To be honest, I overlooked this album when it first came out. The main reason was that the previous album, 100th Window, was incredibly one-paced, and, for want of a better word, dreary. The tracks on that album had poor lyrics, and one dimensional vocalists Del Naja (ok for a track or so) & Sinead O'Connor (?), and the tracks had no hooks, no progression, no definition, no edge, and for me, held no interest, sounding slightly muzaky.
Heligoland is what i call vintage Massive Attack. The variation is there, and a decent array of guest vocalists are present. So, in some respects this is like Blue Lines, but has more in common with Mezzanine, sounding quite dark and dense. 'Flat of the blade' does give the listener some restbite from that heavy atmosphere though, but even this track evolves and brings the listener back in by it's conclusion - it serves as a puncuation for the album (a good thing in my opinion). Whether Heligoland will hold my interest like Blue Lines (which, incidently, is starting to sound a little dated) and Mezzanine, or will suffer the same fate as Protection (which was accomplished but a little 'safe'), remains to be seen. I suspect it won't lose my interest because it has that slightly haunting quality and distinctive enough tracks. It will take quite a few listens to understand this album - more than the usual 4 or 5, i'm talking 10+ listens.
This has gone under the radar a bit, with people having unrealistic expectations of it, but trust me, there is some real quality here. A lot of the tracks ebb and flow with real aplomb, changing continually, most of which is subtly engaging in different ways, never stagnating, never repeating the same vocalists or patterns across the course of the album. No real standout tracks, but then why should there be? This is an album in the true sense of the word. It's going to be spending quite a lot of time in my CD player over the next few months.