Trends Die Hard

LEAK REVIEW   Sleigh Bells' "Reign of Terror"

Whenever I think of Sleigh Bells I can't get this one story out of my head. While throwing a party for a sorta-major indie artist, I was talking to a band manager who told me about when she went on tour with the in-the-red duo. As the group unloaded Marshall stacks into the venue, the manager watched one particularly burly man give a very strained, grimaced face as he removed an amp from the van. Frontwoman Alexis Krauss then casually walks by carrying an amp in one hand and a Vitamin Water in the other, smiling and giggling. Apparently Sleigh Bells has two real amps and a shit ton of a dummy amps. 

With Reign of Terror, Sleigh Bells adopt the ethics of a Hollywood tentpole sequel: bigger, better, longer, more expensive. It is more of the same but the tweaks are enough to ensure that fans are pleased, although not necessarily as surprised as the first time around.

Anyone with an eye and an ear can tell that Alexis Krauss is unashamed to bite everything that makes Alice Glass, Alice Glass

The improvements are superficial but essential. The production is tighter, cleaner, not as a compressed. The guitars are heavier, more akin to hair metal. The guitar lines, longer.  The mid-tempos, punchier, druggier. Somehow everything here is even more immediate than it was with Treats, although not quite as hood rich. Sleigh Bells will even manage to make you question the difference between tic-fight snare drums and black metal blast beats. 

And of course like any good sequel, the glaring flaws are still just as broken. There is still the problem of exhaustion. Posturing, too (see cover art). And it’s still trendy as fuck. After all, Sleigh Bells certainly remains dead in the middle between the boy-girl duos Crystal Castles and The Kills. (Although anyone with an eye and an ear can tell that Alexis Krauss is unashamed to bite everything that makes Alice Glass, Alice Glass). 

A perfect example of Reign of Terror's success (and failure) is the penultimate track “Never Say Die.” It’s dark and dangerous and tough. The xylophone chime splits the difference between Goblin’s Suspiria soundtrack and Kystof Komeda. The double kick drum pedal adds the heavy. And the chorus, which at least subliminally chants “666,” adds the Satan. It’s also a little cheesy, and poseur-y, and maybe a little too much of an approximation of other bullshit trends like witch house and upside down crosses and triangles. I mean, I’ll give you that Derek Miller was in Poison in the Well but at the same time, it’s a bit too much / Creepychan-y for me. This is to say, the claims of inauthenticity and appropriation won’t stop anytime soon.

It’s a bit too much / Creepychan-y for me 

There’s not really much more to say here, which is either a testament to the record’s brilliance, or its innocuous business-as-usual approach—probably depending where you mark your foot in the sand regarding the NY duo. For many, Reign of Terror will be terrible fun. It's loud, cool, and zeitgeist-y. Let’s just hope it doesn’t get the same stale cotton candy taste that made Treats such a disposable confection.

by CJB

Sleigh Bell's "Comeback Kid"