By Kev Geoghegan
Radio 1 music reporter
3D aka Robert Del Naja at the Royal Festival Hall in London
Massive Attack have been praising their latest guest vocalist, Elbow frontman Guy Garvey.
The Bristol collective are working on the follow up to 2003's 100th Window.
They are aiming to release the as-yet-untitled album in early 2009.
Founding member 3D, aka Robert Del Naja, told Newsbeat: "We've been working with Guy on some songwriting, and that's been really fun.
"He's a great writer, a great thinker."
He continued: "It's about being able to sing something beautiful and romantic and still being aware of someone tugging at you saying, 'This is what is really going on mate."
It's been five years since the last Massive Attack album, the same year as the US led coalition invaded Iraq.
In the years since, more than 100 British servicemen have been killed and the government has pledged hundreds more troops to safeguard soldiers in Afghanistan.
Elbow perform on Radio 1's Live Lounge
For anti-war protesters as vocal as Massive Attack have been in the past, these events are ripe for musical inspiration.
Del Naja said: "There's always inspiration in there but we've always been very cautious about how to write a song and a protest song is always difficult.
"When it works, it can be beautiful but when it doesn't, it can be quite feeble and patronising or silly.
"Instead, it can be about how you transmit ideas and share information on stage.
"But, whether you want it to drive the record, that would be quite difficult."
The band's 1998 album Mezzanine showed a much darker side to their sound and 100th Window didn't depart too far from that model but Del Naja insists it's still too early to try and define the new album.
He said: "It's hard to say what the sound of the album is, because we haven't mixed it yet and that process can make the album go left or right."
At the moment, original members 3D and Daddy G are curating the Meltdown arts festival on London's south-bank.
They played eight new tracks at a gig to open the festival on 14 June.
"We chose the tracks that we played live, because we felt that they were ready to perform.
"But there are another eight or nine tracks which aren't quite ready yet and we're not sure what shape to make of it yet.
"We're going to kick it into some shape in the autumn and we'll condense it by then."
Del Naja is also vocal about his concerns about the culture of file sharing and free downloading.
By the end of the year, MySpace hopes to offer entire back catalogues on artist homepages, with the revenue generated through advertising.
He said: "We're an album band and we always have been, so we have a purist idea what an album should be, as an experience like a movie or a book.
"But at the moment, you think, 'You've got eight or 16 tracks, do you just release them one at a time?.
"The whole world is changing and, when the album is finished, we're not quite sure what the process will be."