This is the second album from Belgian-based band Mind Rays following on from their 2017 debut on the PNKSLM label Nerve Endings. And what a debut it was; a garage-punk scream inside a razorblade factory. I also saw them live at The Old Blue Last and they screamed and kicked and fought their way through a set that was a part angry drug high and part caffeine withdrawal angst. Now Sis Sevens (vocals), Christophe Adriaensens (guitar), Jean-Michel Lauweres (bass) and Mikel Gaston-Echeverria (drums) are back with Course of Action.
The opening track ‘Makeshift Weaponry’ leaves you in no doubt what this album is about: febrile punk on a bed of distortion and rolling drums. A wall of amped up guitar, bass and drums burst forth and begin a stop/start knife fight with the vocals. This is Special Forces storming an embassy and you can hear the guitar sound is causing the speaker cones to strain to the point of breaking. ‘Maker’s Remorse’, ‘Cease/Commence’ and ‘Pristine Condition’ are three sub-two-minute tracks that demonstrate what Mind Rays do so well: mix backstreet dentistry with the petting zoo. Just at the point you think you’ll be lost in the distortion or juddering rhythms there is a tiny sliver of harmony guitar or a hint of a riff. The doubling of staccato instruments and voice in ‘Pristine Condition’ is a highlight. ‘Beasts Ahead’ shows some gaps in the blistering passages of CRⒶSS label rage with breaks in the song for a slow guitar passage and some drunken bar-piano as does ‘Head Back’ which has a driving bass, guitar and drum opening diving headlong into the power chord meat grinder, with the last 20 seconds a perfect slice of widescreen guitar that tickled my limbic system.
‘Single File Line’ is almost part-rap; a howling poem that starts with the low thrum of bass acting as a short fuse that ignites a fully stocked armoury. Both this and ‘Dead Center’ showcase the power of Sis Sevens’ voice to talk/sing and then be used as another instrument that adds to the wall of sound and his voice is more assured on this album; mixed more to the fore than they were on their debut. It’s the last three tracks on the album that are the standout tracks on the album and demonstrate their evolution as a band. On Nerve Endings it felt like they were trying to harness a lightning storm but still getting shocked, but on Course of Action they are learning to harness the electricity and let it power their sound. ‘Dead Center’, ‘Seasonal Disorder’ and ‘Godless Clay’ are the perfect demonstration of this power and showcase the outstanding work that engineer Kapitan Korsakov (of Double Veterans) and producer Pieter-Paul Devos (of Raketkanon) have done in helping Mind Rays to turn a claymore into a laser.
I highly recommend Joyzine readers to take a journey into the speaker warping world of Mind Rays. The rage and the screaming feels like it is part of a modern day polemic but, as I couldn’t find any lyrics to confirm the half-heard words, I could only take the anger and earnest delivery as a signpost not a manifesto. But it’s their sound that hooks you in and makes your cells vibrate. The tectonic activity they produce threatens to pull the songs apart but this four-piece are now like the Fantastic Four: elastic, rock hard, on fire and able to generate a massive force field.
Review by Paul F Cook