From the first onslaught of sound that emerges from “True Guitar Shred,” the overall tone and purpose of the album is made abundantly clear. It is an introduction to the record which serves as a warning that the pop-leaning sing-a-longs that pervaded Treats are about to take a back seat to a darker, more rock-oriented and unrestrained approach from the duo. Fear not, however, for the opening of Terror possesses the hailstorm-like energy and noise that has become a trademark sound of the band. It is still utterly infectious.
This tone bleeds over into the machine-gun rhythm of “Born to Lose,” with guitar riffs that hit a bit harder and louder than anything on Sleigh Bells’ previous outing. The unique juxtaposition that the band is known for reemerges in full force on “Crush,” with Alexis Krauss delivering innocuous, gentle vocals to the backdrop of thunderous riffs from Derek E. Miller. Even Krauss herself is a personification of this duality, as her menacing, uninhibited stage presence contrasts the poppy sound of her voice. For those still with doubts, a further exploration of her caustic, defiant lyrics will put any fears of Krauss being “pop” to rest.
At times, the listener may yearn for the abrupt bursts of Treats, yet one cannot fault the duo for leaning in a different direction with their sophomore release. Krauss and Miller are attempting to avoid the label of being nothing more than a novelty act, and the progression of Sleigh Bells on Terror should ultimately be commended. It would have been simple enough to ride on the coattails of the unique sound that they had previously established, yet the two understood that doing so would have resulted in a rather short shelf life.
Yet the mere attempt would have undoubtedly been a futile effort if Miller and Krauss did not have the musical chops to make this transition succeed. Most notable on Reign of Terror is the guitar work of Miller, which he is able to aptly showcase with the more traditional song structures. The slow-burning (for Sleigh Bells, anyway) “You Lost Me” and “Never Say Die” afford Miller the opportunity to evoke genuine emotion with his instrument’s sound and display solo skills that Treats never had room for.
“D.O.A.,” the album’s final track, is the culmination of the new sound and direction revealed on the band’s second full-length effort. Instead of immediately pummeling the listener into a headbanging frenzy, Sleigh Bells allow for an ominous buildup that eventually climaxes into their signature aural assault that fans have come to enjoy. In Reign of Terror’s exploration into more expansive compositions and rock ‘n’ roll, Sleigh Bells show a musicianship and hint of subtlety that could drive them to a much longer and fruitful career than any of the naysayers every anticipated. 8/10