By TYLER ROSS
Sleigh Bells is a band of contrasts. Their new album, Reign Of Terror, is just as much Van Halen as it is The Go! Team. Just two members – Derek Miller on guitar and Alexis Krauss on vocals – the music sounds louder than if there were ten. It’s full on assault, no bullshit. Blistering guitar solos and skittering drum pads assault are only softened by Krauss’ soft and dreamy vocals as if the band’s intent isn’t pain, just shock.
Then there’s the subject material to consider. Though firmly rooted in the now of music culture – Internet driven and laid out like an ADD roadmap – the music harks back to years past. “The immediate grenade pin that we pulled was big ‘80s rock stuff,” says Shane Stoneback, recording engineer on Reign Of Terror and the group’s previous album, Treats.
Though there’s no video with Reign Of Terror, it’s not hard to create a mental image akin to the group’s live performances. The album rarely lets up in pace, instead bouncing and rocking for roughly 35 minutes like an out of control train. Distorted guitar licks á la Eddie Van Halen rush by over massive crunched out guitar vamps as Krauss thrashes around in her own charming way.
It’s no surprise after witnessing Sleigh Bells’ recent performance on Saturday Night Live. When the group took their position in front of towering Marshall stacks, sporting denim and leather-studded jackets, and playing Gibsons with pointed heads reminiscent of the shred days of ‘80s rock, it was a declaration. This is who we are, minus a visible manifestation of the jarring drum patterns.
Despite its jolting nature, Reign Of Terror deftly manages to be listenable – and enjoyable. Though minimal in its structure – just two members – the music is maxed out in pretty much every other regard, creating a dense record. Still, at some point you stop paying attention to what every part is, where it comes from, and instead take it in as a whole – chimes, guitar, claps, and whatever. The end result is a an album that manages to be both shocking and comforting at the same time.