Massive Attack – Heligoland

Waiting for seven years before releasing a new album (even considering the stop-gap movie soundtrack, EPs and greatest hits packages) must really put a successful band under a lot of pressure. If so, it’s a pressure that doesn’t show in Heligoland. It’s a dark and foreboding work and commercial is not the first word that springs to mind when listening to it.

Massive Attack, which is now basically the duo of Robert Del Naja and Grant Marshall have followed their usual routine and supplemented their sound with lots of guests. This includes Tunde Adebimpe (TV On The Radio), Damon Albarn (Blur & Gorillaz), Guy Garvey (Elbow) and Martina Topley (Bird) on vocals. While guitarist Adrian Utley (Portishead) and bassist Neil Davidge add to the instrumentation.

The groove has always been the thing that defines the Massive Attack sound, that and the superlative studio craft and the new album delivers in both those categories. While this definitely qualifies as ear candy, it’s more of a savoury treat than a saccharine one. While the guest vocalists contribute elements that add to the overall sound, the end results are more reflective of their individual contributions than being seamlessly absorbed into the Massive Attack sound.

As subdued as the album initially sounds, every listen still divulges new intricacies. It’s a work that grows on you slowly and gets better with familiarity. And in contrast to the previous lengthy time frame, there are already rumours that an EP made up of tracks recorded during the Heligoland sessions might see the light of day as early as this May.
Rob Hudson

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