Review of Ritual Spirit EP by Massive Attack

Trip-hop pioneers Massive Attack have returned with a tantalising release after roughly 6 years since their gorgeous album 'Heligoland' released back in 2010. 'Ritual Spirit' is their first release of 2016, with the expectation of a second EP at some point and their 6th studio album to also be released within the year. Considering that their seminal debut album 'Blue Lines' will be clocking 25 years old this year, it makes sense that 'Ritual Spirit' brings in similar elements of their earlier work. This is not by any means to imply that their music has dated because it hasn't, Massive Attack are one of the few acts around that have always seemed slightly out of time. Their dense production, courtesy of Robert "3D" Del Naja and Grantley "Daddy G" Marshall, founding members of the band, has been incredibly influential in their melding of electronic dance music, hip-hop, soul, alternative rock and dub. What makes this recent outing all the more exciting as well is the return of Adrian "Tricky" Thaws, a founding member of the band who hasn't collaborated with Massive Attack since 1994's 'Protection'.

Massive Attack Ritual Spirit EP

There is nothing particularly daunting about this EP in terms of its duration, as no track exceeds 5 minutes. However that does not mean there isn't incredible depth to what occurs within them. EP opener, 'Dead Editors' harkens back to Massive Attack's earlier music by incorporating Jungle rhythms which lurches into a Hip-Hop flow as Roots Manuva starts rapping. There's a menace behind the tension between the two as they interplay around each other. This is Massive Attack revealing their modern relevance; the capability to maintain bombastic beats that sound primitive yet futuristic at the same time.

'Ritual Spirit', the title track featuring Azekel demonstrates with tact the multicultural attributes to Massive Attack's incredibly influential sound. A somewhat jangly psychedelic guitar fiddles over hand drums, maracas and clapping with a mellow bass line that follows Azekel's soft and delicate vocals. Massive Attack's collaboration with spiritual successors Young Fathers is a slow building, paranoid track titled 'Voodoo in my Blood' that, although probably the weakest on the EP, really shows a lovely sense of cohesion that compliments the looming dread that permeates throughout this release. It is reminiscent of 'Safe From Harm', the opening track of their debut album 'Blue Lines', however it misses the mark slightly just because of the complexity of the other tracks in comparison.

'Take It There', the closing track from this release is nothing short of miraculous. It's Radiohead's 'Wolf at the Door' by way of Massive Attack. The return of Tricky, a hope that every fan has been dreaming of since his departure, feels like the founding trio had never departed from one another. The vocals and lyrics are demeaning and sinister as Del Naja and Tricky whisper at one another in an ethereal manner, the instrumental arrangement of an ominous marching drumbeat and menacingly sharp piano chords build around one another before a stunning Shoegaze guitar riff swirls within its chorus. 'Take It There' is patient in its build, reaching incredible density with a cacophony of sounds. It is classic Massive Attack. If this EP indicates anything, it's that Massive Attack have the potential to absolutely dominate 2016.


Eoin Hannon

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