Devil’s Anthems Thrive Under Heavy Electro Hypnosis

Massive Attack

Heligoland

Virgin

If this isn’t the devil’s music, I don’t know what is. Massive Attack is back, and their first album in seven years goes as deep and dark as we could hope from Bristol’s broodiest duo.

Their latest is crepuscular music at its best — dark, melancholic and lurking, but never one-note or overbearing in its sadness. It’s a canvas of effects that ring like a trip through Dante’s Inferno or the theme to the fall of Lucifer.

Album highlight “Splitting the Atom” is one especially swirly mess of hell, narrated by freakishly talented devil imposter Horace Andy. The gravelly voicebox tells a macabre story —about a baby who chokes the same evening it’s born — then continues to touch on honey scars, burning suns and vertigo. The heady electronic beat, punctuated by a regular sharp screech in place of a drum thump and a backing chorus whispering incomprehensibles, ups the creepy shreshold.

If “Splitting the Atom” is the story of evil temptation, “Psyche” — featuring trip-hopper Martina Topley-Bird — is a narrative of the long way down. Filled with metaphors about falling and ruminations about the moral decay of the soul, Topley-Bird sings plaintively over odd, reverberating guitar warbles that slide up and down the scale — mimicking the chills up our spines — and builds to an emphatic chorus about taking the plunge.

“Rush Minute,” featuring founding Attack member Robert del Naja, grumpily breaks the gloom with monotone vocals that get inanely pretentious about wanting to both come clean and get high. The backing instruments become more noise than melody, and all intrigue is lost in a jungle of guitars.

Just in time, though, “Paradise Circus,” featuring Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star, comes in for the rescue: It’s the saddest song with the happiest beats, all minimalistic tinkles and handclaps on a jaunty tune that tricks us into ignoring Sandoval’s self-lambasting speak.

Heligoland may be named after a little-known German archipelago, but it’s more like the soundtrack for purgatory. There’s something for everyone — sin, greed, love, death — so go ahead and pick your poison.

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