Music Review: Massive Attack – Heligoland (2010)

22 02 2010

Website, My Space

HQ on web

Album Artwork

Track Listing

  1. 1. “Pray for Rain” (vocals by Tunde Adebimpe) – 6:43
  1. 2. “Babel” (vocals by Martina Topley-Bird) – 5:18
  1. 3. “Splitting the Atom” (vocals by Grant Marshall, Horace Andy and Robert Del Naja) – 5:15
  1. 4. “Girl I Love You” (vocals by Horace Andy) – 5:26
  1. 5. “Psyche” (vocals by Martina Topley-Bird) – 3:23
  1. 6. “Flat of the Blade” (vocals by Guy Garvey) – 5:29
  1. 7. “Paradise Circus” (vocals by Hope Sandoval) – 4:58
  1. 8. “Rush Minute” (vocals by Robert Del Naja) – 4:48
  1. 9. “Saturday Come Slow” (vocals by Damon Albarn) – 3:42
  1. 10. “Atlas Air” (vocals by Robert Del Naja) – 7:47

Band Members


  • Robert del Naja (aka 3D)
  • Daddy G

Studio Albums

  • Blue Lines (1991)
  • Protection (1994)
  • Mezzanine (1998)
  • 100th Window (2003)
  • Heligoland (2010)

Heligoland is the fifth regular studio album from the collaborative British, Bristol trip-hop music production duo Massive Attack.  It was recorded from October 2008 through to June 2009.

The group formed in 1987 around their influential and legendary Dug Out club and Jamaican-style soundsystem, playing a blend of hip hop, new wave reggae, early house and techno which shaped their acclaimed 1991 debut, Blue Lines. Mezzanine, their third album released in 1998 proved to be a creative and commercial peak selling in excess of three million albums.

Heligoland is released seven years after their previous non-soundtrack, standalone studio album, 100th Window. 100th Window, was created mainly by Robert del Naja (aka 3D), Heligoland is cooperative effort of both original band members Robert del Naja (aka 3D) and Daddy G. Album is named after German archipelago Heligoland.

The artwork, as with every Massive Attack album since Protection, is collaboration between Tom Hingston and Del Naja, this time based on Del Naja’s paintings. Maybe it will be interesting to some that the cover image has been banned on the London Underground, due to it being deemed by Transport For London, to too closely resemble “street art”.

Heligoland is the kind of album that I had to give a couple of tries before the music really got to me. And in my experience that’s not a bad thing.  Opposite, the music that had to be listened a couple of times over again to catch, usually stays in my Hi-Fi system the longest.

First words would have to be the Heligoland is a natural continuation of the previous works by these magnificent artists. The feel of the music that follows them throughout their discography is similar, with tension and dread in all the tracks and familiar trip-hop stoned atmospheres. When I listen to music of Massive attack I always get the feeling that I’m the part of some psychedelic David Lynch like movie scene.

Most of people compare new Massive Attack releases to their commercially most successful Music Albums Blue Lines and Mezzanine. But to me, Masssive Attack are so unique, their sound so different from anything else on the scene, that every new album sounds very fresh and almost essential addition to furrow up the music everyday.

The record features always-chosen Horace Andy plus the following invited vocalists: Tunde Adebimpe of TV On The Radio, Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz, Hope Sandoval of Hope Sandoval And The Warm Inventions and Mazzy Star, Guy Garvey of Elbow and Martina Topley-Bird, as well as guitar playing by Adrian Utley of Portishead (on “Saturday Come Slow”), keys from Portishead collaborator John Baggott (most notably on “Atlas Air”), keys and synth bass from Damon Albarn (“Splitting the Atom” and “Flat of the Blade” respectively), bass by Neil Davidge (“Girl I Love You”) and bass by Billy Fuller of Beak> on various tracks.

Album Peaks: The album as a whole. My favourites maybe “Rush Minute”, “Saturday Come Slow”,…

I’ll post parts of the Interview of Robert del Naja done by Steve Harnell in CrackerJack.

About how Heligoland is different/similar to previous Massive Attack releases:

»If you’re doing something you’ve done before, there’s an overwhelming sense of repetition which eventually kills you. The human mind is always hungry for new experiences. I think it’s instinctive with us. The thing I’ve always found exciting is disassembling an idea and pulling it apart. It’s that anarchy that I’ve always loved. I was a bit young for the punk thing, but it informed me dramatically. The collage of things when people turned ideas on their head and forced them into places they shouldn’t have been, whether it was storytelling, painting or music, I’ve always dug that.«

On the question how the Album should be listened:

»You don’t have to capture everything in one moment. It’s like buying an iPhone and adding apps to it. It’s something you can completely alter as you go along to suit yourself. There are no rules. The old model is no longer relevant. As a soundsystem we used to rip apart people’s songs for fun. People can do with this record what they see fit. There’s a part of me that wants the album to work as a complete piece over 50 minutes and another that just says screw it, tear it apart and do what you like with it. This is all there to be stolen from and abused. Music isn’t a precious commodity.«

My suggestion, choose the quiet evening, put the Massive Attack’s Heligoland on repeat in your Hi-Fi system, sit back and relax in your favorite listening spot and this time, take a good book that you’re reading along and the first few listening, let the Heligoland music be the background for whatever experiences are going on in your head.

Heligoland won’t let down old MA fans and people that like and can digest with pleasure sound specifics of sometimes claustrophobic trip-hop. It is a great musical work that takes you from everyday life to surreal, dreamy, trans-like perceptions of creative compositions of this legendary trip-hop pioneers.

Familiar to: Portishead, Tricky,…




One response

22 02 2010

Had a pleasure to listen to Heligoland, good album must say. My album peaks: Splitting the Atom, Paradise Circus,…

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