A new Massive Attack album is a rare treat. Their first release since 2003's '100th Window' (although that album was technically more of a solo outing for 3D) is big improvement on that largely forgettable blip, roping in an eclectic group of guest vocalists such as Guy Garvey, Hope Sandoval and Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio.
After an eight year gap, they're back. Massive Attack, one of the most influential British acts of the past twenty years, have been reduced to a core membership of Robert '3D' Del Naja and Grant 'Daddy G' Marshall since Andy 'Mushroom' Vowles abandoned ship in the late nineties, but not since 1998's 'Mezzanine' have the pair worked in full collaborative mode.
They may be known as pioneers of the 'trip-hop' scene, but in truth, it's been a while since Massive Attack have made an album that could be described as such. That's not to say that the pair still can't innovate, though, and their distinctive, brooding trademark sound is rampant throughout their fifth album.
The guest rota is also perhaps their most impressive to date. Hope Sandoval (ex-Mazzy Star) provides one of the album highlights with her sultry, whispered flavouring of 'Paradise Circus', Elbow's Guy Garvey's husky thrum proves a perfect foil to the glitchy bleeps of 'Flat of the Blade', and Damon Albarn's mournful tones sit uncannily well on 'Saturday Comes Slow', while regular collaborator Horace Andy's turn on 'Girl I Love You' is also highly effective.
Many of 'Heligoland''s songs take time to burrow into your consciousness; the initial impact is certainly a powerful one, although repeated listens can reveal a saturation of intensity and gloominess that's overbearing. But then again, what are Massive Attack, if not one of the finest purveyors of intense, gloomy musical doodlings in the business? A fine album, indeed - but perhaps one only for certain moods.