Sleigh Bells – Reign Of Terror (Liberator)

On this follow-up to 2010’s debut album, Treats, Derek Miller unleashes his entire arsenal of guitars and drum machines in a full-on aural assault on both fans of the duo and his musical partner Alexis Krauss.

Sleigh Bells is the New York City-based noise/pop duo that turned heads with Treats in 2010. Derek Miller produces and provides all of the musical backing while Alexis Krauss sings. The two of them write together. But the first half of Reign Of Terror sounds more like a musical battle than a collaboration, with Miller’s over-driven guitars winning, hands down, at the expense of Krauss’ vocals.

The first song title, True Shred Guitar, gives a good indication of what we’re in for. The track begins with the sound of a live audience as Derek’s shrieking guitar and Alexis’ shrieking voice rev up. It sounds a bit like Karen O fronting Queen…not a bad thing mind you. But then Miller’s sledgehammer guitar assault kicks in and Alexis is all but inaudible, shouting over the noise, “push it, push it, push it”.

Fortunately the crowd noise fades out and is not heard again (it comes across as a bit gimmicky). Born To Lose rips in with the brittle, distorted sound of Miller’s guitars. Again, Krauss’ voice struggles to be heard, but her soft, girlish coo is no match for what Miller has cooked up.

Crush fares a little better. Alexis goes into cheerleader mode and manages to break through a few times. The effect is like listening to two vastly different radio stations at the same time. This goes on for the first six tracks.

Demons, track seven, is better. Miller’s guitar riff is rockin’, he throws in a few Eddie Van Halen-esque dive-bomber effects for good measure and Krauss is starting to assert herself in the mix.

By Road To Hell, the balance is more even and the two musicians sound like they are playing the same song for a change. Krauss’ seductive voice turns out to be an excellent foil for Miller’s sonic bombast, once you can hear her.

Fortunately, this holds true for the remainder of the album with tracks like You Lost Me and Never Say Die turning out to be highlights even though they show up late in the program.

Miller’s attempts to push the limits of what the two of them are capable of can certainly be respected and admired but it’s difficult to enjoy the first part of Reign Of Terror. Maybe that’s what he (they) had in mind, being the New York hipsters that they are. But for those willing to persevere, good things await in the latter part of the album.

Marty Duda

Click here to listen to Road To Hell from Reign Of Terror