Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller, the noise pop Brooklyn based duo better known as Sleigh Bells, are back with a vengeance of aggressive guitar riffs lying under bubble gum synths. Still noisy, their sophomore album, Reign Of Terror has kept them on the road of power pop, heavily camouflaged in programmed drums, keeping a sense of rhythm in line with their pop sensibility. It's not exactly the party-pop album you might remember from Treats. Miller's background keeps their approach heavy and brutal but the chaos of Treats is infrequently found. Reign Of Terror has mastered the task of consistency and stays true to the sound that made them overnight indie poster children. The huge sound that the band is known for hasn't exactly gone away; but has been replaced with a cleaner, more thought out ruckus. Without a doubt, Reign Of Terror is more layered, more methodical and thought out than its predecessor, but have Sleigh Bells played it too safe?
Reign Of Terror is a far cry from being an extension of Treats and more of a manifestation of the duos edgier, darker side. To say it is angry is an understatement, Miller's riffs and Krauss' shouts are destructive, her candy-pop vocals reminiscent of the likes of Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill and Le Tigre) - showing she's more than bubblegum pop coaxed by hardcore riffs. Krauss' vocals are complimented by the harmonies of catchy instrumentation and hooks, keeping the band coming from left field with a mixture of rock, pop, and noise. Keeping with their minimalistic approach - simple beats, poppy vocals, layered with hard, melodic, yet rampaging guitar riffs, they continue to create their unique style of brutally beautiful songs. Despite being one of the most anticipated albums of 2012, ROT is overshadowed and outshone by Treats. The first LP, unexpected and original with its outburst of excitement and energy - the over polished studio feel of ROT not helping the cause. In their debut, Sleigh Bells crafted a perfect junction of fury, fun, noise, and pop that has proven hard to repeat. As a whole, the album is slower and more withheld - in those moments; Sleigh Bells are at their most melodic shape yet with plenty of pop hooks to enjoy.
There is nothing disappointing about ROT, other than the simple fact that it's not Treats. The band has polished its sound, strengthened their collaborative efforts, and put out a more refined and sophisticated sound to chaos and ruckus. Songs like "End Of The Line" and "Road To Hell" are more mellow in their delivery (as mellow as Sleigh Bells can get), and gives reassurance that there is still room for development. Millers' guitar riffs twist around Krauss' provocative chants, and while much slower than you might be used to hearing from the duo, it's still heavy with trashing guitar and smashing drums, creating a beautifully clever juxtaposition by Krauss's innocent, but demanding voice.
Overall the album is an evolution of who the band was and who they can still become. While more restrained, the hardcore, digital, pop, cluster of noise they are known for is still loud and in your face, demanding attention. It may take current fans a few listens to truly appreciate the new approach to Sleigh Bells - but it will prove, in the end, worth that second, and third, even seventh, listen.