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20 Watts Reviews Massive Attack’s Heligoland by jluposello

Heligoland is yet another classic added to Massive Attack's legendary discography.

WE GIVE IT: 15/20 Watts

After a seven-year hiatus, trip-hop’s founding fathers have returned with a record that may not possess the genre-defining significance of Blue Lines, but certainly reaffirms their position as the quintessential embodiment of the genre. Their latest effort, Heligoland, features a sound saturated with the same focused relaxation that has made Massive Attack trip-hop’s most household name.

Heligoland opens in true Massive Attack fashion, with the intimate, yet intense cut, “Pray For Rain.” It stands as a perfect indication of what is to come later on Heligoland. “Pray For Rain” may very well embody the most attractive elements of the record into one track. Massive Attack manages to bind you to the music in a manner that’s nothing short of tangible, all the while maintaining the same cool that characterizes the roots of the Bristol Sound.

Just as with Blue Lines and Mezzanine, which have both received their fair share of critical acclaim (note the sarcasm), Heligoland makes exquisite use of guest vocalists. Alongside Massive Attack’s Robert “3D” Del Naja and Grant “Daddy G” Marshall is MA album veteran Horace Andy, as well TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, Tricky’s Martina Topley, and Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval, among others.

While the record is mostly stunning, it’s far from perfect. At times, themes can become a bit over-repetitious, which could be easily misinterpreted as a lack of compositional depth. Some may see it s less of a problem, though, especially if you enjoy the hooks as much as most enthusiasts will.

The duo shines on “Paradise Circus,” though. The cut drips with the same force behind standouts “Unfinished Sympathy” and “Teardrop,” all the while maintaining a painfully hushed intensity, held up by the lustfully whispered vocals of Hope Sandoval. The track winds it’s way slowly, but purposefully towards an instrumental finale that can be described as nothing short of classic.

In the end, Massive Attack had massive (pun very much intended) expectations to live up to with their first release after a seven-year hiatus and a discography that is nothing short of genre inventing. Heligoland entrances and engages in true Massive Attack form and will please any trip-hop enthusiast. So give your copy of Blue Lines a break, stop listening to “Unfinished Sympathy” on repeat and get your hands on a copy of Heligoland. You won’t be disappointed.

– John Luposello

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