Thursday, 16 February 2012

Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror


It's been two short years since Sleigh Bells released their first album 'Treats' in 2010. The Brooklyn duo combined sweet pop songs with very heavy beats and distorted guitars. The album was amazing to some, pathetic to others. I wanted them to mature, to grow in melody and to add something more melancholy to their inevitable loud sound. I don't think that's too much to ask of a band who could release an album every month with this kind of material. This album could go either way with the music critics, but my opinion will be pretty standard and among those that crave for something more than pointless noise.

Treats has some lovely pop filled tracks but the noise outweighed the melodies. The monotonous sounds make another appearance on this album. The first track 'True Shred Guitar', opens with a standard guitar riff which has been heavily effected with distortion and for the first 40 seconds they sound like Aerosmith with a Japanese lead singer. The final minute makes up the actual studio recording which has Alexis Krauss giving a withdrawn vocal which has been mixed poorly, like a 12 year old on FL Studio. 

'Born To Loose' has that looped guitar riff which is something Sleigh Bells used on Treats. The fast paced drum beat just doesn't sit with me and sounds completely out of place and out of tempo. Krauss gives a high pitched vocal which has been layered over and over with distortion. The clapping makes a return and has no new aspects musically other than it sounds louder, but not compact. The final minute shows some great melodic guitar playing and reverberated atmosphere, it's a shame this is just an outro. 

Then enters 'Crush' with a two noted guitar riff playing through the octaves. The high school image beams off the track with furious chants and childish vocals. The heavy guitar sound just obscures the vocals and I have absolutely no idea what she's singing, or singing about. I can almost certainly say it's nothing about the French Revolution. 

The first three tracks show a heavier side to Sleigh Bells. They haven't exactly spread their wings or anything of the sort, rather just turned up the volume. 'End of The Line' has some nice vocal segments which show Alexis Krauss giving something more than just screaming. The drum beat is again pretty poor but the reverb guitar riff sounds unfamiliar and works in this track. The loud, but clear vocal rings out during the verse and a fast paced beat strikes through the track which aligns itself with the reversed vocals. This track is much better than the previous and so are the following few.

'Leader of The Pack' has twinkling piano notes booming out as the compact beat has that heavy bass feel which people craved for on Treats. 'Comeback Kid' has a fantastic opening and draws comparisons to several of the Strong tracks from Treats. The vocals are, again, hard to understand and her fast paced vocals are obscured by the track noise aspects. It's classed as the single because it has a breakdown and an elevated chorus, but overall nothing really separates this from any other track on this album. The guitar riff is nice but it's nothing special, production and mixing is again poor here.

They seem to throw distorted clapping around willy-nilly. 'Demons' has that exact same clapping sound and that exact same fast paced drum that happens every five seconds. The vocals are very poor and the guitar just sounds repetitive. It's hard to listen, it's just far too dense for my liking. 'Road To Hell' has that same clapping and the same guitar sound, but with a slower tempo and clear vocal. The track doesn't ascend or descend, it's looped almost predictably. The vocals actually lead the track forward which surprises me but Alexis doesn't exactly sound convincing when she's 'singing' "Road to hell"

'You Lost Me' has a laughable opening. It's extremely messy, the 'harmonic' vocals sounds out of time and the chorus effect on the guitar is overused and overproduced. Nothing sounds raw, the lo-fi tendencies from the bands debut EP have all been lost by studio effects and poor mixing. The vocals do sound clean and the track has a clearer mood but by all means, it's not loud or bigger in sound. 'Never Say Die' has that same drum beat yet again. Are you tired of me mentioning the drum beat? I'm tired of hearing the damn thing. If somebody asks me what I think of the new Sleigh Bells record, I'm just going to say 'repetitive', it just is. Never Say Die has a decent sounding bassline but the monotonous vocals and the poor, predictable guitar work just brings everything down. 

The album ends with 'D.O.A'. I think the duo are trying to scare the listener with this album. First of all, 'Reign of Terror', then we have D.O.A, Demons.. Crush.. Road To Hell, and End of The Line. Sorry Sleigh Bells, but I'm laughing at you, not fearing your music. D.O.A has a monotonous guitar riff and a heavily effected vocal. It's the same kind of vocal style Alexis had on Treats, just without the soaring guitar and the memorable beat. Here it's just incredibly bland and quite frankly, a waste of a track, especially a closing track.

Sleigh Bells have a focus to guitar on this album. It's just a shame Derek Miller doesn't deliver something catchy, louder and sticking than anything on Treats. The debut had some fantastic pop hooks but was ultimately flawed by repetition and poor mixing. It was also lacking uniqueness, falling under the '15 minutes of fame' category of 2010. Reign of Terror is a flat album with poor production. Everything which I enjoyed from Treats has been taken away and replaced by more clapping and tacky guitar sounds.
~Eddie

3.7



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