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A Darkly Modern Masterpiece
on 10 January 2001
Massive Attack have famously evolved their style throughout their career, from the lush soul/hip-hop notes of Blue Lines to the dubbed-out smoked-out lope of Protection (getting further dubbier on the Mad Professor remix album). This time however, they have really turned things about.
I must admit I was a little apprehensive when I'd heard that they'd gone all "rock" but my first listen to the album in its entirety after hearing the chilling tones of the first single "Rising Son" took all of my (mis)preconceptions, chewed them up and spat them a very long way away. The darker, deeper vibes, briefly visited on Protection's Eurochild are prevelant throughout, with 3D and Daddy G working somber menacing tones, presumably exorcising demons of some kind (the majority of the lyrics being typically cryptic).
Horace Andy, always welcome, is on his usual fine form, his spine-tingling falsetto providing a sublime, haunting edge to "Angel" and "Man Next Door", with new girl Sara Jay showing her rather fine vocal skills on the out and out rocker "Dissolved Girl". Grant (Daddy G) makes a more noticeable appearance than previously, his deep, gruff voice suiting the new vibe perfectly, and it is only after a couple of listens that you notice the absence of Tricky (presumably a result of him having gone "a bit wierd"), though this is no bad thing here.
It is the appearance of Liz Fraser (Cocteau Twins) that truly wins this album though, particularly on the astonishingly beautiful "Teardrop", a true tear inducing masterpiece (despite the lyrics being more or less incoherent!), with its lush strings and heart-beat imitating drum loops. Fraser continues to astound on "Black Milk" and again on her duet with Del Naja, on the apocalyptic penultimate track "Group 4", which is one to be listened to alone, whilst lying down, in the dark, with your stereo volume as loud as it will go.
The whole album, is must be said is rather an introspective one, to be most appreciated whilst alone, and will not appeal to everyone. Even confirmed Massive Attack fans may find its industrial leanings all a little heavy going, although it is all ultimately strangely uplifting, despite the dark, paranoid undertones throughout. One thing this is not, is a party album, but if you do dare to take it on, you will find yourself very well rewarded.