Though many have tried, it isn’t easy to capture the significantly vivacious and rebellious feeling of being a young adult. But Brooklyn dance-punk duo Sleigh Bells may have found the perfect formula to project the awkward-coolness that is adolescence: finding the essential flavors with their newest ear-shattering jam session, “Reign of Terror.”
The indie-rock pair’s first album “Treats” was a fun electro-punk collective driven heavily by hip hop and full of badass vocalist Alexis Krauss’s airy cadences. After hearing their premier album’s eccentric Pixie-stick interweaving of rockabilly guitar, girly coos, and crunk machine-gun beats, it’s no wonder that M.I.A. directly contacted the musical force of the duo Derek E. Miller to produce records and eventually sign on her label. On their sophomore attempt, Krauss and homeboy Miller push their already verbose sound into an even more tightly wound production of absurd extremes.
But the biggest contrast between “Treats” and “Reign of Terror” is as seemingly obvious as the difference in their titles. “Treats” samples a ‘life’s-good-so-let’s-rock-hard’ attitude, “Reign of Terror,” still menacingly power-punk, has a more ‘life-blows-so-lets-drone-it-out’ tone. This was intentionally done, as Miller explains in an interview: “I was fully engaged in making ‘Treats’ and I love it, but we had absolutely no personal aesthetic.” By Miller laying it all out on the table as he confronts his emotions after his dad’s death, the second album’s eerie sadness added with jagged Jackson guitars give a perfect aural sanctuary for all angsty-yet-insecure teens getting drunk underneath the bleachers.
Sentimental lullabies on tracks such as "End of the Line" stand out with this sudden somber additive from Sleigh Bells, but the tracks don't shortchange their noisy aesthetic. "Can you think for yourself jus once?/You're never gonna get back home/Cause you're gonna discover/Ah-ah, alone on the telephone" is breathily crooned over AC/DC guitar strumming on "Road to Hell." Regardless of the slowed BPM, you are fully immersed in the thich pulse of the album. However, the album is not all grave; the record “Crush” is dripping with high school fired-up giddiness, as Krauss’s naïve melodies and samples of cheerleading chants and claps recall the excitingly heavy heartbeats experienced during teenage courtship.
The album’s only flaw is that it drifts away unnoticeably. After the hefty punch that “Demons” throws, the rest of the tracks fizzle out and wane in and out of consciousness. These tracks sample what could’ve potentially gone wrong with choosing meek-girl Krauss as lead singer, as “Never Say Die” sounds like a hauntingly monotonic and somewhat creepy Tim Burton song.
As a whole, Sleigh Bells’ “Reign of Terror” brings out your inner troublemaker. The pairing of Miller’s amped up chords with Krauss’s suggestive wispy tunes display the electrifying double-edge sword that adolescence draws and will keep you jamming start to finish.