Sound — 9
Massive Attack traveled a long way to get here. After the last under produced but still underrated album, Protection, it seemed as though they were on their last legs. But then came this masterpiece. It is easy to hear that there is less influence from Andy Vowles on this album, who wanted a more jazzy/hip hop album. Robert Del Naja and Grant Marshall wanted to use more live instruments, and this is what they created, a paranoid, tense atmosphere masterpiece. The sound is all about the tension, the build up. In pretty much every song (except Teardrop, Exchange and (Exchange)) it begins slow and builds up over time. The most obvious example is Angel, but every song has a change of pace. Best songs for sound have to be Angel, Risingson and Group Four. Angel is the most famous song (which is sung by Horace Andy, not 3D by the way) has one of the best build ups in history, finally crashing down to a crazy ending. Risingson begins with bass again, but when the tension fully builds up, a guitar comes crashing in and releases this tension before it explodes. The moaning sounds during the chorus are just, incredible, and accompany Del Naja and Marshall's singing/rapping perfectly. Group Four is an epic song combining Del Naja's rapping and Liz Fraser's high singing perfectly, making a very creepy song about alienation in society (if put simply). After the first four songs, some songs do not really seem to click. It was like listening to Novocaine for the Soul on Beautiful Freak by The Eels and then being disappointed by everything else. But after a while, everything will sound perfect, but this is the reason why I gave sound a 9. Now I think that instead of the first four songs being the best, songs 7-10 are the best.
Lyrics — 10
The lyrics take a few listens to come to grips with. Del Naja's rapping and Elizabeth Fraser's strange strange singing are sometimes hard to understand, but they are amazing lyrics. The best of Del Naja's songs has to be Risingson, which also has to be one of the greatest songs of all time. I don't think I have heard many lines that top 'Your cheap beer's filled with crocodile tears' yet. The songs in which Horace Andy sing are quite simple songs, which probably works with the clarity of his voice. Man Next Door is, in my opinion, his best song he has done with Massive Attack, even moreso than Angel. His voice is almost like he is someone looking in at the events, and can only sing to tell people what he is seeing. Dissolved Girl is another famous song with Sarah Jay singing, and again this is, put simply, about guilty (very guilty) pleasures. This song is well placed after the slow Exchange, and the lyrics bring back the intensity the first four songs had. The lyrics of Liz Fraser's songs are great. If you can understand them, that is. Her lyrics are definitely the most complicated on the album, and more complicated than any of the other female vocalists that Massive Attack have worked with. Her voice and lyrics again further add to the tense atmosphere of the music.
Overall Impression — 10
In all honesty, Massive Attack aren't Trip Hop and I don't see why people think they are. Portishead are the band for real Trip Hop, and MA doesn't sound anything like them. Their sound is too heavy and dance orientated for that. This album is a masterpiece, but is it better than Blue Lines? I couldn't honestly tell you. My opinion changes frequently on this one, depending on mood. Just be prepared. Blue Lines and Protection are quite soulful and jazzy at times. This isn't at all. It is paranoid and confused and angry at the world, but that's what makes it so amazing. The atmosphere is something you could breathe to on this album. The only gripes I'd have with this album are: Exchange. It isn't a bad song. It's just that... after Inertia Creeps and before Dissolved Girl it is not really appreciated. Although a breather is quite good after the intensity, it just slows things down too much. A good comparison for me is The Gloaming from Hail to the Thief by Radiohead, it just doesn't quite fit, even if it is a good song. That said, (Exchange), the 2nd version and last song, is a great song, and just shows how much Horace Andy's voice can lend to a song.