I really liked Sleigh Bells debut album TREATS because it was the right amount of cute and vicious.  It was precious cheerleading music with a punk edge.  I saw Sleigh Bells, which is not a “band” but guy and girl from New York, and was pretty underwhelmed by their live performance.  Was Sleigh Bells a one-off novelty? Did TREATS represent a tip with no submerged iceberg? I was skeptical when I found out the band was putting out a second record—but it turns out that skepticism was unfounded.

Sleigh Bells gonna get plenty of shoe money with this record.

REIGN OF TERROR picks up right where TREATS left off. The album opens with “True Shred Guitar” a raucous, rowdy track that features a badass guitar-lick with a clap-your-hands/stomp your feet beat.  “Born To Lose,” the second track, features the sweet cheerleader-squad shouts mixed with horribly dark lyrics.  So far everything on REIGN OF TERROR could have been on TREATS without raising any eyebrows.  But then comes “End of the Line” and you see the evolution.  The song is a fantastic bit of pop. Gone is the brash, rowdy rock.  And while REIGN OF TERROR certainly rocks, I’d say that for the most part this is Sleigh Bells pop record. From the hypnotic splendor of the 80’s tinged “You Lost Me” to the bitter-spiraling of “Road to Hell” REIGN OF TERROR adds an extra dimension, sonically, to the band.

Think of it like a 3-D film conversion—this is the same Sleigh Bells but with extra depth.  Sure, it’s still the simple boy-girl-guitar-drum machine/sample loops but there’s a heightened awareness and a finer touch to the proceedings.  Many bands have stumbled on their release, that Sleigh Bells have avoided this is a minor miracle—that the band has topped TREATS on every single level is the real victory. With REIGN OF TERROR, Sleigh Bells has proven to me that they’re not a novelty one-hit wonder, their seriously talented and determined to stick around.

There’s nothing I like better than being surprised by something that’s really good: REIGN OF TERROR is really good.  I know it’s early, but this is already on list of top albums of 2012.

REIGN OF TERROR gets a straight “A.”

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