Record Machine: Sleigh Bells’ Reign of Terror

When I won a giveaway from Mom+Pop Records, I’d never heard of Sleigh Bells. Mainly, I’d entered because I wanted to win the “Varsity” 7-inch by Smith Westerns, whom I’d recently stumbled upon. Other goodies from Metric and Neon Indian were also included in the package, and I will get to talking about those records in due time. So how did I like Sleigh Bells’ 2012 album, Reign of Terror?

A picture of a record player with a record and an album cover featuring a pair of old shoes.
(Pretend the noisy, dark photo is… artistic.)

Turns out, I dig them a lot. A friend of mine who plays guitar and is really into musicians like Joan Jett told me how much she likes Sleigh Bells, and now that I’ve played the album, I can see why she does. They’re a bit punk like Joan Jett, and they also remind me of Dead Weather, with splashes of Riot Grrl and PJ Harvey. So far, I’ve played Reign of Terror through twice.

Immediately most interesting to me was the album’s packaging. The record itself is 180-gram vinyl, which makes it feel sturdy and long-lasting in one’s hands, and the sleeve has double pockets to accommodate the album art.

Image of the art from Sleigh Bell's "Reign of Terror" album

Each image is on its own cardboard sheet, with the back side plain white. There are eight images and one sheet for the song lyrics, with no further information about the band given. All the images relate to either war or music, as does the song content. With only my preliminary study of the album, everything is about battle, both external and internal. Each song lyric entry is presented as a long, stream-of-conscious sentence.

The nightmare lies in the mourning when the birds are bleeding and you hope the day will come but you’re never going to live this down wish it away with the blame you could just stop breathing now you didn’t want it enough […]
—“End of the Line”

It’s a really interesting, full product. Reign of Terror has a clear vision for what it sets out to accomplish, and although punk rock and literature might seem incongruous at a glance, this is the right fit. Punk is about the battle, about calling attention to what is not quite right. Sleigh Bells’ writing explores loyalty, depression, pride and strength with a literary eye, sometimes delivering their words in a whisper.

Look closer, they seem to say. See how we tread water.

An image of Sleigh Bell's "Reign of Terror" album and open sleeve atop a bedspread.
Spread across my bed, the Reign of Terror album art, and open sleeve. (Also, my astronaut bear pillow.)

SIDE A

  • True Shred Guitar
  • Born to Lose
  • Crush
  • End of The Line
  • Leader of the Pack
  • Comeback Kid

SIDE B

  • Demons
  • Road to Hell
  • You Lost Me
  • Never Say Die
  • D.O.A.

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Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

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