Mercurial Bristolians Robert Del Naja and Grant Marshall, AKA Massive Attack, return with their first new musical output since 2010’s ‘Heligoland’. The trip-hop legends inception in 1988 seems eons ago, thankfully they show no signs of diminished creative prowess on the wonderful ‘Ritual Spirit’.
The EP opens in unforgiving fashion, a collaboration with Roots Manuva sees a pulverising sub bass combine with Roots Manuva’s gritty vocals to produce a dark, murky animal of a track. The introspective, nocturnal onslaught Massive Attack utilise so impressively is impervious throughout, no more so than on the title track, shimmering guitars drape the intro in mystery and intrigue, as a Azekel’s ghostly falsetto rises from the mist. A lumbering drumbeat is the rigid backbone for an expressive, fluid soundscape, the instrumentation gels fantastically as the song fades from a roar into a beautiful sparsity of nothing. The group vocals of Scottish rap trio Young Fathers slide seamlessly into the urgent ‘Voodoo in my blood’, a sinister drum circle, both electronic and organic, has primitive and relentless drive, as the vocals snap “Wipe that cheeky grin from your mouth” with acerbic bite. The track swells with compelling guitars, a dread-inducing, ominous electric drumbeat while eerier synths creep in. Menace climbs to its frightening peak on final cut ‘Take it there’, a black, depthless ocean of a song featuring fellow Bristolian trip-hop pioneer Tricky. A grainy effect on the instrumentation fills the bones with uneasiness, ensuing filthy beats and a moody piano fuse with Tricky’s devilish, sneering vocals perfectly. An epic finale closes the track, and EP, a fitting omnipotent wave of darkness.
A gloriously moody, triumphant return for Massive Attack then, leaving the listener longing for more atmospheric, pensive trip-hop. A new album is desperately needed soon!