Massive Attack are pioneers of Trip-Hop music. Having said that, the group consisted of three British men who did not wish to create a pigeonholed recording under that label for just the sake of it, understandably. With painstaking attention to detail and many musical guests on this record, Massive Attack decided to go for a darker and more paranoid style of sound that eventually was widely received as a classic album for it. Let’s explore this album and hear if, indeed, it is a classic album.
Angel is the signature track from this album which was featured in the film Snatch which had Brad Pitt and Jason Statham in it. It begins with deep, dark subsonic bass, quickly followed by some basic beats. Some subtle guitar parts enter, and this sounds really amazing from the start. It is an epic and monumental piece of music that sounds brilliant. Some female soul vocals enter, which adds to the suspense of this piece. “You are my angel, come from way above, to bring me love,” is sung, before some very Leftfield style beats enter and the bassline becomes more overdriven. A great and suspenseful tune, the build-up to the climax here is really amazing. There are some wonderful electric guitar parts that flow through this piece, along with some brilliant production and sounds throughout. The female vocals then follow once again, and this piece sounds furious. In fact, this is one of the angriest sounding tracks ever created. This piece continues along with more excellent electric guitar. If this is an example of a track from this album, it sure sounds truly amazing. Towards the end, it gradually breaks apart back towards the subtlety of the intro, before gradually going back to the subsonic basslines and beats. A brilliant effort, all the way to the fade-out.
Risingson is next, beginning with eerie electronic sounds and real basslines, launching into a fantastic groove. Some clear, yet raspy male vocals enter and this piece, once again, sounds really amazing. This is a deep, dark and somewhat disturbing listen, especially for EDM style music. Some extra Reggae style vocals from another contributor follow, and this piece sounds dramatic and excellent. It is super psychedelic too, adding to the dark bad trip styled atmosphere. In the middle is some amazing processed wah-wah styled sounds, and this gets driving along nicely. This is, once again, a killer tune that sounds fresh and amazing to this day. Even efforts by other EDM headliners of the day (and some today) do not match this. There is a cool breakdown towards the end before the wah-wah sounds and percussion make you appreciate this wonderful tune. It is really amazing, no other way to describe it.
Teardrop is the most popular piece from this album. It begins with some vinyl fuzz and some basic beats before some subtle harpsichord melodies are brought to the fore of the track. Piano follows, which adds to the feel of the track. Female vocals enter, which are impressive and plainly delivered. This is a piece to lie on the bed and close one’s eyes to, it is simply magical. This is a powerful listen, and it sounds really gorgeous and beautiful. In the middle is a neat instrumental pastiche that sounds like the result of hours of painstaking work attended to, it just sounds really awesome. A grand and beautiful piece that sounds truly inspired and full of neat little details, this is Trip Hop for those who like to relax. The second half has another nice instrumental breakdown, proving the beauty and excellence of this track. A majestic and inspired piece of musical beauty, this sounds fantastic. It ends with some interesting electronic sounds, a very good tune.
Inertia Creeps begins with an eerie faded intro with reversed bell-like sounds. This sounds different, and soon enough some extra Indian style melodies are thrown into the mix. Before long, some realistic sounding Nine Inch Nails style beats enter and this piece gets going. There are more male spoken-word style lyrics here as well, and this piece sounds very good. Some head rush style sounds and textures are present here and this whole thing sounds really clever and amazing. The track pulsates with beats, textures, melodies and attitude that really sounds great. The electronic wall-of-sound here sounds really cool and amazing. There is a breakdown in the second half with more fantastic and audibly delicious sounds, to put it that way. The second half of the track sounds really fantastic and pulsates with inspired energy throughout. A fine and fantastic listen, this is one of the standout tracks of this album. An effortless and naturally brilliant sounding tune, it ends with a load of washed delay. Excellent.
Exchange begins with some lush instrumentation that sounds rather Jazzy. It is a juicy and delicious lounge groove that is built for home listening, rather than partying along with. Nonetheless, this is an excellent instrumental and it sounds ridiculously pretty and nicely delivered. A slow and steady piece of music that sounds gorgeous and brilliant, this is Jazz fusion meeting Trip Hop, complete with double bass playing. A really top and classy listen from start to finish, this sounds futuristic and amazing. Surely Miles Davis and Sun Ra would approve of this? Most likely. A really awesome tune that sounds really fine and classy, this has a super trippy outro in the style of The Chemical Brothers that sounds excellent. Nice work.
Dissolved Girl begins with some reversed beats and textures before some chime-like sounds and deep bass guitar enters. This piece is rather subtle in its orientation and has some excellent female vocals to boot. This piece sounds beautiful and intense and is very lush and laidback sounding. A really pretty tune, this was featured in The Matrix as the song that Neo listens to when asleep at home at the start of the film. This alone gives a song like this real credit, it is an amazing tune that sounds really cool. There are loud guitars and pounding drums in the middle before this piece launches into a Breakbeat heavy adventure. The guitars and electronic sounds flow in and out of consciousness, which makes this track interesting. This is a real genuine and amazingly great listen. A really cool and different tune, Massive Attack knew how to make excellent music here. There are some tripped out sounds at the end of this tune, with a repeated single note patch to fade out. Great.
Man Next Door begins with some Industrial sounding drum beats, some deep and driven basslines and quickly launches into a really fantastic listen which samples the When The Levee Breaks by Led Zeppelin drumbeat. This is a beautiful, yet moody tune and the vocals present in this song are really amazing. This is how Electronic music should be made, and it sounds really explorational and different. Some subtle wah-wah guitars are in this piece, too. This is quite a deep and melodramatic piece with some super emotional singing in it. Nonetheless, this is still essential listening throughout. A beautiful and pretty piece of music, this is fairly new territory musically present here. Sure, it is inspired by other music, but this sounds quite unlike anything else. A really energetic and pulsating piece of music, this sounds really pretty and lovely. The vocals and music perfectly complement each other, sounding amazing and really very great. A very intense and interesting tune, it fades out with delayed drum beats and gets quieter with a load of textures. Brilliant.
Black Milk is a six-minute long piece that begins with quiet piano, before quickly launching into a deep bassline and some other interesting electronic sounds. Some gorgeous female vocals sweep right in, and this piece gets underway. This is really gorgeous and adventurous, and just sounds polished and amazing. The piece is a laidback journey through sound. It becomes somewhat subdued after a little bit, with a nice element of progression about it. This is a really adventurous sonic pastiche that sounds awesome, and it progresses very nicely along. A great and pretty piece of music, this sounds very soothing. An excellent and professional sounding tune, this sounds really interstellar and extraordinary. A wonderful listen, and something to close your eyes and relax to. It is nice to hear some Trip Hop based EDM that sounds just top and excellent, this is mind-blowingly good. A very nice piece of music indeed, this is a slow burner, but a very good one at that. Some nice DJ scratching in the background towards the end is here before this piece concludes with some gorgeous instrumentation and vocal harmonies. Excellent.
Mezzanine is the title track. It begins with some interesting electronic ambient style textures before a classy bassline enters and this piece gets underway. Calm male vocals enter that sound awesome, along with some (presumably) original Electronic sounds enter. This is a great piece to play as a warmup in the car before going out somewhere for the weekend, it sounds really awesome and driven. Very pretty and interesting listening, it also sounds very dark, too. Soon enough, this builds up into a catchy groove that is very much different to the nature of most music today in the way that it is subdued. Some processed electric guitar sounds arrive, making this piece sound super cool. The second half builds up a subtle wall-of-sound that sounds really great, before breaking down into an ambient atmosphere. Who said that Massive Attack was a one-trick pony? Obviously not so, this is really brilliant. A really adventurous and exciting listen that doesn’t really sound like mainstream EDM and is a great effort. Really nice to hear, and very pretty too, for all the darkness it exudes. It finishes nicely.
Group Four is fairly lengthy at over eight minutes long. It begins with more dark and paranoid textures that have an immediate impact on the listener. There are many Electronic textures that are groundbreaking on this record, and this is a feat of original artistry. Soon enough, more male vocals enter and this piece sounds as though Underworld had some real competition. This is quickly followed by female vocals that resonate very well, and this whole thing sounds very different. It’s super dark and eerie sounding for Electronic music, and this sounds really effortless and amazing. The lyrics here are extremely artistic and amazing sounding, and the whole thing is a very fresh and interesting listening experience. This is dark and murky territory musically, and groundbreaking in the sense that it sounds quite unlike anything else out there. Really awesome listening, this sounds fantastic but is not for those who like a great deal of unusual sounding music. The driving bassline and excellent vocals drive this one along, and this sounds very decent and amazing. In the second half is a weird breakdown, before some sampled drumbeats enter that sounds really fantastic. Some clean electric guitar parts follow that sound quite jangly, followed by more female singing. A really cool listen, this does sound very amazing and futuristic. This latter half speeds up a little towards the end, which is different but suspenseful. It is very catchy and will have you banging your head away to this music. It slows down and falls apart at the end, followed by a super electronic outro. Brilliant.
(Exchange) is the last track here on this album, and is much shorter. It’s basically a reprise of the earlier Exchange piece and sounds very laidback and pleasant. Soulful Reggae style vocals infect this piece, and the whole thing sounds nicely relaxing. A really different and nicely textured listen, soon enough, it goes quiet and has some vinyl crackle/hiss playing. Soon enough, it launches back into the wah-wah heavy groove that is present throughout this tune. In the middle, some super trippy stereo panning comes into play and sounds really excellent and brilliant. A really cool and wonderful tune to hear, this is very tranquil. Towards the end are some super ambient sounds and melodies, before a brief string keyboard section plays over vinyl hiss, before ending with looped vinyl hiss. Excellent, a nice finish to a very good album.
This is a very good album with a great deal of promise and is an intellectually desirable listen. It’s not instantly brilliant for the most part upon listening, however. The sound and arrangements here do take a while to appreciate. Nonetheless, this is an excellent listening experience that sounds really different and is the darker side of Trip-Hop based electronic music. Massive Attack had created a great recording here, and one which is thoroughly enjoyable, particularly in an intellectual mood.
Deep and dark.