Rolling Stone called it “a splendidly mercurial record, packed with amazing sounds and mesmeric grooves.” Q magazine heard “piano-dappled dreamscapes, sibilant beats and cinematic string sweeps.” Drowned In Sound said it was “full of their trademark darkness” and gave it ten out of ten. The album was Massive Attack’s Mezzanine, and on the UK chart of 2 May 1998, it became their first No. 1.
The Bristol collective’s achievement came eight years after they first grazed the top 100 of the singles chart as an independent act. That was with the ‘Daydreaming’ single, on No-Label, as it was listed. Their first mainstream success was the following year, with the massively acclaimed Blue Lines album. It never made the top ten, peaking at No. 13, but became one of the most lauded records of the entire decade. It also gave Massive Attack a presence in the singles chart with ‘Safe From Harm,’ featuring vocal discovery Shara Nelson.
That was followed in 1994 by another widely praised and highly successful album in Protection. It continued the group’s policy of working with various featured artists. These included Tracy Thorn from Everything But The Girl on the title track, and Tricky, a graduate of the group who was by then already well into his own stellar solo career. Protection reached No. 4 in the UK and, like its predecessor, was on the charts for well over two years. The stage was set for Mezzanine.
The group’s third album featured samples of tracks by everyone from Ultravox via Isaac Hayes to the Velvet Underground. Mezzanine again had a range of contributors, such as Liz Fraser of the Cocteau Twins and Massive Attack’s longtime collaborator, reggae singer Horace Andy, on vocals.
Upstaging Robbie Williams
With that wave of positive press and media support, the album raced straight to No. 1, replacing Robbie Williams’Life Thru A Lens at the top. It stayed there a second week and then spent three more weeks in the top ten, in a chart life that went on for months.
The album was certified platinum in the UK by the BPI five months after it came out, in the September, and was still bouncing back into the top 40 the following March. It has continued to sell as part of Massive Attack’s distinguished catalogue, turning double platinum in 2013.