Into the Pit: 112: Senser – Live at Purple Turtle – 16-November 2011

Another week, another gig. I’m currently in the middle of a long run of shows to attend, that lasts until somewhere in mid-December. Indeed this year (2011) I’ve seen more bands in one year than I have in a long time. I’ve seen some poor shows, some OK shows, and some very good ones – and happily this night was another to add to the “very good” pile.

This despite me feeling bloody awful, not helped by a punishingly loud sound for the support acts (please guys, get the levels right?), and the usual Purtle temperature of “sweltering”. I missed the first support act, but did get to enjoy most of the retro rap-metal of The Spindle Sect. They were the first band I’ve come across yet to apparently have (hed)P.E. as their primary influence, and similarly to that band, bounce across the stage with apparently endless energy, and have a whole stack of songs that are really quite catchy. Yeah, so it is nothing new at all, but when it is done with this much energy, I’m happy with that.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but The Painted Smiles are fronted by the ex-frontman of SikTh. Sadly that knowledge wouldn’t have helped me enjoy them any more. While SikTh were a genuinely interesting and different British metal band, this lot are just, well, rather boring. None of it grabbed me at all, just run-of-the-mill metal that had nothing going for it, for me at least.

Supports done with, it was time for Senser at last. I say at last in two ways here – it had been a long day, and also that despite having been a fan since first hearing Stacked Up back in 1994, I’d never got ’round to seeing them live. It isn’t as if I hadn’t had my chances…

A few things became quickly apparent. First off, the core of the band is back in place, although there was no Kerstin on this tour (having had her second child, thats understandable), but her shoes were admirably filled by iMMa, who did a solid job. Also, it was interesting that the focus was almost entirely on material from their first and latest albums, the two inbetween being completely ignored. But it wasn’t just a night of nostalgia.

Not least as the band opened with a new song, and played two more during the night, all three of which suggested that the fire is still there, and they have a positive future still. But the reality was that the biggest reaction was for the old stuff – no less than five songs from the now seventeen year old debut.

Senser setlist:
Devoid [New song]
Resistance Now
No Comply
Hands In The Sky [New song]
Mama Said Knock You Out
States of Mind
Time [New song]
2 3 Clear
Age Of PanicEncore:
She Watch Channel Zero!?

But when you have songs as strong as these, why not keep playing them? The more hip-hop based Switch was utterly fucking ace live, while it was notable that the sentiments in No Comply (dealing with the far-right) and Age Of Panic (economic recession and collapse) are just as prescient now as they were all those years ago. The surprise for me, though, was getting States of Mind tossed into the middle of the set with no fanfare – the blistering opener to that debut.

The new did hold up, though. I’ve mentioned how great 2 3 Clear is already recently, and the brutal power that track unleashes live remarkably makes it even better, while their very latest release, on sale on the tour, was a new EP. But one entirely of covers, of five of the tracks that Heitham was clearly influenced by when growing up, and writing his own material. And of those five tracks, we got two of them – and probably the best two on the EP, too. First up, in the middle of the set, was an absolutely storming take on LL Cool J‘s classic Mama Said Knock You Out, that was a five minute rush that was one of the best live tracks I’ve seen performed all year. The other was their take on Public Enemy‘s She Watch Channel Zero!?, which was enormous fun (and of course allowed the guitarist to channel his inner Kerry King with that riff, as well as a teaser of Angel of Death to begin with!).

Ending the night was, frankly, the track I wanted to hear all night – their very first single Eject. That didn’t disappoint, either, the subtle nuances of the track – it isn’t all flat out – were retained and when needed, the band charged into the heavier sections with some aplomb. Even after all these years, though, this is their best song by some way, and hearing it live at last was a hell of a thrill.

Another band that, despite seemingly still being on the comeback trail, clearly have a bright future ahead. Times are bleak again, as they were when they first appeared, and maybe the time is right again for bands who are willing to make a political point. Now, why aren’t there more bands doing this?

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