Sleigh Bells - Reign Of Terror

There’s not a band in recent memory that nailed the landing quite like Sleigh Bells did in 2010 with Treats, its M.I.A.-cosigned debut. They were CMJ darlings back when being a CMJ darling was still sort of a thing, a Band To Watch, a band with so much expectation placed on them from the moment people knew who they were. By the time Sleigh Bells had hit marquee mags like The New Yorker (“It is hard to imagine anything stopping them,” Sasha Frere-Jones wrote. “Unless they do something perverse like hire a band”), it was on the strength of only a handful of songs, some still demo-like in their roughness. Treats came out, sold 149,000 copies, was a smash across-the-board, critically, and pretty much established the group as the go-to act of the moment when it came to youthfully vibrant, thrashing, pop-friendly anthems (being the first person someone thinks of for something is typically good for licensing).

Treats’ successor, Reign Of Terror, was recently teased with two lead singles, the chugging comedown “Born To Lose” and the infectious “Comeback Kid,” which hinges on a chanting chorus and comes paired with an awesome, inherently GIF-able music video. Where Treats showcased a newfound polish — but not too much, as to keep intact the sound’s purposeful roughness and ballast — Reign Of Terror seems more fully formed, more guitar heavy (credit a Jackson USA Soloist that Derek Miller has claimed as his main axe), more willing to dive far in to their established indulgences, hair metal-leaning guitar stack squeal, demented, earworm cheerleader singalongs, thudding, booming beats, and that ratchety, CH-CH-CH-CH-CH-CH sound (you know the one). It rephrases the spirit of Treats without fully reinventing it; it might not match the immediate !!! of the first time you heard “A/B Machines” or something, but the streamlined sonic progression Reign Of Terror is all at once logical, deliberate, and entirely addictive, from the “We Will Rock You” stomp of “Crush” to the dreamlike churn “Never Say Die” to the relatively austere breakdown of closer “D.O.A.”

Like everything about the Sleigh Bells project so far, Reign Of Terror’s execution and presentation is meticulous and attentive to their strengths, both musically speaking and with regard to their aesthetic and posturing. (I mean, if you’re going to sum up Sleigh Bells in a single image, blood-splattered Keds is a pretty fucking good image). Back in their “next big thing” mode, they were asked to play shows and TV spots and they said no, thanks, citing the fact that they weren’t ready to make that happen the way they wanted to make that happen. (They’re ready now, though; they play SNL this weekend). Reign Of Terror is a darker record — “Born To Lose,” according to the lyrics, is at least partially about suicide — and it’s difficult to sense how the record will fare a month, even a week from now, for a band whose sound is so visceral, instanteous and physical. But, in true Sleigh Bells fashion, the timing is flawless: Treats is still rather fresh in the memory where the excitement hasn’t completely tapered off, and in a couple weeks it’ll be spring. I can’t imagine a scenario where I won’t be hearing Reign Of Terror blasting from a set of speakers somewhere in the immediate future (hopefully ones with durable tweeters; this is, after all, a Sleigh Bells record). It just all fits together.

I talked to Derek Miller in 2010 for a piece for TONY, where he said, “We both have tremendous respect for bands that are that calculated in the way that they design their image and their aesthetic. I just don’t think that’s our strength.” Which is funny. Because that makes the least sense of all.

Stream the album now at NY Times’ website and let us know what you think in the comments.

Reign Of Terror is out 2/21 via Mom + Pop.

Comments (87)
  1. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  2. This is one of the few albums I’m curious to hear what others have to say about it before I listen to it, so thanks for the preview thus far. I enjoyed their early demos, but admittedly had a falling out with Treats after a few spins because it seemed kind of “yay!.” Still open to giving them a second chance, though, and reading that Reign of Terror is a darker listen, I’m looking forward to this Valentine’s Day evening where I can replace the emptiness brought on by how ridiculously single and late 20s I am with some thrashing noise pop.

    • I felt exactly the same about Treats, really liked it, but got sick of it really quick. Will be interesting to see if their new one has anything added that gives it a little more staying power.

      Also, don’t worry about being single on valentine’s day. As a late 20s in a relationship guy, I can tell you that I don’t feel all that special. Although it is nice to know that my girlfriend thinks it’s weird for an adult to want a teddy bear.

  3. first sentence second paragraph needs a little v-day copyedit luvin’

  4. Dope beats. Catchy vocals. Awesome hair metal layered guitar.

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  7. I would have liked it if they took another year or two to make this record. I feel like it was a little rushed to capitalize on their buzz. Nevertheless, I think it’s fairly enjoyable.

  8. if you take half the good songs on treats and half the good songs on reign of terror, u have a really rocking sleigh bells album lol

  9. A lot of what I read regarding what to expect from “Reign of Terror” sort of sounded cliche to me. Paraphrasing: “We wanted to add more depth,” “We took our time with it,” everyone says that stuff and it almost never has anything to do with the actual product I wind up listening to. I liked “Born to Lose.” Didn’t really care for “Comeback Kid” (nor has it grown on me at all). I felt very wait-and-see about this album.

    My first impressions: Wow, it does seem to have more depth than “Treats.” That’s not to say having more depth than “Treats” is necessarily some kind of amazing accomplishment (“Treats” felt very 2D. Striking, sure, but everything existed on the same plain: loud). On this record, the edges have been turned a little and you can tell there’s a building behind it – well, at least a box. There seems to be more of a focus on song structure than just the pure “sonics.” I appreciate that. Although I think they did it to the detriment of their usual intensity in some spots. In some cases it’s a good thing (“You Lost Me”), and in others not so much (“Road to Hell” and “Never Say Die” has a lot going on but it doesn’t seem to go anywhere).

    It’s not my intention to sound critical. I was legitimately excited about hearing (not reading about) “Reign of Terror,” and I think I enjoyed it overall. I’m gonna let it simmer and listen to it a few more times before I make any real decision on it.

  10. Just from the little bit I’ve listened to on the NY Times website, the album seems to play to both Derek and Alexis’ strength more evenly, I guess you could say. Treats was mostly Derek, and a lot of Alexis’ vocals were shoe-horned in to tie into the drum beats, and was treated more like a rhythm instrument more than anything else on some tracks (a clear reference to A/B Machines). Reign of Terror is a bit more melodic, and like the Times article pointed out, the guitars are more concerned with harmony than having a call-and-response type of relationship with the drum beats. I liked Treats a lot, so I’m not speaking down on that technique, Reign of Terror just seems different in that regard.

    That being said, I don’t think Reign of Terror will be the same head banging, bowel trembling, “why the fuck won’t my stereo go louder” type of album that Treats was.

  11. I love the live opening track. That and “Crush” are the standouts for me (other than the singles, obviously.)

  12. Why does every song sound like a Burger King jingle?

  13. “Never Say Die” touched me in a very strange way. As a whole, I definitely enjoyed “Reign of Terror” more than I wanted to admit at first. After hearing it all the way through a few times now, I can say that I’m really liking it and I’ll be listening to it a whole lot more during the upcoming months.

  14. Kind of curious as to what you guys think of “DOA.” That might be the most interesting track to me, so far.

  15. Great article, great album, shabazz palaces who?

  16. I’m not sure if the album goes downhill or just gets too dark for my taste. The last two tracks are so ominous to me, I prefer the catchier upbeat tracks like Comeback Kid and Crush. Also I noticed that besides the first track, Alison isn’t screaming like she was “Infinity Guitars” and “Straight A’s”. I don’t know if I like it as much as Treats, but I don’t think its that bad.

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  18. i enjoyed the urgency and loudness of “treats” in it’s entirety.

    RoT left me wanting more fast, heavy, catchy guitar hooks, which is ironic, because it is an entirely guitar-driven album. alison’s voice sounds more breathy, which i also didn’t really understand as an aesthetic choice.

    the nods to poison the well are definitely welcomed. nice to hear some metal percussiveness sprinkled throughout.

    at best, only 4-5 songs on RoT stuck with me as opposed to 8-9 off “treats.” i’m left wondering what the next big buzz release of 2012 is rather than thinking about how this album lived up to it’s hype.

  19. alexis*

    derp. probably because i just started listening to the kills after getting bored with this girl-guy duo.

  20. I like the darker element to this record, and the fact that Miller gets to show off his guitar chops a little more..hopefully my car’s speakers can take this..

  21. I think Sleigh Bells is one of the most interesting bands around right now. I find that they are idiosyncratic and singular while having some (occasionally very obvious) flaws – and, despite pretty enormous popularity, they still feel like an underdog band to me.

  22. i don’t like this new album. i think they’re a fad and are fading out. also, why are they bringing back 90′s fashions? is that supposed to be ironic? jean and letterman jackets? those weren’t fashionable in the 80′s and 90′s, why revisit that?

  23. I haven’t listened to the whole album yet but so far I like Treats better. I feel like Treats was more chaotic and at the same time more catchy which is how I feel I feel most first good albums are compared to second albums. Maybe my opinon will change though over time.

  24. This article is good and all but you pretty much point-for-point paraphrase the whole NYT article that came out earlier today.

  25. I thought Treats was the best album of 2010. This one might be the best this year. To me Treats sounds like Big Black meets Annie. This album sounds more like Kylie Minogue backed by Revolting Cocks. I love it!

  26. I wanted to hate this for some reason, but I can’t. It far too weird and antagonistic towards its target audience. With everyone loving retro-leaning artists, Reign of Terror does it in one of the more interesting ways I’ve seen. They’ve taken two genres that should not be compatible, metal and dream pop, and somehow found a common ground between the two. “Demons” and “Road to Hell” sound like Judas Priest being fronted by an aggressive dream pop chanteuse. The album also flirts with the campy imagery of metal community in the song titles, which all probably been used by bands at some point (Twisted Sister having used “Leader of the Pack”, and “Demons” being a song title for hundreds of bands) and now seem ironic in the context of their reappropriation by a modern indie band. A few of the songs even seem like warped takes on the power ballad; “Never Say Die”, for example, which has equal fascination with a circular rawk riff and its breathy affirmations. It almost feels like it could rest comfortably next to something like Danzig’s “Sistinas”.

    • I agree with you dude. I really like the juxtaposition of Derek’s aggressive guitar work and drum beats with Alexis’ seemingly nonchalant vocals. Especially on Born to Lose, its like he’s going nuts and she’s just in front singing whatever, but in an oddly cohesive way.

  27. Sorry, or “I agree with you, my fair maiden.” I suppose rskva is a gender neutral alias

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  29. I think it’s a pretty decent follow up to Treats, I’m actually digging this a lot. I dunno, I wasn’t really expecting anything besides “more Sleigh Bells” and it doesn’t disappoint in that aspect; it even ended up giving me just a tiny bit more. The band still writes really great noisy pop but they do manage to change things up a bit here. In fact, many of my favorite tracks tend to forego the abrasive noise angle and end up sounding more like dream pop than anything else. Hell, songs like “End of the Line”, “Road to Hell” and “You Lost Me” sound like the band’s been listening to My Bloody Valentine, and they’re all the better for it. Sleigh Bells aren’t exactly diving headfirst into new territory here, but they’re not letting their sound stand still either, which is nice. Hopefully their next LP is even more adventurous; while enjoyable, I dunno if I could sit through a whole ‘nother album of tracks like “Demons” and “Crush”.

  30. major props to Hannah Montana for writing the lyrics

  31. so they’re doing product placement on album covers now? gross.

  32. I’m liking it a lot more through this second listen. The album is definitely a grower, for sure. Although I don’t like how all the drum beats sound the same…

  33. I guess the real question is, who gives a shit? Meshuggah is on tour this spring.

  34. I listened to RoT a couple days ago and didn’t really like it. It’s growing on me now, but I still like Treats much better. Kinda disappointed with this new album, hopefully it’ll get better with more listens.

  35. You Lost Me is the only song that really caught my interest enough for multiple plays – definitely reminds me of My Bloody Valentine

  36. Unless this grows on me (doubt it), this will be filed under “Guilty Pleasures” because I don’t hear anything with lasting appeal.

    “Don’t fix what ain’t broke” usually works, but this kind of just sounds like X-Games “Jock-Jams,” style-over-substance, mediocre rock/cheerleader music.

    That’s a pretty bad first (through 5th or 6th), but I don’t think it will change.

  37. *impression* after first (through 5th or 6th).

    I’d rather listen to Pop. 1280 is what I’m getting at.

  38. Handsome Furs kick their asses

  39. It’ll be nice when the hipster aesthetic gets replaced.
    You would think that it’d be dying off by now (via reverse hipster irony)
    I mean, how many trendy kids have to go hipster before the original hipster masses give up on the idea.

    Then we could all stop pretending band like Sleigh Bells are any good.

  40. Berlin with distorted guitars. Next.

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