As the current holders of the title “Loudest Band on the Planet,” Sleigh Bells is back again for their sophomore effort, Reign of Terror, which was released earlier this week. The band has already turned some hands for their unexpected genre mash-up that can only be described as hardcore thrash metal geared towards cheerleaders. As the sole modern proprietors in the realm of noise pop, the album’s opening seconds are pretty indicative of what you’re going to get for the next thirty-seven minutes or so. Alexis Krauss offers a light introduction on “True Shred Guitar,” which, whether it is genuine or not, at least seems to be a live track. Before anything, she shouts, “What the fuck is up?” before ominously counting “1! 2! 3! 4!” From there, the album goes in to overdrive and never really stops. Those opening spoken lines are somewhat of a warning from Krauss and band mate, Derek E. Miller, that they’re about to grab you by the collar and kick your ass for the next eleven tracks. Well, you may be a masochist yet because I guarantee you’ll love every minute of it.
I can’t remember the opening tracks of an album delivering so much in quite some time. “True Shred Guitar” is able to capture all of the energy of a live performance and push it about ten times further. It’s quite overwhelming, in the best of ways though. In the goosebumps hairs standing up on your arm sort of way. From there, they smoothly transition into my hands down favorite track of the album, “Born to Lose.” The formula is pretty simple. Miller plays the same three power chords (calling them power chords is really an understatement) over and over again, but with so much velocity and, well, power that it all comes together for a face melting rock ballad that would make Zakk Wylde weep. Krauss’s slightly off-kilter singing is the finishing touch on one of my two or three favorite songs of 2012 so far. It just clicks.
The rest of the album is incapable of living up to its opening two tracks, but honestly, I have no idea what could. They continue their habit of taking songs with 90s soft pop hooks and loading them up their instrumental artillery, such as on the surprisingly catchy “End of the Line.” They also do a nice job of taking a song with as sweet a melody as “Leader of the Pack” and making it seem borderline demonic with their delivery. It’s really hard to go wrong. “Comeback Kid” and “You Lost Me” both keep the album rumbling right along.
If you have a love for the brain-smashing rock bands of yesterday, then the album is tailor made for you. The influences of Metallica and Van Halen are so strong you could confuse some of these songs for covers… you know, if they didn’t have the lyrics and melodies of feel good teen pop.
The album loses a little bit of steam by the time it reaches its final two tracks, which highlights the biggest question facing Sleigh Bells. They have certainly stumbled upon a very novel musical concept here; hardcore rock with pop tendencies. It works. They pull it off. But how long can they maintain this high level of energy before we all start to get the “been there, heard that” feel? Treats was bliss. Reign of Terror was excellent but started to fade on me by the end. Can they really keep this going for a full third album or will the looming need to reinvent or readjust get to them? Only time will tell.