bloody Valentine, and delivered them with a level of aggression Ministry only wished they could still muster.

Now that we know what to expect from the band, their sophomore album Reign Of Terror, doesn't overwhelm us the same way.  It doesn't mean that the band has toned things down, quite the contrary, but the audience has been better conditioned to receive it.

The layers and layers are definitely still the main trick.  "Born To Lose" feels like an absolute flurry of sounds rushing at you, the most compelling of which is the diametrically opposed lead and backing vocals.  With all elements mixed to the max, "Demons" revisits the relentless aural assault of those first Atari Teenage Riot records and updates them for a new generation.  Through the processing and the din the handclaps on "Crush" are barely recognizable as such.  "Leader of the Pack" (not a cover), strikes with a concussive impact that The Shangri-Las could never imagine.

A, for lack of a better term, gimmick like Sleigh Bells have has an obvious shelf-life.  The duo are smart enough to know that and do dip their toe in the experimental waters to mixed results.  The more sparsely arranged (by Sleigh Bells standards anyway), electronically-based "Never Say Die" is a worthwhile attempt, even if it does fail to ignite.  However, "Road To Hell" is simply plodding, leaving a giant gap of intensity in the middle of the record.

Those experiments do strike a chord on "End Of The Line".  The track takes the improbable beauty of "Rill Rill" and adds a shot of adrenaline, masterfully walking the thin line between love and horror.

If there were a microcosm for Sleigh Bells it's "Comeback Kid".  The track is uncomfortable and unpleasant if you try to listen to it like a traditional song.  But if you immerse yourselves in the music and let yourself go, it is an incredibly liberating experience.

Sleigh Bells play The Phoenix in Toronto on March 26th.

Best tracks: "Comeback Kid", "End of the Line"

Track listing for Reign of Terror:
  • True Shred Guitar
  • Born To Lose
  • Crush
  • End of the Line
  • Leader of the Pack
  • Comeback Kid
  • Demons
  • Road To Hell
  • You Lost Me
  • Never Say Die
  • D.O.A.

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