Heligoland (album)

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Massive Attack Heligoland.jpg
Studio album by
Released8 February 2010 (2010-02-08)
Massive Attack chronology
Ritual Spirit
Singles from Heligoland
  1. "Psyche"
  2. "Paradise Circus"
    Released: 17 October 2011

Heligoland is the fifth studio album by English electronic music duo Massive Attack, released on 8 February 2010 by Virgin Records. Named after a German archipelago, it was their first studio album in seven years, following 100th Window (2003).[1] It has been certified Gold in the United Kingdom.[2]


The record features vocals of Horace Andy plus guest vocalists: Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio, Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz, Hope Sandoval of Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions and Mazzy Star, Guy Garvey of Elbow and Martina Topley-Bird,[3] as well as guitar playing by Adrian Utley of Portishead (on "Saturday Come Slow"), keys from Portishead collaborator John Baggott (most notably on "Atlas Air"), keys and synth bass from Damon Albarn ("Splitting the Atom" and "Flat of the Blade" respectively), guitar (various tracks) and bass ("Girl I Love You") by Neil Davidge and bass by Billy Fuller of Beak on various tracks.

The record features drumming from the late Jerry Fuchs and regular session and touring drummer Damon Reece. Dan Brown and Stew Jackson (Robot Club) co-wrote "Paradise Circus", played guitar on and co-wrote "Saturday Come Slow", and part-programmed and engineered those tracks. Tim Goldsworthy contributed additional production (specific tracks unstated). Most tracks were mixed with Mark "Spike" Stent and then all were mastered with Tim Young at Metropolis Studios, as with previous records. Unlike previous records, there are no personal acknowledgements on the inlay. Neil Davidge co-produced all tracks with Robert Del Naja only[4] (except tracks 3, 7 and 9 where Grant Marshall was also involved), though Marshall has a co-write credit on every track. The album is dedicated to the memory of Blue Lines co-producer, Jonny Dollar.


The album release was preceded on 4 October 2009 by an EP, Splitting the Atom. During its gestation, the album was often referred to in the media as "LP5" (a reference to this being their fifth studio album – excluding Danny the Dog) or "Weather Underground" (Robert Del Naja's early working title and underdog metaphor for the record).[5]

The artwork, as with every Massive Attack album since Protection, is a collaboration between Tom Hingston and Del Naja, this time based on Del Naja's paintings. Transport for London, in line with their policy to not encourage graffiti, insisted the cover image featured on advertising posters displayed on the Tube be altered so as to not resemble "street art", obliging the artists to remove drips and fuzz from the original image.[6]

Many other guest vocalists recorded sessions during the duo's post-100th Window era but are not featured on the album, including: Stephanie Dosen, Yolanda Quartey of Phantom Limb – effectively Robot Club's band) and Jhelisa (Anderson, who had previously recorded in 2002 in the studio for material that was not included on 100th Window); and, mostly during the pre-Collected time – Mike Patton, Aku and Akwetey Orraca-Tetteh and Devang Shah of Dragons of Zynth, Elizabeth Fraser, Terry Callier, Fredo Viola, Debbie Clare, Beth Orton and Dot Allison. Mos Def and Leslie Feist were named as artists scheduled for recording sessions back in 2004.[7] Backing tracks from Grant Marshall's side of Massive Attack's writing (mainly facilitated by and done with Robot Club) are known to have been sent to Alice Russell, and prepared for Sharon Jones,[8] Patti Smith and David Bowie during the era but collaboration did not come to fruition, nor did talks with Tom Waits or Tricky, in terms of featuring as guest vocalists on the record.[citation needed] Post-punks Mark Stewart and Keith Levene were pictured inside Del Naja's 100 Suns studio in 2009, but played no part on the album.[citation needed]

"I think it's got definitely a more organic feel,[9] " says Del Naja of Heligoland. "100th Window was very much about this amalgamation of everything joining, and eventually the process was so extreme that you couldn't tell if there was a string part if it was electronic or natural. [There were] lots of organic parts that ended up sounding very electronic. It became a whole world of different processes, and we wanted to do something a bit different because we've had that experience so we wanted to do something else."

The track "Girl I Love You", one of multiple tracks featuring Horace Andy, is a drastically reworked version of a song originally written by Andy during his solo career.


Eight low-budget films were officially released online in promotion of Heligoland:

  • "Splitting the Atom" (Promo 1) [the bull fight video], directed by Baillie Walsh (2009).
  • "Paradise Circus", directed by Toby Dye (2009) features clips from an old pornographic film, interspersed with an interview with the film's now-aged female star Georgina Spelvin, who describes each stage of a film-oriented sex act and emphasises the added erotic excitement of the camera.[10]
  • "Splitting the Atom" (Promo 2), directed by Edouard Salier (2009). Video on YouTube
  • "Flat of the Blade", directed by Ewan Spencer (2009)
  • "Saturday Come Slow", directed by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin (2010), features a former Guantanamo Bay detainee at a laboratory in Cambridge, where he and a professor work in tandem to discuss the use of loud sounds as a means of torture.
  • "Psyche", directed by John Downer (2010)
  • "Atlas Air", directed by Eduard Salier, was downloadable with the digital Version of the Atlas Air EP. The video is in fact a prequel to Salier's version of "Splitting The Atom"
  • "Pray For Rain", directed by Jake Scott (2011)

Furthermore, a "United Snakes" video by UnitedVisualArtists, along with a previous alternate promo for "Psyche" [the ghosts' video] directed by Dougal Wilson were also released.

"Paradise Circus" was licensed to be the theme tune for the BBC TV drama series Luther.[11] "Paradise Circus" can also be heard in Gossip Girl,[12] "Misfits" (S2, Ep4), Revenge (S2, Ep6) and "9 Crimes", the fourth episode of the third season of True Blood,[13] as well as in the 2011 advert "Dominoes" for Citroën C5. A remixed version of "Paradise Circus" by Gui Boratto, can also be heard on the Lincoln MKX commercials featuring Mad Men's John Slattery.


Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
AllMusic3.5/5 stars[15]
Entertainment WeeklyB−[16]
The Guardian4/5 stars[17]
The Irish Times4/5 stars[18]
Los Angeles Times3/4 stars[19]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[22]
Uncut4/5 stars[24]

The Deluxe Edition of Heligoland available digitally features bonus tracks (remixes and "False Flags" B-side, "United Snakes"). There is also a deluxe vinyl edition release.[25] Heligoland Remixed (amounting to the same as the Deluxe Edition's bonus tracks, except for "United Snakes" being replaced by a second Gui Boratto dub remix) has been uploaded for listening on the duo's Facebook page. The standard edition is available in a number of different coloured covers.

Burial remix album[edit]

In late 2009, Marshall appeared to suggest in an interview with Clash Music that there would be an equivalent remix album of Heligoland by Burial, yet various comments made afterwards cast major doubt on the prospect ever being more than an idle whim in reality.[26]

In May 2010 Del Naja told Q magazine that, "It's happening, but we can't talk about it. (Burial)'s very private and paranoid about it." [27]

Four Walls / Paradise Circus, a single containing Burial's "Paradise Circus" remix, along with a remix of a previously unreleased track, "Four Walls" was released in 2011.

Atlas Air EP[edit]

Massive Attack had stated in interviews their intention to release a post-Heligoland EP in May or June 2010. The record was expected to feature unreleased leftover tracks, such as "Invade Me" and "Red Light", both featuring Martina Topley-Bird.[28]

Subsequently, Massive Attack announced plans for the limited vinyl release of 1,000 units and digital release of an Atlas Air EP on 1 November 2010, in aid of Warchild. The EP would feature an edit of the titular song; a Tim Goldsworthy remix; a Guy Garvey-penned and previously unfinished Heligoland leftover track, "Redlight", featuring Guy Garvey on vocals; and its respective remix by Warp artist, Clark.[29]

These plans were later changed so that the release date became 22 November 2010. Also, the original version of "Redlight" was later removed from the track listing and replaced on the EP by the Jneiro Jarel remix of Atlas Air, meaning that the EP would represent no new Massive Attack production. Plus, the remix of "Redlight" would end up featuring female vocals and not those of its songs writer, Guy Garvey, as first suggested.[30]

Track listing[edit]

Standard Edition
1."Pray for Rain"Robert Del Naja/Grant Marshall/Neil Davidge/Tunde AdebimpeAdebimpe6:44
2."Babel"Del Naja/Marshall/Davidge/Martina Topley-BirdTopley-Bird5:19
3."Splitting the Atom"Del Naja/Marshall/Davidge/Damon AlbarnDel Naja/Marshall/Horace Andy5:16
4."Girl I Love You"Del Naja/Marshall/Davidge/AndyAndy5:26
5."Psyche"Del Naja/Marshall/Davidge/Topley-BirdTopley-Bird3:24
6."Flat of the Blade"Del Naja/Marshall/Davidge/Albarn/Guy GarveyGarvey5:30
7."Paradise Circus"Del Naja/Marshall/Hope Sandoval/Stew Jackson/Dan BrownHope Sandoval4:57
8."Rush Minute"Del Naja/Marshall/DavidgeDel Naja4:51
9."Saturday Come Slow"Del Naja/Marshall/Damon Albarn/Jackson/BrownDamon Albarn3:43
10."Atlas Air"Del Naja/Marshall/Davidge/John BaggottDel Naja7:48

Extended Edition (bonus tracks featured on Amazon.com)[31]

  1. "Paradise Circus" (Gui Boratto Remix) – 8:08
  2. "Fatalism" (Ryuichi Sakamoto & Yukihiro Takahashi Remix) (vocals by Guy Garvey) (Also a Japanese bonus track) – 4:54
  3. "Girl I Love You" (She Is Danger Remix) – 5:00
  4. "Paradise Circus" (Breakage's Tight Rope Remix) – 4:46 Tracks no longer offered
  5. "United Snakes" [previously a B-side of "False Flags"] – 9:44
  6. "Pray For Rain" (Tim Goldsworthy Remix) – 7:28

Heligoland Remixed EP

  1. "Paradise Circus" (Gui Boratto Remix) – 8:08
  2. "Pray For Rain" (Tim Goldsworthy Remix) – 7:28
  3. "Fatalism" (Ryuichi Sakamoto & Yukihiro Takahashi Remix) – 4:54
  4. "Girl I Love You" (She Is Danger Remix) – 5:00
  5. "Paradise Circus" (Breakage's Tight Rope Remix) – 4:46
  6. "Paradise Circus" (Gui Boratto Dub) – 7:48

Chart positions[edit]