23 January 2014

Senser - To The Capsules



I would imagine that those of you who are aware of Senser would probably be surprised that they are still going. You may also wonder WHY they are still going. Back when they released their first album Stacked Up in 1994 Rap Metal was a thrilling and new form of music, now it’s dated, lumpen and completely irrelevant.
The majority of Rap Metal bands tended to be a straightforward metal band with a rapper (and often a ‘Turntablist’. Is there a more redundant and limited musical talent?) roughly shoehorned in to fit in with the current trends. Senser, on the other hand, were one of the few that perfectly melded the two styles of music, along with a pronounced electronic influence. They had a fluid, natural sound that didn’t sound at all forced or bandwagony.  One possible reason is that Heithem Al-Sayad is a talented and unique rapper AND singer, as is his sidekick Kirsten Heigh. He raps with a clear English accent and manages to avoid sounding chavvy.  Senser stood out from the crowd and it was a shame when they finally split in 1999.

Thankfully, as you may have gathered from this review, they reformed again in 2003 and To The Capsules is their third album since their reformation, following Schematic (2004) and How To Do Battle (2009). It was released at the arse end of 2013 though slightly earlier for those who paid via the, well-documented, PledgeMusic site.

Senser back in 1995

It opens gradually as Devoid slowly builds up until a big, chuggy riff fires up. The song is a clear statement of intent, the band sound as angry as they did twenty (twenty!) years ago on Stacked Up.
Time Travel Scratch eases off the rock and is more of a straightforward hip hop song, as are Liquidity and Chemtrails later on. They ably demonstrate Heitham’s, er, ‘sick rhymes’ and, indeed, his ‘flow’.  That all three are catchy, competent hip hop and don’t sound at all out of place is testament to Senser’s eclecticism and natural ability to fluctuate through genres.

Next up is Witch Village which is the lead single from To The Capsules, it starts with a stop-start, squealing riff that sounds vaguely Industrial . The guitars pick up in the verses and the rolling riff reminds me of Slayer.

The next two tracks are standout ones for me: Wounded Spectre has kind of a 70’s Glam Rock vibe to it, like Devil Gate Drive, Blockbuster etc. A thumping, synthy riff drives it along nicely. Break The Order is a frenetic burst of hardcore aggression which echoes the furious No Comply (from their debut, Stacked Up). The chorus could be less repetitive as it’s just the same sentence repeated over and over again but as the song is just two and a half minutes long it’s forgivable.
This occurs on several tracks,  particularly on Echelon, an otherwise excellent, sprawling, Prog Metal epic. But the chorus is “Us Above All Others” repeated way more times than required to make its point.

So Senser may be as relevant in 2014 as Val Doonican but To The Capsules is perhaps their strongest album to date and who cares about being relevant anyway? Here's to twenty more years.

8 out of 10 Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Best Track: Wounded Spectre



 This is the, frankly awful, video for Witch Village.

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