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Matson on Music

Music news, concert reviews, analysis and opinion by music writer Andrew Matson.

April 5, 2012 at 7:51 AM

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Sleigh Bells' second Showbox show in a month

Sleigh Bells' military-grade rap-rock is Seattle's flavor right now. The two-piece Brooklyn buzz band — vocalist Alexis Krauss and guitarist/drum programmer Derek Miller, touring with guitarist Jayson Boyer — packed the Showbox at the Market in February. Just two months later, Sleigh Bells returns for another concert at the larger Showbox SoDo Sunday.

"There was a lot of crowd-surfing," says Krauss on the phone about the February show — which occurred right after Sleigh Bells' new album "Reign of Terror" was released. "We've only had a few shows erupt into that kind of chaos. It was pretty incredible. You could feel the floor bouncing."

Sleigh Bells' popularity makes sense. They make an unholy alliance of rock eras millions of people never got over — the alternative '90s and hair metal '80s. "Reign of Terror" beefs up the wailing guitars of Def Leppard and Van Halen and adds firing-squad hardcore drums, programmed with hip-hop's hardness and clarity. The overall sound is brutal but also can be pretty. On "Reign of Terror" ballad "You Lost Me," Miller's guitar sounds like streaking fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Sleigh Bells performs with stacked rows of immense Marshall amplifiers, some of which are just for show.

"We get kids tweeting pictures, like, 'Oh my god, it's about to get so loud in here!,'" says Krauss. "That's the effect we're looking for."

Visually, "Reign of Terror" is a shrine dedicated to combat. Krauss' white Keds splattered with blood grace the cover; record-sized cards that come with the vinyl edition show a folded-up American flag, canteen with a bullet hole, purple heart medallion and green camouflage fabric. The gatefold image shows a Jackson electric guitar parallel with a rifle.

Seattle loves the sweet voices and acoustic guitars of local folk acts like Fleet Foxes, but we also enjoy pro-wrestling rock that feels like getting shot. Isn't it great that we don't have to choose? God bless America.

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