Starting with one of the Attacks trademark builders - “Pray for Rain” goes from quite chilled to nearly euphoric in the space of four and a half minute, before dropping back down again and into “Babel”, which has the Massive Attack stamp all over it. It has moved on from the violins and drumbeats of the early incarnations though; here moodily strummed guitars and bass back up jittery percussion - with a typically great vocal over the top (provided here by Martina Topley Bird - who also contributes to the beautiful “Psyche“), something Massive Attack have become known for, and seem to manage with ease. The long-expected album includes parts of sessions that originally were recorded in Damon Albarn’s (Blur/Gorillaz) studio; one of the tracks “Saturday Come Slow”, featuring his instantly recognisable vocals across a track which seems to blend all the best qualities of the three aforementioned iconic groups.
“Flat of the Blade”, is perhaps my favourite here, and it is certainly the most experimental - sounding like Massive Attack in spirit, though with something far more substantial to chew on and digest. “Atlas Air“ has me nervous for a short while, as a slightly cheesy sounding organ riffs away, before it is all made to make sense through bouncing beats. “Rush Minute” doesn’t do it for me so much, but only in comparison to the other tracks of the set. It would still wipe the floor with most of the tracks of lesser artists who shall remain nameless…
Across the set the production is top-drawer, which is no more than you would expect - likewise with the choice of vocalists, especially Martina Topley-Bird, Guy Garvey, Hope Sandoval and Tunde Adebimpe. Something that is different is the maturity, the lack of (if there ever was) a need to impress anymore. This music is not really for dancing, though you could, rather it is there for digesting, for sitting and reflecting, and for realising that Massive Attack have slowly and subtly altered the British dance music map over the years - making themselves British music royalty in the process.