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Massive Attack ‘Heligoland’

Massive Attack return with ‘Heligoland,’ their first full-length album since 2003’s disappointing ‘100th Window.’ Truth be told, ‘100th Window‘ was essentially a Del Naja solo album since the other two original Massive Attack members were absent from both the writing and recording – Vowles having quit and Marshall on extended holiday. After the misjudged directional change on ‘100th Window,’ the band’s fifth album sees them return to the reggae and jazz infused hip hop sound they pioneered in the ’90s – true Massive Attack music. Whether this is because Grant Marshall (aka Daddy G) is back in the nest, or because Robert Del Naja (aka 3D) realized the failures of his last experiment, is disputable. Either way, ‘Heligoland’ sees a welcome return to form.

Recruiting guest vocalists is standard procedure in Massive Attack music, but never before have they enlisted such a multitude of established artists. Tunde Adebimpe of TV On The Radio lends his vocal talents to opener ‘Pray For Rain,’ a slow and moody tune previously released on 2009’s ‘Splitting The Atom‘ EP. The song ‘Splitting The Atom’ itself is a bit of a disappointing listen, despite featuring the distinctive voice of long-time collaborator Horace Andy (singer of Massive Attack hit-song ‘Angels’). ‘Girl I Love You,’ the other song included that features Andy’s prominent howl, is much more rewarding – trademark brass instrumentation perfectly complements a brooding bass line, which all builds to a chilling climax bursting with evil trumpets.

The most notorious of the guests on ‘Heligoland‘ are Elbow’s Guy Garvey and Blur/Gorillaz’ Damon AlbarnGarvey provides deep, absorbing vocals to ‘Flat of the Blade,’ all to a backdrop of understated, blippy electronica. Albarn features on ‘Saturday Come Slow,’ wailing “do you love me” with rare emotion, over textured acoustic-guitars and strings. Many fans have frowned upon the inclusion of such established rock talent, but these two tunes rank among the best collaborations in the Massive Attackgroup catalogue.  It may be easy to accuse the trip-hoppers of using such guests simply because of the attention their star-power might attract, but Massive Attack aren’t the kind of band that would risk their artistic vision for the sake of big names. In fact, they reportedly recorded sessions with the likes of Beth Orton and Mike Patton, all of which they scrapped (which is a pretty brave move if you ask us).

Heligoland‘ is a dark and tense album, as sinister and challenging as we’ve come to expect from the makers of ‘Mezzanine.’ Sure, it isn’t quite as great as ‘Mezzanine‘, and yes, their roots-inspired trip-hop sound is no longer unique or groundbreaking – but, above everything else, it proves to the naysayers that Massive attack have not yet reached their expiry date.

Tracklist: Massive Attack – Heligoland

01 Pray for Rain (vocals by Tunde Adebimpe)
02 Babel (vocals by Martina Topley-Bird)
03 Splitting the Atom (vocals by Grant Marshall, Horace Andy and Robert Del Naja)
04 Girl I Love You (vocals by Horace Andy)
05 Psyche (vocals by Martina Topley-Bird)
06 Flat of the Blade (vocals by Guy Garvey)
07 Paradise Circus (vocals by Hope Sandoval)
08 Rush Minute (vocals by Robert Del Naja)
09 Saturday Come Slow (vocals by Damon Albarn)
10 Atlas Air (vocals by Robert Del Naja)

Originally published by Rivmixx here

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~ by cliveparisrozario on February 12, 2010.

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