There are a few people that call the Brooklyn noise-pop duo of Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller, better known as Sleigh Bells, a one trick pony. That may be the case, but if it is, then it is a trick that they do very well.
It was 2010 when Sleigh Bells first made a mark on the music scene with their debut album Treats, expanding on an M.I.A inspired sound of gunshots, crashes, and pulsating electronic beats, all mixed together in a hip hop blender. Sleigh Bells amped everything up to a Spinal Tap 11, and added in some kick-ass guitar. These brash, trembling beats were topped by the girly, ethereal vocals of Alexis Krauss, creating an intriguing contrast that immediately caught the ear, and the music was catchy enough to make you stick around.
With their sophomore album Reign of Terror the pressure is on Sleigh Bells not to prove that they are more than a one trick pony, but to prove that they can still perform that trick effectively.
Treats fans will be happy to know that the album is still loud, opening track “True Shred Guitar” even tricks you in to turning up the volume with it’s slightly too quiet live intro, before it fires in your face like a loaded M16 and explodes your head. Krauss’ airy vocals sound as sexy as ever, as she sings positive, get up and kick ass lyrics.
But while the music is still definitely noisy, and the vocals still eerily charming, it has all but done away with the hip hop influence, opting instead for a more obvious metal sound. This can be a little daunting initially, especially for those that enjoyed Treats for its distorted upbeat rhythms, and ability to factor in funky break-beat samples and horns amongst it’s fuzzy guitar riffs.
The choice to highlight the metal sound is not necessarily a bad one, it just slows the pace down somewhat, especially in the latter half of the album. It makes the music seem less inventive, stripped back slightly, and while this restraint works on tracks such as “Road To Hell”, it soon falls in to an all too familiar pattern with the likes of “Never Say Die”.
Reign of Terror is more of a grower than Treats grab-you-by-the-throat mentality, but still an album that when played at maximum volume causes an eargasmic sensation. Miller and Krauss have abandoned some of their calling cards, and have played it safe, well as ‘safe’ as a Sleigh Bells record could be, but there is enough on display to show that this duo have plenty of other tricks left up their sleeves.
by Martin Holmes