Sleigh Bells

Reign Of Terror

What made Sleigh Bells’ impressive 2010 debut Treats such a – ahem – treat, wasn’t so much the conflict at the heart of the music – that’ll be the full-on sonic onslaught tempered with breathy, almost child-like vocals, the juxtaposition of diverse musical backgrounds that shouldn’t but do work and the ability to rise and fall at will – but it’s resolution. After all, there’s no point in butting heads unless it leads to something altogether unexpected unless the objective of the exercise is to create an aural car crash only fit for the most ghoulish of voyeurs. Yet what we have here with Reign Of Terror isn’t reconciliation between style and substance but an outright victory for the former.

A cursory glance over Reign Of Terror‘s 11 song titles reveals a statement of intent that’s reliant on the glories of previous generations of purveyors of noise. The Heartbreakers (‘Born To Lose’), Black Sabbath (‘Never Say Die’) and The Shangri-Las (yes, there really is a song called ‘Leader Of The Pack’ here) are all owed a debt of gratitude while opener ‘True Shred Guitar’ – a pastiche of the kind of live rock recording that appeared with an alarming frequency throughout the ’70s – sets Sleigh Bells’ stall out early.

What Sleigh Bells have elected to do here is to increase their sound rather than develop it. Why have one guitar when a half dozen will do? Drum machine not pounding enough? Then let those VU meters bleed! And let’s crank up those cheerleaders. The net result is a lack of texture and the element of surprise that made this album’s predecessor so wonderfully seductive. Moreover, in increasing the volume Sleigh Bells have neglected to pay much attention to the melodies that should be at the core of this maelstrom. As editor John Doran rightly pointed in the pixelated pages of The Quietus, The Jesus and Mary Chain wouldn’t have counted for much if all they were capable of was whipping up a noise without having any decent songs to hang it on. And so it goes here, as Reign Of Terror becomes increasingly unlistenable thanks to an ongoing lack of charm.

Equally causing concern is Sleigh Bells’ reliance on hair metal as some kind of non-ironic source of inspiration. As exemplified by ‘Demons’, coming off like a mutant version of Yes’ ghastly ‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart’ is hardly something to be proud of and the resurgence of Def Leppard t-shirts on the streets of Shoreditch and Williamsburg can only be days away.

Still, it’s not all bad news. By sacrificing subtlety for extremism and nuance for noise, Sleigh Bells have highlighted just how brilliant their debut album really is. It would do them well to revisit it and re-discover their form rather than the formula displayed throughout Reign Of Terror.

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