**** out of 4
(Mom + Pop Music)
Let’s get something straight right out of the gate: This is some dark [bleep]. “Reign of Terror,” the follow-up to the New York duo’s 2010 debut “Treats,” is damn-near creepy in certain spots, chronicling guitarist Derek Miller’s descent into near-madness after a series of family tragedies while Sleigh Bells was in the midst of making it big.
Not such a sweet treat, right? Actually, though it doesn’t carry the same volume of bubbly, get-your-ass-out-of-your seat anthems that “Treats” did, "Terror" is still catchy as all get out, a balanced mix of loud and raw versus dreamy and pop-heavy, and one of the more impressive second albums you’ll ever hear from a band that could have (and probably should have) crashed and burned following so much Internet hype in such a short period of time.
Need a new bleacher anthem for your intramural softball league? Opening track “True Shred Guitar” should do just fine. Vocalist Alexis Krauss’ chanting of the track title along with “Push it!” take the literal bleacher stomping and Miller’s ear-piercing guitars over the edge. So apparently Sleigh Bells is shooting for that stadium metal band status? Approved.
Transition into Krauss’ breathy crooning on tracks like “Leader of the Pack,” which will have you singing along to words you don’t even know—or realize how emotionally driven they are, written by Miller after the sudden passing of his father (“Don’t you know he’s never coming back now” […] “Everybody dies”). “Crush” really shows off the ways Krauss’ varying vocals complement Miller’s metal guitar riffs, not to mention give you some relief from the morbid cloud hovering over “Reign of Terror.”
This softer stuff is squeezed in between through-and-through ’80s metal tracks like “Demons,” which, as you might guess, is so satisfyingly demonic with unforgiving guitars and Krauss’ gift for giving good battle cry. Rounding out the album, “You Lost Me” and “Never Say Die” do well to guide you into coming down from the jackhammer assault that was “Demons.” (Anyone else hear those references to the 1995 cult classic “Kids” in “Never Say Die”?)
But the previously released songs, “Born to Lose” and “Comeback Kid,” are probably the ones you’ll find impossible to get out of your head at the end of the day. Watch the video for “Born to Lose” with Krauss gleefully jumping on a bed in slow motion while holding an assault rifle—I dare you not to feel a little creeped out while chanting along during the chorus.
Everything is big here. The guitars are louder than ever. This album is not about beats, as it was on “Treats,” but it’s still intricate. It’s more accessible than the debut (dubbed “noise-pop” by many) and appeals to an even wider audience than the one that Krauss and Miller discovered with their new sound. And it’s one hell of a headbanger.
Listen to “Reign of Terror” here before its Feb. 21 release, and see Sleigh Bells perform on "SNL" on Feb. 18.Copyright © 2015, RedEye