Sleigh Bells Reign Over San Diego

Block 16 hosts face-melting electro-metal duo Sleigh Bells

I distinctly remember the first time I saw the skull-crunching NYC duo Sleigh Bells: It was 1 a.m. on Feb. 18 last year, and as I do most Saturday nights, I was watching Saturday Night Live. My girlfriend had long gone to bed at that point, and I was sprawled out on my couch, most likely with a bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos and some type of Mountain Dew product in hand. My living room was dark, save the glow of my TV, and right at that moment, host Maya Rudolph said, "Ladies and gentlemen: Sleigh Bells."

At that point, the camera turned to two guys that looked like identical twins playing pointy, heavy-metal shaped guitars, standing in front of at least eight giant (whoa) Marshall stacks, and between them, stood a studded-leather clad Cleopatra (via 1970s New York punk haven, CBGB) with impeccable black hair and the voice of a rock angel. They blasted into "Comeback Kid," the lead single off their 2012 album, Reign of Terror. My jaw dropped, and I instantly got on iTunes and downloaded everything they had ever done.  

Most likely, you'll have the same reaction to Sleigh Bells, and, thankfully, you'll have the chance to see it happen in real life (sans the Cheetos finger dust). Hosting a show seemingly out of its wheelhouse, Block 16 has partnered with the booking gods at the Casbah (who seem to present shows at nearly every venue in SD these days) to bring Sleigh Bells to our fine city. And, yo: Block 16, do us a solid and continue having shows like this.  

The band consists of vocalist Alexis Krauss and guitarist Derek Edward Miller (that other guy was just touring with the band at the time), and they routinely construct their raw, vitriolic songs around digital beats and thumping, distorted percussion. The band recently released its third full-length album, Bitter Rivals, on Oct. 8 and is on a massive national tour to support it. 

Jumping off from the success of their previous two efforts, 2010's Treats, and last year's aforementioned Reign of Terror, the band has tapped a little deeper into its musical laboratory and emerged with a collection of songs that marry the sludgier metal hooks of Reign with the raw melody off their debut. Bitter Rivals is a juggernaut of heavy-hitting beats and some of the strongest, head-banging riffs the band has ever composed -- but the true statement of the record is the prevalance of the ever-important "hook."

In typical Sleigh Bells fashion, songs like "Sugarcane" and "Minnie" start out heavy and just get heavier with each industrial-beat-filled minute. But more than half of the new album focuses on the charming, electro-pop sound of such songs as "Love Sick" and "To Hell With You" that wouldn't sound entirely out of place on a Lady Gaga record or a Katy Perry joint (without as much autotune). More than anything, that's a testament to the catchiness of the new songs and the unabashed prettiness of some of the melodies. Make no mistake: They're still a ton edgier than anything those two artists have ever done.

Last year, the band rolled through San Diego's now-closed 4th & B (being revived as the Avalon, with what's believed to be an emphasis on EDM) on the Reign of Terror tour. It was a cacaphonic madhouse of eardrum-shattering volume, and the crazed, stage-prowling antics of the Krauss.

If history teaches us anything at all, we can expect the same level of energy and brain-scrambling on Saturday.

Tickets are $20, and are still available at M-Theory Records (without service charge) or at the door!

Dustin Lothspeich plays in Old Tiger, Chess Wars and Boy King. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.

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