Massive Attack – Heligoland

Finally, after years of waiting, filled with rumors and confusion, Massive Attack’s first real record since 2003’s 100th Window has been released, and it is worth the wait.

One thing that can be said about Bristol’s Massive Attack is that they never repeat themselves, and Heligoland is no exception. The ingredients are familiar: driving rhythms, brooding melodies, massive bass sounds and a healthy mix of digital/analog sounds, but Heligoland has a sound all its own that sets it apart from anything the group has done in the past. At times Heligoland reminds me more of Kid A-era Radiohead than any previous Massive Attack releases, but that could just be because the atonal horns at the end of “Girl I Love You” remind me of the the end of Radiohead’s “National Anthem.”

That Heligoland feels as organic as it does after having been in production for so long comes as a bit of a surprise, as many projects that take this long to complete end up feeling uninspired and hastily thrown together. Somehow, though, Massive Attack has managed to put together a concise and fluid album on par with any of their earlier records.

As always, several guest vocalists appear alongside the signature rasps of founding members Robert Del Naja and Grant Marshall. You’ll notice the familiar voice of long-time Massive Attack collaborator Horace Andy along with a few first-time guests, including Martina Topley-Bird and Hope Sandoval, as they lend their voices to the group’s songs. The vocal performances on Heligoland are perfect for its songs, but I would have liked to hear what collaborations with some of the rumored guest vocalists would have sounded like. Vocalists rumored to have been singing on Heligoland included Tom Waits, Mos Def, David Bowie, Leslie Feist, Tricky, and even Mike Patton.

As with all their releases, Heligoland‘s production is amazing. Everything sounds exactly the way I would want it to. Even the smallest details can be heard, and they still have room to breathe. It is at once raw and crystal clear; it sounds polished without feeling overproduced. This album sounds just as it should.

Heligoland feels very open, making it very easy to listen to in one sitting, which isn’t the case for many newer albums. And, unlike so many new albums, it gets better the more you listen to it. With songs like “Splitting the Atom,” which features vocals by Horace Andy, Robert Del Naja, and Grant Marshall, and “Psyche” with its hypnotic melody, Heligoland will keep you coming back again and again.

The packaging for the standard CD issue of Heligoland is a bit disappointing. The artwork is great, but it’s just an average jewel case with an average insert. The 3xLP deluxe edition, on the other hand, looks amazing. It comes with three heavyweight 180 gram records with bonus tracks and a CD of the LP plus a 12″ book filled with exclusive artwork, all in a unique black glitter sleeve. Go to Vinyl Factory for more info on the vinyl edition.

Massive Attack

Click here to order the 3xLP deluxe edition.

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