For those of us hoping for a replica of Treats, the first album from the indie rock-pop duo Sleigh Bells, you are not in for a treat, per se, with their second release, Reign of Terror.
However, it's all a matter of perspective.
While it's easy to say the tracks on Reign lack the clarity found on Treats, as supplied by subtle hip hop beats beneath large guitar riffs, it's better to say that perhaps on this album, the duo relied more heavily on their understanding of 90's punk and emulating easily consumable metal than on creating something we expected to hear.
And given that Reign came during a tragically pivotal time in guitarist Derek E. Miller's life (during the 2010 wake of their takeover as indie's newest champs, Miller's father died in a motorcycle accident and his mother was diagnosed with cancer), it seems this album displays the maturity a band ought to have with their sophomoric release. It's more interested with pursuing a new direction in sound, with mindful lyrics and larger-than-life instrumentals as seen in a song like "Comeback Kid", than it is about creating a Treats sequel, however badly we wanted it.
The album opens with an audio scene of fans exchanging cheers and screams with a crowd-provoking Allison Krauss. It's the first note of how badass this album will be and it all comes full circle by the end. As likeable as Treats was, listening to Reign is like sipping water from a fire hydrant -- there is no feasible way to take everything in at once. And speaking of "badass", it's only fitting that the album art includes Krauss' bloody pair of Ked's, the result of being not-so-slightly axed in the head by Miller's guitar during a live performance in which she started bleeding. The shoes were kept seemingly as an ironic memento.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cwjGJp3WEM
On "Born to Lose", we're given no choice but to visit (or revisit) the band's darker side as they meditate on the issue of suicide, anticipating an event that will only result in sad and somber confusion ("Where did you go?/Here I go/Born to lose"). But in an attempt to not prematurely squelch the album of any uptempo, "Crush" follows immediately, hailing the familiar clap rhythms and angelic harmonies of "Tell 'Em". And from there, no ground is loss.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nm2CvHKYWTY
In a similar fashion, "End of the Line", employs the opening bell-like melodies we heard in "Rill Rill" but hones in on a beautiful rift by Miller, with next to no bass at all. It's nice to hear a softer side of the band without feeling a loss of edge or aforementioned badassness. "Leader of the Pack" is another track to highlight as it capitalizes on wispy harmonies and angst-ridden chants against noisy, thick riffs, all of which the band is so lauded for.
Whereas Treats had us wondering where this duo had been all our lives, Reign of Terror has us half-listening, half tearing through old Sonic Youth or Dinosaur Jr. albums. If you are nostalgic for garage punk or looking for something that will melt your ears, try this album for size. Stream the album off the New York Times here and support these artists by purchasing Reign of Terror on iTunes.