They’ve been away for a while, but Massive Attack’s fifth studio album has definitely let them re-stake their claim as the kings of trip-hop. Even though Heligoland is their biggest departure from the true trip-hop sound, it’s equally as good as any of their previous work, if not better.
Heligoland encapsulates everything that Massive Attack is, but manages to not sound the same as any of their previous works. The vocal work throughout the record is wonderful, featuring a whole array of notable guests such as Damon Albarn, Guy Garvey, Horace Andy and Tunde Adebimpe, as well as amazing delivery by the duo itself. As one would expect from a Massive Attack record, the production is sublime. Eerie noises stand out, but don’t detract from the creepy and depressive music. There are the weird beats and rhythms, strange melodies, and clever use of repetition that we’ve all come to look forward to from Massive Attack.
But this isn’t pure trip hop. There’s not as many slow, chilled songs, and much less (if any) record scratching and eerie, drawn out vocals. This really works for them, however, as it prevents them from being another washed up 90’s band, opening them up to a new audience. While there’s no one definitive stand-out track, the whole album works, and each and every track on its own. To put it very simply, everything just sounds plain great.
The lyrics are great and somehow manage to not become cheesy. It’s their simplicity that works in their favour, the fact that they can get the message across in as few words as possible, and can be sung with a perfect melody to accompany the song. They seem as though they were written not for the words, but for how the words sound – their rhymes, tones, structure, length, etc. But that doesn’t lessen the quality of the lyrics themselves. They’re still clever and fitting, blanketing the whole record with the perfect lyrical theme of love, distance and isolation.
Heligoland is a more than welcome release from one of the best groups in the last twenty years. Head-bobbing and interest-grabbing, it’ll keep you listening, most probably on repeat, for a long time to come.
Choice tracks: Pray For Rain; Splitting The Atom; Girl I Love You; Saturday Come Slow; Atlas Air
If you like: Portishead; Tricky