Massive Attack – Ritual Spirit

Release Date: 28/1/2016 via Virgin EMI Records

Stars: 6/7

Seconds into “Dead Editors” an unnervingly deep sigh of relief sounded as I stepped backwards through time to the 90’s in a trip hop spacecraft, Massive Attack at the helm of the vessel. The Bristol regime took a five-year hiatus from the studio following the release of their last album Heligoland, but have returned to steward the masses back to the height of 90’s trip hop.

“Dead Editors” emblazons the start of the EP with beeping sounds worthy of a mad computer scientist’s dungeon laboratory, swiftly kicking the bass drum into classic trip hop rhythm. Thumping back beats, odd beeps, snapping snares, eerie choral harmonies and break downs from what sounds like a xylophone made with beakers make up the production. Roots Manuva stoically, unemotionally ponders time, history, the collective soul while methodically delivering every word as if it had always meant to be there and no other word could possibly fill its place.

The EP’s title track follows with vocals from British singer Azekel. The beginning of the track starts similar to “Kenji” by Fort Minor, only to be followed by a slow and steady bass, the click of a tambourine perhaps, and waves of droning sound. When Azekel’s, at first run through indiscernible, vocals fit into the mixture, a picture of shaman finally possessed by the spirit it had sought to conjure emerges in the forefront of the mind. The consistent rhythm of the bongo beat paired with the clapping of hands behind the vocals maintain the image of tribe swaying in tune keeping the ritual alive.

“Voodoo in My Blood” shadows “Ritual Spirit” with a hint of the possession theme, as the title implies. The track starts with a heavier trip hop based beat, similar to “Dead Editors” getting away from the solemn tone of “Ritual Spirit”. Young Fathers provides the initial ritual themed rap climaxing with the lyrics “Why does the blood never stick to your teeth”. As the the bass dies down, replaced by the vibrating hum of a man’s voice and a soft plastic drum beat, Massive Attack comes in jarringly singing “Wipe that cheeky grin and come on down”. “Voodoo in My Blood” offers the first taste of electric guitar heard on the EP, while Young Fathers appear to rap from the perspective of a child from the bloodline of a Bayou dark arts family.

The final track of the EP “Take it There” features Adrian Thaws (AKA Tricky) for the first time since Protection released in 1994. The track switches back to a slower tempo incorporating dissonant piano rhythms. Tricky’s voice comes in and out, echoing over itself, converging throughout the outer layers of the composition creating a suffocating surrounding feeling.

Massive Attack won’t stop here with Ritual Spirit, the band reportedly has a follow up EP and a full length album planned for later this year. The band has already announced several tour dates in the UK and Europe and more may be subject to follow.