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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 10 February 2010
This album is not going to be liked by all fans of Massive Attack, or at least not right away. The depth of music of Blue Lines or Protection, or the intensity of Mezzanine seems to be lacking here, although probably everyone will notice that the music is stronger that anything we have heard from Massive Attack in the last 12 years. I would dare suggest that the depth of music is still here, but it has been...relocated. Miles Davis once said that his musical style kept changing on him, just like a curse. Well, after 16 years in business Massive Attack has gone experimental, atmospheric and minimalist all at once. However, all those changes affect mostly the added layers of the background of their music.

I have to say honestly that I have been disillusioned with a lot of new music of various styles, lately, and this new album by Massive Attack to me is one of the nicest musical surprises of the last many months, ever since Porcupine Tree's The Incident was released. The incorporation of the experimental ambient layers of sound in addition to the industrial tones which for a long time have been with Massive Attack makes this album unique to me. The overall mood is mellow, peaceful and reflective but it spreads over a wide sound texture. These songs may sound simple and plain at first, but they do grow on us with repetitive listening. I really feel like with this album the music of Massive Attack positioned itself somewhere between Massive Attack and Radiohead, and that is a perfect place to be in. Really, the Zoviet France like undertones of a few of their new songs (this album hides many jewels in the back of itself and its songs) are exactly the layers which make the music of Radiohead so addictive. The song number 7 for example, reminds me a little bit of Radiohead's Videotape.

I especially like tracks: 8,5,7,9,10,1.
Track 1 begins like cover of some bluesy Peter Green song from In The Skies, and then progresses into many different stages and layers. Track 2 is driven by a Joy Division like sounding bass and drum line and it is one of the most energetic songs of the album. Track 3 develops one of the most haunting atmospheric background melodies. Track 4 is full of texture which again, is located at the final minute of a song, a very Radiohead like approach. Track 5 has a Steve Reich like repetitive feeling to it. It is quite beautifully structured with a skillfully interwoven vocal line. Track 6 is very trippy and will probably turn quite a few listeners off. However, there is much more happening here besides the Skinny Puppy like rhythm section which becomes less prevalent as this song progresses. The beauty of track 7 is apparent from the beginning and it has a hypnotic quality. Just play it on repeat 1 and you might experience a beautiful enchanted evenings. Track 8 floats in between Massive Attack, Radiohead and Joy Division, a truly perfect ground. Both tracks 9 and 10 are...very complex... underneath.

Again, please listen to this album quite a few times before you decide that you really don't like it as much. This music will grow on you...
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on 19 May 2012
After Massive Attack's last full length album in 2003 ('100th Window'), Robert Del Naja and co were long overdue for a fifth installment of electronica trip-hop. With Andrew Vowles departing and Grant Marshall making a his welcome return, good things were expected as the previous album was lesser received than the cult classic 'Mezzanine' and contained a little too much '3D'. Like the albums mentioned, 'Heligoland' also showcases talent from special guess vocalists such as Elbow's Guy Garvey and Damon Albarn from Blur and Gorillaz. The cover is artwork from 3D's growing back catalogue and although the disc is bland looking, whats on it is some seriously dodgey treats. 12 tracks, ranging through 4 to almost 8 minutes (no shortens here) for over 50 minutes of massive mayhem.

Track no.1 'Pray for Rain' sounds like a drug rattled mind, bobbing back and fourth in a dark room corner. A few seconds in and Massive Attack have already set an atmospheric tone of dark and troublesome. With a low rattle of drums, a haunting repetitive piano and sly bass which could easily be a synthetic effect. There are two parts to the song, the initial part, rolling along saying "..and their necks crane/their eyes change.. as they turn to pray for rain/learn to see through flame" then the breakdown halfway through altering drum patterns and adding various sound effects and Tunde Adebimpe spewing "Vision walls fall fast and fleeting. Vision walls fall all revealing" then calming it down with all sorts of vocal hums and a bass line similar to 'Blue Lines' style. A very strange song and one that totally stands out. 'Babel' has a nice change of pace as Martina Topley-Bird takes over the vocals for a rushing track with strong string sounds and a high tempo percussive beat. "Was it how she kissed you and then dismissed you? Was it purposeful or just to hook you in?" is delicately declared until a spasm of incoherent rhyming ensues - "Hallucinating, chasing, changing, racing, breaking, hating till you lost it all". Although it runs over 5 minutes, it goes by in a breeze due to its snappy instrumentation and catchy vocals.

Slowed down and chilled out is the next theme in 'Splitting the Atom', the only single officially released from the album. Horace Andy and Grant Marshall offer 3D their aid in the form of smooth vocals to an already slick, bubbling song. More mellow hip hop with added trip, "Its easy - don't let it go" is the mantra chorus from Andy and although slightly chilling at times, thanks to the background score, the short sentence verses keep you nodding along mindlessly, to one of the slowest tracks on Heligoland. 'Girl I Love You' is instantly admirable with a righteous, rumbling bass like from beginning to end and the classic stuttering vocal work from Horace Andy. The lyrics don't vary much from a standard love letter, just plain and simple, avoiding all the BS and demanding "You promise you will never let me down.. If you love me that much you would stick around" - cue the brass section, trumpets, trombones, tubas, whatever sound out the same note over and over, until they all fall out of tune and sound hideous.. original but unpleasant. 'Psyche' starts with 2 frantic spanish guitars, merely performing pull-offs as Topley-Bird offers more vocals. She sound like a depressed Lily Allen here, as the guitars continue to repeat behind her, fading in and out. Thankfully its the shortest track as hearing the first couple of notes is enough to drive you mad.

Sadly, it gets even worse thanks to Guy Garvey dull and dreary performance in 'Flat of the Blade'. Perhaps its just the terrible sounds of bleeps and bloops going on throughout the song that make it a difficult song to star in to begin with. His voice is flat and follows a melody to what seems like a totally different song. Some quiet orchestral work shines through for a few minutes but its not enough to save a blatantly awful song. So pleasing it is to hear the seventh track, lucky number 7, 'Paradise Circus' with Hope Sandoval at the helm, with her brand of melancholy vocals, funky drum and bass work and piano synchronizing with bell/glockenspiel effects. "Love is like a sin, my love. For the ones that feel it the most. Look at her with her smile like a flame.. She will love you like a fly will never love you.. again". Incredibly moving and downbeat thanks to the delightful string section and heavy piano notes, crashing on the keys. It could be evidence that the members of Massive Attack should leave most of the singing to others as its the Bristol lads at their best, a song I'd recommend, although you've probably heard it on adverts here and there.
'Rush Minute' sounds straight out of '100th Window' as 3D starts his standard lackadaisical lyrics in front of more dark notes, gaining momentum after each verse. "I wanna get clean but I gotta get high" sounds more like a rap than the usual MA story, "Peaches living in niches, digging the scene like beautiful cliche's" is more like it. Again, the piano works well behind the scenes sounding like an evil version of Coldplay's 'Clocks' at times and using several string effects, dawdling from the chorus'. Second to last is 'Saturday Come Slow', a personal favourite of mine on the album, which has Damon Albarn provide the singing in dramatic fashion. As the tom toms clutter their way into rhythm and a rustic guitar finds a melody, Albarn recalls "In the limestone caves, in the south ways lands. One sound in the kingdom, believers understand". More of a showman than a pitch perfect vocalist, Albarn manages to stoke a fiery performance with his desperate cries of "Saturday come slow.. Do you love me!?" whilst an equally tear jerking piano pieces sharp notes bounce along to the guitar. An interlude at the halfway point features birds chirping and electronic feedback and noise gather more force for the final delivery of 'Saturday Come Slow', ending with "Is there nothing left?".

A suitable ending is 'Atlas Air' with one of the most catchiest introductions Massive Attack have come up with. The shaking organ and a generic drum loop will get stuck in your head for hours, and as its the longest song on the album, its a lengthy goodbye to remember. "Fish like little silver knives, make the cuts on my inside" - some more of 3D's imagery comes to vivid fruition. That is until "got nothing to lose but my chains, internet feeds on my brains". Towards the last few verses, a second melody is overlaid, ricocheting off the drums and causing havoc then things get eerily quiet. Nothing, not even light hearted bongos can prepare you for the fattest, robotic riff wiggling around in your ear drums. Its not enough that this melody get loudly fired into your mind but the initial intro gets played again to close the song so you never forget it and end up tapping fingers on your desk or mumbling and mimicking the noises.

Theres a lot to be found here in 'Heligoland', for either dedicated fan or brief listener as its subtle songs can grow in stature and others are solid performances that always shine through, so much so that varies television channels and series will use Massive Attack music in the backgrounds to many of their programming, something thats been done since the famous 'Teardrop'. Its certainly different to all the other albums, making use of far simpler instruments but also combining them with the styles and effects that made them popular in the first place. Something to consider is that the handful of vocalist who submit their talents to the group, and star on the album track-list must believe greatly in MA's work, often cited as an influence or an honor. Its your chance to get into some super catchy tunes as well as hear new musicians you may not have been aware of before, look out for it.
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on 8 February 2010
This is an album you quite simply have to buy, it's that simple.

As one of the few Massive Attack fans that really loved 100th Window, despite it's 'unlistenable' parts, this new album is back to what made them great in the 1st place. While it never reaches the heights of their 1st 3 albums - I don't think that would be possible anyway - this has some absolutely sublime moments and even mixes in some little snippets of light into the usual dark concoction.

The choice of vocalists is, once again, inspired, particularly Guy Garvey's tortured soul on 'Flat of the Blade' which stands out as one of the finer moments on the album, although it does take a couple of listens to get your head round. Opener 'Pray for Rain', 'Girl I Love You', closer 'Atlas Air' and the afore-mentioned 'Flat of the Blade' stand up to scrutiny along side Massive Attacks best works, it's not that the rest of the tracks are in any way bad, just that they aren't real 'Vintage' Massive Attack.

All in all then, a superb return to form. Will Grant Marshall and Robert Del Naja be able to stand each other long-enough for them to release another record sooner than the 7 years we've had to wait for this one? Who knows, but let's enjoy it while it lasts.
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on 9 February 2010
After the letdown that was the pretty dismal Splitting The Atom EP and from the clips you can hear on Amazon's MP3 downloads I should've stuck with my initial impression and not bothered with this. While I liked much of 100th Window as far as I'm concerned the only good track here is Girl I Love You with Horace Andy and a thundersome bassline. It's hard to believe this took such a long time in coming. Minimalist numbers like the title track sound like they could've been knocked out by some kid who can just about master Chopsticks on a £50 Casio keyboard. Track five featuring that bloke from Elbow is dire and Damon Albarn's contribution was not worth bothering with. The contributions from the female singers are also underwhelming. Frankly, the forgettable Danny The Dog was a sign of things to come. Shame to say, Heligoland is not only way inferior to the first three albums but it also falls well short of 100th Window.
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on 11 February 2010
Firstly i would like to point out that i rarely write reviews but after listening to this i just HAD to.

I would also like to point out i am a big fan of their previous work and my 5 favorite massive attack tracks are...

what your soul sings
future proof
protection
safe from harm
small time shot away

i say this because music is a realm of tastes and obviously some opinions are different to others, so now you know what i like about MA...I see massive attack as a benchmark of rich, deep, sensuality, crisp beats and subtle nuances within the electronica that combine into sublimity itself...heligoland does none of the above.

i wont bore you with a list of the tracks and where they all fail but i listened and genuinely thought i was listening to the work of others? its a hash of disjointed beats, repetitive lyrics and discomforting rhythms...it holds none of the edge of 'mezzanine' nor the smooth practised skill of "100th window". Where they used to have an agreeable melancholy its been replaced by something that makes me think of pale emo's sitting in the shopping centre, its clumsy and unpleasant on the ear with virtually every track.

i wont discourage you from buying it as i think there will be a hard core of MA fans who will buy it regardless...its worth listening to just to hear how bad this album is.

Summary= the worst album they have made.
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on 31 January 2012
A step away from previous albums with the odd nod back to them. The songs are lo fi in comparison. the darker mood is continued from later albums with a much stripped back approach. Strangely in the same ball park as Tricky's Nearly God album. very minimalistic and stark. It is still a good album with a bit not there.
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on 17 April 2010
To offer a comparision with Radiohead's recent 'In Rainbows' for its renaissance factor would not be far off the mark, and having grown up with Massive Attack and listened to all their albums, this one pleasantly surprised me.. and in the best possible way a classic album can..it rapidly grows on you and earworms its way into your day with lots of worming space to spare. Robert Del Naja has swallowed the Nick Drake melancholy tune book and given it an experimental electronic flare that is sometimes equalled but never surpassed in UK music IMHO, and this album still has an overall cutting edge, which is remarkable for a band that has been around since 1988. Therefore luke warm reviews coming from across the pond (e.g. Pitchfork 5/10) are even more puzzling to me - the juicy discordant middle-eight break in 'Girl I Love You' and very addictive base line of 'Psyche' are worth the entrance fee alone :)) A slow burner for sure and, if like me, you were slightly under-awed by '100th Window', Heligoland should not disappoint!
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on 28 March 2013
It takes about 4 goes but when you get there its a truly great album. Its so rich and textured, clearly a real labour of love from the bristol massive.
For me its better than protection. Obviously nothing tops mezzo or blue lines but this is still right up there.
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on 2 September 2012
I've been buying Massive Attack albums for years on the strength of Blue Lines which I think is a modern masterpiece. Unfortunately the other albums have left me disappointed. So I was quite surprised when I listened to Heligoland - it really is a return to form.
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on 29 July 2011
From 100th Window I can remember "Everywhen" and that was the sole standout track for me. Heligoland is an album which I listen to all the way through without skipping too often even though the final track is nearly 10minutes.

Had I been a major hardcore fan I would've known that Paradise Circus was abridged for the theme music to the BBC cop series "Luther", so I had already heard it at least 10 times without knowing it was them - welcome surprise when I bought the album, but Pray For Rain is an addictive introduction track with a bridge that's almost at the end of the song, so nice and different. Mezzanine being 13 years ago I'm not bothered about holding them up to the standard of an album I don't listen to anymore, their latest album is the best I've heard in a long time and is as much of a grower as their other albums.
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