Reign of Terror (album)

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This article is about the album by Sleigh Bells. For the heavy metal album, see Terror Universal.
Reign of Terror
Studio album by Sleigh Bells
Released February 21, 2012 (2012-02-21)
Recorded June 25 – October 31, 2011
Genre Noise pop, indie rock
Length 36:24
Label Mom + Pop Music
Producer Derek Miller
Sleigh Bells chronology
Reign of Terror
Bitter Rivals
Singles from Reign of Terror
  1. "Comeback Kid"
    Released: January 17, 2012

Reign of Terror is the second studio album by American noise pop duo Sleigh Bells. The album was released on February 21, 2012 by Mom+Pop.[1][2]

Writing and recording[edit]

The writing process for Reign of Terror began during the touring cycle for Sleigh Bells' debut album Treats in 2010.[3] The song writing for Reign of Terror was a more collaborative effort between group members Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss, as the majority of the songs on Treats were written solely by Miller before Krauss joined the group.[2] Krauss' musical background is primarily in pop music, and her contributions to the album included pop song structures such as bridges, counter-melodies and pre-choruses.[2] In addition to traditional pop music song structures, Reign of Terror also features a more guitar-centered sound. According to Miller, "With Treats it was less clear to me whether Sleigh Bells was going to be a guitar band or if we were going to do more sample-heavy stuff. With this record I had to pick sides. The beats are still important to me, but the guitar won."[2] Sleigh Bells also described the album as being heavy, immense, and huge,[4] and a press release described it as "the sonic equivalent of a beautiful shotgun to the head."[5] Lyrically, Reign of Terror features songs that are emotionally heavy, differing from the songs on Treats which were described as "party music" by Miller.[3]

Sleigh Bells were rushed during the production of Treats and were unable to finish recording all of the songs they had written before they had to leave the studio to perform at scheduled tour dates. Not wanting to repeat this mistake, the duo set aside a lot of time in 2011 to record and produce Reign of Terror.[3] Recording began on June 25, 2011[3] at SMT Studios in Manhattan, New York.[2] The album was produced by Miller[5] and engineered by Shane Stoneback, who also worked with Sleigh Bells on Treats.[2] At SMT, Miller recorded his guitar parts in a reverberation room to achieve a "massive Def Leppard-influenced guitar sound."[2] Sleigh Bells also recorded a group of their friends stomping and clapping in the bleachers of a high school gym for the song "Crush".[2]

Less than two months after the release of Reign of Terror, Sleigh Bells already began writing a follow-up album. "[Reign of Terror] made me feel like we had so much more to do. I definitely didn't hear it and think, 'Okay, I'm satisfied.' I heard it and I thought, 'We didn't have to stop recording—we could do this, this, and this, right now.' So I feel like we made a very good record, but I want very much to continue to the next phase of our development," Krauss said.[6] A few unused demos and ideas from the Reign of Terror sessions, such as the instrumental track used in the album's trailer, could become part of the band's third studio album.[6]


The cover art for Reign of Terror features a dirty, bloody pair of white Keds shoes. The pair of shoes belongs to Krauss and least some of the blood shown in the picture is hers too. During a live performance, Miller hit Krauss in the head with his guitar and some of the blood from the incident landed on her shoes, but the image was also "doctored up" after-the-fact for effect. According to Miller, the cover represents both band members. Krauss ritually wears a pair of white Keds for every performance, and Miller noted, "If Keds are a symbol of youth and purity, having them tainted can be seen as a loss of innocence; a lot of life has happened to me in a very, very short period of time."[7]

The remaining images in the album's liner notes are all related to Miller's family history—namely, a number of war relics from his grandparents. Most of the imagery is also a reflection of Miller's difficult year preceding the album. "Reign of Terror is mainly about internal conflict and—this is kind of corny—I was definitely at war with myself," Miller said. The image of the Purple Heart, also used as the cover art for the promotional single "Born to Lose", was awarded to Miller's grandfather for being wounded in World War II.[7] The medal also loosely relates to the passing of his father. "It was just a really terrible, painful experience and of course a Purple Heart is something you receive after you are wounded in service. I'm not drawing a direct comparison, but the thought occurred to me," Miller said.[7] His grandfather was shot in the leg during the war, but the bullet first traveled through his canteen. This canteen seen with the bullet hole, along with the American flag he was awarded, are also featured in Reign of Terror's liner notes.[7] One picture that was featured in the album's liner notes that isn't a war relic is a photograph of a burning sugar cane field, which also serves as the cover art for the "Comeback Kid" single. This image is meant to represent Miller's father who used to work as a sugar cane farmer.[7]


Left-to-right: Derek Miller, Alexis Krauss and Jason Boyer performing at SXSW.

On December 2, 2011 Sleigh Bells posted a trailer for Reign of Terror on their official website. The video was a compilation of various clips including Alexis Krauss sitting at a vanity mirror brushing her hair, live performances of Sleigh Bells and home videos of the group in the studio.[8][9] The instrumental guitar track for the trailer was an unused demo from the Reign of Terror sessions.[6]

The promotional single "Born to Lose" was available for streaming online on December 15, 2011.[10] The first official single from Reign of Terror, "Comeback Kid", was released as a free download from iTunes for those who pre-order the full album,[11][12] and as a stand-alone download on January 17, 2012. The music video for "Comeback Kid" was filmed in Derek Miller's home town of Jupiter, Florida. Scenes were shot in Miller's old neighborhood, his mom's room and the local grocery store.[13][14]

A music video for "Demons" was released in May 2012. The video was directed by Gregory Kohn and instrumentalist Derek Miller, and features live footage of Sleigh Bells performing in various cities that was inspired by Pantera music videos.[15] The video includes footage from the band’s concerts in Omaha, Oklahoma City, Dallas and Houston.[16][17] A remix of "Demons" by the band’s tourmate Diplo was released the same day.[16][17] In August 2012, a music video co-directed by Kohn and Miller for "End of the Line" was released.[18]

Leading up to Reign of Terror's release date, Sleigh Bells went on an eight-day mini-tour of Florida with the DJ Diplo and the black metal band Liturgy.[2][19] The idea for a tour exclusively in Florida came to Miller and Diplo while the two were in Brooklyn, New York. About this tour, Miller said, "Not a lot of bands come down to Florida, but it's a strange place and something about it felt right."[13] On February 18, 2012, Sleigh Bells was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live, and performed "Comeback Kid" and "End of the Line."[20] Following a short tour opening for Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sleigh Bells will tour North America with the synthpop group Class Actress and the rapper Jel in July 2012.[21] In August 2012, Sleigh Bells headlined Europe, toured the US West Cost with the hardcore punk band Refused, then announced a September–November 2012 tour with DJ AraabMuzik.[22]

The stage production for early tours in support of Reign of Terror was described by Miller as being, "so dark that it's hard to see the crowd."[23] The stage set-up consisted simply of a black-and-white American flag backdrop and a wall of stacked Marshall amplifiers.[24][25][26] Susan Shepard of Rolling Stone, Mario Tarradell of The Dallas Morning News and Harley Brown of Consequence of Sound all described the stage set-up as being "minimal",[24][25][26] with the latter also describing the flag as being "ostentatious".[26] Because the songs on Reign of Terror have more guitar harmonies than previous releases, Sleigh Bells employed Jason Boyer as a backing touring guitarist for live performances. Miller also liked the symmetry of having two guitarists on both sides of a vocalist.[27]



Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 77/100[28]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[29]
Alternative Press 2.5/5 stars[30]
BBC Music positive[31]
Chicago Tribune 3/4 stars[32]
Consequence of Sound 4.5/5 stars[33]
Entertainment Weekly B+[34]
The Guardian 2/5 stars[35]
Los Angeles Times 3/4 stars[36]
NME 8/10[37]
Paste Magazine (6.7/10)[38]
Pitchfork 8.2/10[39]
Robert Christgau A-[40]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[41]
Slant Magazine 4/5 stars[42]

Prior to the album's release, several publications listed Reign of Terror as an anticipated release for the first part of 2012 including Spin, Time, Metacritic and NPR.[43][44][45][46] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 77 based on 38 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".[28]

The album was listed 24th on Stereogum's list of top 50 albums of 2012.[47]


Reign of Terror was anticipated to sell 30,000 copies in the first week and landed at number six on Nielsen SoundScan's Building Chart—a chart that ranks album sales based on the first four days of release (opposing the first seven as is done with the Billboard 200) and is only based on sales from major retailers.[48] The album debuted at number 12 in the Billboard 200,[49] significantly higher than Treats which only peaked at 39.[50] However, the album descended to number 78 in the second week with sales falling to around 8,000 copies—a 72% drop.[51]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller.[52]

  1. "True Shred Guitar" – 2:20
  2. "Born to Lose" – 3:53
  3. "Crush" – 3:19
  4. "End of the Line" – 3:38
  5. "Leader of the Pack" – 2:43
  6. "Comeback Kid" – 3:00
  7. "Demons" – 3:03
  8. "Road to Hell" – 3:21
  9. "You Lost Me" – 4:30
  10. "Never Say Die" – 3:40
  11. "D.O.A." – 2:57


Reign of Terror album personnel adapted from liner notes.[52]

Sleigh Bells

  • Alexis Krauss – vocals
  • Derek Miller – all instruments


  • Derek Miller – production
  • Shane Stoneback – mixing, engineering
  • Ryan Primack – assistant engineer
  • Steve Fallone – mastering


  • Derek Miller – art direction
  • Steve Attardo – layout, design
  • Joe Garrad – photography


Chart (2012) Peak
Australian Albums Chart[53] 33
Belgian Heatseekers Albums Chart (Flanders)[54] 13
Canadian Albums Chart[55] 35
Irish Albums Chart[56] 64
UK Albums Chart[57] 48
US Billboard 200[49] 12
US Rock Albums[49] 3
US Independent Albums[49] 1
US Alternative Albums[49] 2


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  3. ^ a b c d Helton, Eric; Murphy, Matthew (May 13, 2011). "Sleigh Bells: Reveal details of their next album". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. Retrieved December 14, 2011. 
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External links[edit]