Can an industrial-strength guitar-noise duo blow up into the most pelican-fly rock band around? Of course it can, if it’s Sleigh Bells. Guitarist Derek Miller and vocalist Alexis Krauss are the kind of music geeks who had their formative-crush experiences soundtracked to My Bloody Valentine and Slayer records. Sleigh Bells scored with their 2010 debut, Treats, but Reign of Terror is even noisier, funnier and smuttier. They bring a proudly aggressive sass to all the heavily treated guitars – now that they’ve proven they can get away with such a massive sound, they’re out to see what tricks they can do with it.
Reign of Terror flattens you with its cartoonishly over-modulated, into-the-red guitar sound. It even opens with a parody of a stadium rock show, with Miller shredding as Krauss commands, “Enemies, on your knees!” The songs are heavy-breathing sex chants with a heart of darkness. “Demons” is an hommage to the early-1970s attack of Black Sabbath, and “Leader of the Pack” is guitar gauze in the style of Nineties psychedelia like Pale Saints. And the brilliant “You Lost Me” is a goof on Eighties power-ballad dreck, tweaking Def Leppard‘s Hysteria and ZZ Top‘s Afterburner the way Bon Iver tweaked Peter Cetera and Bruce Hornsby. Sleigh Bells sound like noise romantics at heart – even when they salute “teenage metalheads,” the kids are “holding hands through your favorite bands.” And the playfully lecherous lyrics to “Crush” are no joke, even though “crush” also describes what Miller tries to do to your eardrums. Best of all is “Road to Hell,” which has a cheery melody, even though Krauss is chanting, “Don’t run away from me, baby/Just go away from me, baby.” Now that’s a breakup song to cherish.
Listen to Sleigh Bells’ “Comeback Kid”: