Like all the best attacks, they start off static and still, intensify, then spiral spookily into a probing onslaught.

That's what Massive Attack's songs do, and they come with heart-pummelling bass, strobing and clever visuals, and a sense of soulful grace thanks to the long string of vocalists involved.

This was the group's first visit to New Zealand in 12 years and the set was packed with new songs from latest album Heligoland (the best being the pulsing carnage of Atlas Air), as well as the biggest songs from the band's three classic 90s albums.

These included Unfinished Sympathy from Blue Lines, Protection's Karmacoma - the concert's eerie finale - and Mezzannine's Inertia Creeps, which still sounds as creepy and heavy as ever.

The band went through a rough patch in the early to mid 2000s as personal and creative differences combined with record company wrangles affected 2003's patchy 100th Window (from which they played Future Proof last night).

The Bristol group, who with Tricky took the sound of trip-hop to the world in the early 90s, is now made up of founding members Robert Del Naja (aka 3D) and Grant Marshall (aka Daddy G).

And they look happy to be here and gracious with it. "Thank you so much for your kind reception," says Daddy G ever-so politely.

Although, despite the renewed band unity, it really is the 3D show, with Daddy G making only sporadic appearances.

Also in the group is a five-piece band including two drummers, with vocalists and long-time collaborators Martina Topley-Bird and Jamaican singer Horace Andy, as well as grand diva Deborah Miller, who sings some of the band's biggest songs, like 1991's beautiful Safe From Harm and a rousing and powerful Unfinished Sympathy.

Then there was Topley-Bird's deliciously alluring Teardrop, 3D's "I was looking back at you to see if you were looking back at me ..." rap from Safe From Harm, and Angel, with Andy on vocals, which is when Massive Attack are at their best - agitating, deep and powerful.

Some of the squally guitar work, such on the tedious Future Proof, is a little trying, but the beats and rhythms are what make the alien mantra of Babel, the heavy ebb of Mezzanine, and new song Girl I Love You, which Andy's quavering yet powerful voice makes one the best songs they've written, so weirdly unique and timeless.

What: Massive Attack
Where: Vector Arena