Certain creative outfits possess the unusual quality of developing personalities that shift and change as subtly yet as certainly as a human being's. And as Massive Attack enters its second decade, it does so without founding members Mushroom (Andrew Vowles) and Daddy Gee (Grant Marshall, who is currently on sabbatical for his newborn child). So now remaining member Robert Del Naja, a.k.a. 3D, has taken the reins for this current LP alongside collaborators Sinead O'Connor, Damon Albarn and Horace Andy. Surprisingly enough, the sound has not so much aged as it has expanded to cast a troubled world within Massive Attack's cloud-gray vision.
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The heavy-metal dynamics and dysfunctional relationships of the last disc, Mezzanine, have been toned down, but the messages are no less urgent. Cast over this album is the specter of eternal war waged by a nation turned psychotic and a terrified international bully, and O'Connor condemns the fools responsible on both sides of the Atlantic for these dangerous times on "Special Cases" and "A Prayer for England." As always, Massive declares a quiet revolution by stating that even world politics begin in the human heart. The music provides a suitably understated background for these truths to unfold, with percussion raining down lightly on muted ambient textures and floating guitar passages--with the occasional Eastern flourish thrown in on "Antistar" to remind the West of the Other it so desperately needs to embrace. With any luck, there may still be a world left in five years for Massive Attack to write about, but in case you have lost faith, this project will merely shift its shape to reflect it.