Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sleigh Bells- "Reign of Terror" - a Heavy Metal Dream Pop Mirage.

 Sleigh Bells latest album - "Reign of Terror" is a heavy metal dream pop mirage.  Derek Miller seems to know every rock prog and tasty lick this side of Def Leopard and thankfully he comes up with some sweet lead lines that feel dreamy and glammy like Bill Nelson or Brian May. His guitar work all blended together creates a wall of sound that Alexis Krauss unabashedly stands upon in her white sneaks. She may have that bad girl persona down but but the lilt of her voice says otherwise. With her pouty, breathy vocal performances she comes off more vulnerable than dangerous. Songs like Born to Lose, Crush, Demons and True Shred Guitar come across like stadium pep rally rock. The cadence is closer to hip hop than 90's monster rock. In my minds eye I could hear Kanye West or Eminem sampling some of this.

Another part of Sleigh Bells appeal is the endearing feel they create by stepping back into 60's teen angst genre. In this regard they are similar to Cults, just a hell of a lot more bad ass. It is swoon rock done up big. In fact, three songs (End of the Line, Road to Hell, and Leader of the Pack) could be Cults songs in another life. End of the Line is the most captivating song on the album. It feels like a dozen teen heartbreaks with it's swaying beat and Derek's hooky lead guitar lines staccato stair stepping around Alexis's quick "out of breath" vocals, "you know it didn't have to be this way... but it's the end of the line... so goodbye."  Road to Hell a few tracks away feel like it is part of the same narative. Krauss's lush whispering vocals conjuring up 50's bad teenager movies- picture James Dean as a punk rocker. Leader of the Pack is in your face. The wall of guitar bluster sits firmly on top of a machine geared beat all reverbed out as the pretty girl vocals are all stacked up as well. It is so pretty and mean sounding at the same time.

Sleigh Bells also does dark teen dreamy affairs befitting any Pretty Little Liars episode. You Lost Me sounds forlorn, sad and sweet. Derek's guitar work is stellar and enchanting. The lyrics dark and detached, "Face down in the dirt, in your mini skirt.. touch the ground... back oh I got your back... I don't want you to see me this way." Comeback Kid has a pure pop melody that if not surrounded by industrial beats and heavy grungy guitar could be a theme song on a Saturday morning cartoon. Never Say Die, again has a hip hop cadence with punchy guitar licks and Alexis cooing rapid fire lines. It feels chaotic like a diamond heist gone wrong.

"Reign of Terror", upon first listen, with the pulsating beats, guitar wails and full tilt breathy vocal attack can wash over you so much as to blur your senses. It can, at times, feel like one long noise / dream pop opera. The second time you listen the nuances come to light as does the myriad of textures buried in the layers of sound. The third time and beyond, with the lyrics discovered, the emotional tug felt, the songs inhabit your brain and psyche and won't let go.

Adler Bloom

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