Reign of Terror - MOM + POP
FILTER Grade: 87%
By Adam Pollock on February 21, 2012
The good ones always play hard to get. Thanks to the Gitmo-like security surrounding all copies of the new Sleigh Bells album, press access was limited to real-time listening in a publicist’s office, the result of which is that after just one complete listen I’m finding myself suffering from withdrawal. The first taste might be free, but they know you’re going to be back for more.
Sleigh Bells wouldn’t have had to do all that much to stir up interest in their sophomore release, anyhow. Their 2010 debut Treats garnered huge critical and commercial success (well, “huge” for a psychotic-metal-meets-pop-tart hipster-indie duo), and resting on those laurels would have still made for a good listen. To say that they have raised the bar on Reign of Terror is a gigantic understatement; the album is superb. Extremely loud, snarling and exciting, it takes the duo’s signature mash-up of ’80s metal, ’50s girl-group and ’70s arena-rock sensibilities and cranks up the tension to Adderall-overdose levels.
Great albums often have great opening moments (“Welcome to the Jungle,” “Rock ’n’ Roll Star,” et al.) and the first minute of Reign ranks up there with the best of ’em. Escorting “True Shred Guitar” is what sounds like a festival crowd circa 1979, cheers and claps chorus as the band takes the imaginary stage; solitary drum hits as expansive and anything Def Leppard ever laid down give way to monstrous metal guitars by Derek Miller and by the time Alexis Krauss comes in, we’re on our feet. Krauss has evolved measurably and the album boasts excellent vocal turns by the still-maturing singer. Combining all that with Sleigh Bells’ typically dark lyrical content—most-used words and phrases include “die,” “hell,” “blood,” “go away,” “lost,” “demons,” “goodbye,” “spooky,” “D.O.A.” and “end”—makes Reign of Terror 36 minutes of rock-and-roll brilliance, and probably an instant modern classic.