Despite a brief period around 1994/95 when they were the darlings of the indie music scene, appearing on TV several times and even being invited to perform at Glastonbury, London based rap/rock sextet Senser have spent much of their existence in relative obscurity, eclipsed by bigger names such as One Minute Silence, Skunk Anansie and Skindred. While their style of music has been much maligned, what with its close links to nu-metal, it hasn’t put Senser off and their fifth album “To the Capsules”, a self-produced, crowd-funded opus is likely to have their fan base going gaga. It may attract a few new converts as well.
The tried and tested rap/rock formula that Senser has more or less perfected over the past two decades is in fine display throughout the majority of “To the Capsules.” Opening track ‘Devoid’ contains everything one would expect; a few basic riffs, a politically themed rap that’s hardly likely to give Zack de la Rocha sleepless nights and the odd bit of scratching thrown in to remind you how urban the whole thing is. ‘Time Travel Scratch’ is better with its strong Beastie Boys flavour, although the claim that “this isn’t rap, this is a psychic transmission” may cause a few raised eyebrows, although not as many as the crisp, almost Slayer style guitars of ‘Witch Village’ which ups the ante nicely, while the upbeat jaunt of ‘Wounded Spectre’ builds and progresses effectively in a mere three minutes.
The instrumentation is solid throughout “To the Capsules” with Nick Michaelson demonstrating a deft handling of his instrument; especially on the hectic riffing of ‘Break the Order.’ He’s backed up well by James Barrett’s probing and busy bass guitar which thankfully leaves the slaps out and by John Morgan’s measured drumming, which over reliance on the cymbals aside does the job with aplomb. Vocalist Heitham Al-Sayed’s raps are a weak point however with their recycled lyrical themes and lukewarm delivery, although the guest vocal spots littered throughout the album help rescue the situation somewhat.
There is plenty of variety on display from the woozy, Eastern tinged ‘Alpha Omega’, the engaging rap-lead ‘Liquidity’ through to the thoughtful and assured melodies of closing track ‘Let There Be War.’ Considering the limits of the rap/rock genre, this is a considerable achievement as no song on “To the Capsules” sounds the same and is a clear indication that a long time spent in the game has paid off for Senser. While this type of music will be an instant turn-off for many, those who give it a chance will be pleasantly surprised at the level of skill, musicianship and ideas on display. So much more than an Rage Against The Machine knock-off, “To the Capsules” is clear proof that when the conditions are right, quality can be found anywhere.