Initially, “Reign of Terror’’ seems to offer the same unstructured kicks as Sleigh Bells’ 2010 debut, “Treats.’’ Opening track “True Shred Guitar’’ sounds like a thousand Alexis Krausses howling in front of 10,000 screaming fans as Derek E. Miller throws down dead-simple heavy-metal riffs - and it’s awesome in every rock ’n’ roll sense of the word. The duo’s combination of sharply mechanical and distorted guitars, chopped-up drumbeats and a modular songwriting approach make nearly every song sound as though it’s constructed entirely from samples of itself.
But “Reign of Terror’’ isn’t just more of the same. With its structure and dynamics, “Comeback Kid’’ may be the very first Sleigh Bells track to sound like a complete song. Riding a laid-back chug, “Road to Hell’’ has not just melodic movement but (in a chorus that consists of nothing more than the title repeated eight times, then eight times more) an actual hook. They even throw a wild curve with the ringing, reverb-drenched Cocteau Twins homage “End of the Line,’’ where a breathy Krauss leaves the feeling to the notes themselves, rather than though any expression in her vocals. That’s not to say that the siren-squeal guitars and drum-machine breakbeats aren’t still a blast; but on “Reign of Terror,’’ Sleigh Bells have started thinking about what happens underneath them. (Out today)
ESSENTIAL “Road to Hell’’