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  • Writer's pictureSpyros Psarras

Album Review: Heligoland | Massive Attack

I always arrive about a million years late at those crowded parties where people obsess over music at the right time, when the music is blowing up. As a matter of fact, I don’t enjoy crowds.

The main party I missed here was of course Mezzazine, back in 1998, when I was 10yo obsessing over pop stars, not knowing any better. Still, I’m not crying over spilled milk but enjoy a couple of Massive Attack albums instead in 2021.

Heligoland wins the first prize by far with about 15 repetitions and a blazing need to express myself about it. I’m writing this review while the bass of ‘Pray for Rain’ is piercing through each cell of my body and shaking the floor like tectonic plates. The repeating dramatic key arrangement and percussion compose a drug that makes it hard to not taste once more but I decide to let the album spin and move on to ‘Babel’. The pace is getting faster and impatient, the drug has not weakened one bit, it only transfers its attributes to other elements. More specifically, a subtle bell on the background of an almost numb vocal that sounds seduced by the melody it’s singing on. The song is apparently talking about a break up: ‘Hallucinating, chasing, changing, racing, breaking, hating till you lost it all’ but nothing is given in particular and the storytelling is notional.

‘Splitting the Atom’ sounds like the 3rd reincarnation of this ever-recycling nirvana until now. Three out of three. A hazy, defected synth Is repeating itself to eternity and makes me want more of this. The extreme repetition is a foundational material for this album to work as the addiction it does but I know many won’t enjoy this. As I’m wondering about the next transformation of the med I’m listening to, I say to myself ‘How did I ever miss Massive Attack?’ The artworks of their album covers have definitely crossed my eyes from time to time. Why on earth did I find it too underground for me?

‘Girl I love you’ goes among my favorites. ‘Girl, I love you but your loving, it's gone foreve-e-e-er’. The bass swallows the room I’m in, together with me and my soul. Huge brasses are climaxing, orgasmic and royal, keeping me on my toes until they get lighter, weaker, scattered, fading to the end of the track. A pause for ‘Psyche’ to come, where the guitar brings an earthly dimension, more tangible and human for the first time until now. The bassline is never missing. It keeps all the stars hanging in the same sky with the listener floating in it like a lost astronaut.

‘Flat of the Blade’ touches the uncomfortable zone. The voice ignores the melody dictated by the twisted electronic sounds until it decides to follow. Something ethnic is lying underneath the track with rising brasses coming and going. And so, what once felt alien, ends up being melodic and real, yet outlandish, like walking through a desert under a full moon of extraordinary proportions. ‘Flat of the Blade’ is a ‘love it or leave it’ part of Heligoland.

‘Paradise Circus’ reminds me of Soley’s ‘We Sink’ album. With magic spilling all over the piano and gentle claps echoing in a small, wooden room with a burning fireplace. That's the image. Overwhelming violins appear to give a proper build-up and then close the curtain of this graceful drop in a sea of dramaturgy. ‘Rush Minute’ gives off the same vocal energy that ‘Babel’ does, fast paced with almost insensate vocals. Maybe the flattest moment of Heligoland so far but still there’s longing and burning anxiety in it.

‘Saturday Come Slow’…That’s something we’ve all wished for. Even though i’m not very familiar with Radiohead… Is this Radiohead? No. Massive Attack are removing their edgy armor to rest in a warm bed of emotions. The ‘Do you love me’? part sounds surprisingly painful after the ecstatic darkness we’ve experienced so far. It’s a break that could come sooner but is still welcome. ‘Atlas Air’ makes the body move to an Eastern breeze as I’m reaching the end of the journey I started in ‘Flat of the blade’. Back in the desert.

Let’s talk about ‘Fatalism’ lying among the alternative versions at the bottom of the tracklist like a gleaming gem. This will be appreciated by the weirdos of music. An anorthodox experiment of a track that you can either love or hate for it’s neither absent nor present. The moments it's present, it's heart-wrenching. Vulnerable like ‘Saturday Come Slow’. The moments it's absent, it's nowhere and everywhere at the same time. Those will be most enjoyed by Moderat fans.

I don't know if my nervous system can withstand further replays of this masterpiece for tonight but I do know that it's never too late for music. Timing is a true wonder. The fact that one can enjoy music many years after its release like it was meant to happen. This reminds me of the famous story of a man who was doubting everything around him, saying 'maybe' to whatever he witnessed. And all that he doubted, would indeed change the next day. Where am I going with this? Well, what now is, tomorrow it isn't. What now looks dull, tomorrow may look interesting. Let's say 'maybe' instead of 'never' and wondrous things may come! Embrace whatever comes :)


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