By Eric Chavez
After Sade’s “No Ordinary Love,” the best song used for a love scene in a film has got to be Massive Attack’s “Unfinished Symphony” in the film Sliver, but Massive Attack went on to be known as much more than erotic thriller music makers. The band, in their 20+ year career has broken ground and conventions of what music is and can be. It’s been nearly seven years since their last LP, but not a beat has been missed as seen in Helioland.
Horace Andy of course makes an appearance on the disc, as do many other vocalists. It’s the music, though, that makes this album stand apart from any album out there today. The band has always been known for their experimental beats and song structures and Heligoland does not disappoint.
“Flat on the Blade” shows minimalistic music at it’s most extreme. Hums and electronic beats make up for the backbeat, making it perhaps one of the bands least commercial tracks of all time. Going down the eery road, “Psyche” has a mix of a mesmerizing sound but weak vocals.
The same could be said for “Paradise Circus,” the rhythm is there but the singer just doesn’t cut it. “Saturday Come Slow,” the most commercial on the record, mellows things out and “Atlas Air” brings the electronic bliss to the mix.
The “catchiest” of them all, “Girl I Love You” sounds like a musical theme Madonna may have experimented with in the late 1990’s. We all remember the group and Madonna collaborated in 1995 on her track “I Want You,” a cover of the Marvin Gaye classic. It would have been really interesting to see what else these visionaries could have come up with together.
Going back to the vocals, when it comes to the female vocalist on the album, the thing is that they make you miss the past singers like Neneh Cherry and Shara Nelson. They had soul and grit, and that’s something that these female vocalists clearly lack.
At the end of the day, the music on the record is much like the cover art, done by Robert Del Naja. Its odd, weird, experiment, sometimes infectious, sometimes eerie, sometimes fascinating, but always serves it’s purpose and is not different for the sake of being different. Massive Attack have proved once again that changing things up can bring you far beyond outside the box, if done well, it can lead to success. Not for everyone, but Heligoland makes for an interesting adventure.