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On February 13, 1970, history was made. 4 young men from Birmingham released their self titled debut. It was a mix of originals as well as a few covers and was, as described by the band members, "just another blues rock album". That "blues rock album" would be the beginning of the genre we now know today as heavy metal.
A year and 2 records later, Black Sabbath were set to release their third effort. While their first release was a "blues rock" record and their second was a straight up spookfest that sang about the horrors of war and mental illness, Sabbath decided to change things up on Master of Reality.
From the very first song, “Sweet Leaf”, we are given the overall mood of this record. As if Sabbath listeners hadn't lit up already, this was just another reminder. Tony Iommi plays what may very possibly be his heaviest riffs yet on songs such as “Sweet Leaf”, “Children of the Grave”, and the absolutely skull crushing “Into the Void”. The tone of the guitar is loud, low, and heavy. On this record especially, Iommi paves the way for all stoner, doom, and sludge metal to come. He also shows off his chops as a melodic player through his rather underrated guitar solos and the beautiful instrumental “Orchid”.
To make the already heavy sound even heavier, we have Geezer Butler and Bill Ward on the low end, possibly the greatest rhythm section of all time. Geezer's bass accompany Tony's guitar making the riffs extra heavy on songs like “Children of the Grave” and “Lord of this World”. Meanwhile, Bill pounds his drums with power yet maintains his jazz roots that are most prominent on the first 2 releases.
Then we have everyone's favorite madman, Ozzy Osbourne. His vocals can only be described as his. This is simply because they're so unique. As soon as someone hears his voice, they know it's him. While Ozzy's vocals have consisted of 99% yelling, with or without Sabbath, we do get to hear a rare performance from Ozzy's "singing voice" as Tony Iommi has described in interviews. This is on the song “Solitude”. The result is beautiful yet spine chilling. As a song, it is better than the other song that features Ozzy's "singing voice", “Planet Caravan” from Paranoid. This is due in part to Tony Iommi providing us a mesmerizing guitar riff, soft piano, and soothing flute part.
Ever hear the saying "We've saved the best for last!"? Well on Master of Reality, this couldn't be more true. After enjoying a moment of “Solitude”, we are taken “Into the Void” with the mother of all metal riffs. Personally, the riff of “Into the Void” would be in a tie with the riff to “Symptom of the Universe” for not only the greatest Iommi riff, but greatest riff ever recorded.
Nearly 45 years later, Master of Reality is just as fresh as when it came out in 1971. In my opinion, it is not just Black Sabbath's finest hour, but metal's finest hour, It literally paved the way for entire generations of aspiring musicians to follow in Black Sabbath's footsteps. It is the be all and end all of metal music. It is Master of Reality.
1970 had gone by and the four strange Brummies under the moniker Black Sabbath had already released two very impressive, dark and heavy records: 'Black Sabbath' and 'Paranoid'. Both of these records laid down the foundation to what we know as heavy metal; basically evil sounding and aggressive blues. While these two albums weren't particularly hailed by music critics at the time, the average heavy rock fans adored them, so it was pretty clear that Black Sabbath was up to something special.
In 1971 the band released 'Master of Reality'. They once again managed to craft a new collection of music different from the previous record(s), much like 'Paranoid' was different from 'Black Sabbath'. Tony Iommi had created a brand-new way of playing heavy music by turning blues into something evil and corrupt with the simplest of riffs on the famous (and the first doom metal song) "Black Sabbath". On 'Paranoid', he had reduced the blues elements to an extent where the music was more free-flowing, heavy and gritty, but still maintained a healthy dose of the blues evident on songs like "War Pigs", "Hand of Doom" and "Fairies Wear Boots". Prog elements had also been injected to the classic sophomore album.
On 'Master of Reality' however, Iommi decided to down-tune his guitar (Geezer's bass followed suit) and began writing more straight-forward, aggressive riffs and voila! The world's first true stoner metal album was born. The free-flowing heaviness and grittiness of 'Paranoid' was amplified through the deeper, simpler and more aggressive riffs. You could perhaps say that Black Sabbath became even more headbangable by the time this album was released. This doesn't mean that the music was completely stripped off technicality. Prog elements were indeed being experimented with on 'Master of Reality', too. The opening track "Sweet Leaf" has a SWEET mid-section that is truly epic in its own rights.
Lyrics ranged from the sweet leaf (weed, duh!) to religion ("After Forever") and war and terror ("Children of the Grave"), ("Lord of This World") and ("Into the Void"). There is also a mellow and quite depressive ballad called "Solitude", as well as some short instrumentals that give 'Master of Reality' a good variety of music, which is a clear indication that there was more to come from Black Sabbath. This was just the start, and what a great one. In less than two whole years the band had already released three very impressive records that, despite not sitting well with music critics at the time, blew the fans of heavy music away.
Individually, the band were also on the up. Tony Iommi's guitar is and will remain true art. In that day and age nobody could do what he did. He turned something so simple into something so awesome and spiced things up with some sick leads and solos. You could say the same about Geezer Butler's basslines. It's almost like him and Iommi were jamming in a joint womb; their chemistry was and is second to none. Bill Ward's jazz-trained drumming is also something that gives the great music on this album a certain spice; a great quality that works perfectly with Iommi's and Butler's string-wrangling. Good, old Ozzy who has never been the greatest singer (bless him) was also improving gradually along with the rest. What he lacks in an actual singing-voice, he makes up with charisma that he seems to be able to pull from his ass at any given time. His haunting bellows also go hand-in-hand with the equally mysterious music.
'Master of Reality' is a must-listen for all fans of heavy music. It's impossible not to like this album.
There's no doubt that Sabbath are one of the biggest influences across the entire genre of metal. Many people consider it to be this band that actually started the whole craze for metal, and indeed I do consider them to be more metal than either of the other two bands considered to have done this (Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple). What no one can argue with though is the legendary status of this album among the world of heavy metal, and here I am to review it.
The opener 'Sweet Leaf' shows quite a lot of the style that would later become doom metal, as it is played slowly on both the drums and the guitar. Ozzy's unique voice does give it a very doom-like feeling to the song, which is kind of odd because I'd never really thought that it did before. The solo does feel a little out of place in this song as it's much faster than the general pace of the song and a lot more technical. Overall though I'm not too keen on this song as it feels a lot like stoner metal, but at least it's done better than other stoner metal bands I've heard.
Not all the songs take the same doom-styled approach though, as shown in 'Children of the Grave'. I don't think that anyone doubts this is one of Black Sabbath's most legendary songs, and I for one would recognise the opening riffs from anywhere (I'm sure many others would as well). There isn't too much going on in the technical department for the most part (and who really cares when the song sounds great just the way it is?), but there is a solo and some more technical pieces of playing to keep everyone entertained.
The instrumental 'Orchid' is also a nice change to hear, an acoustic piece in the middle of all the metal. It isn't too long (although still longer than 'Embryo', which is a track that I don't really understand the purpose of). And this track actually illustrates the entire album very well, as it includes everything you'd expect from a great metal album and more (such as this track). It's no wonder this record is considered classic when they manage to do so much in the mere thirty-five minutes they spend playing.
Something that puts me off of this band as a whole (other than the doom elements, which some will know I don't like too much) is Ozzy's vocals. I don't really know why, but for whatever reason I dislike them. They just kind of... I don't want to say they're bad, but I'm not a fan of them. Granted, they're not the worst I've ever heard, but something about them doesn't click with me. The only track that I like them on is 'Solitude', another song that's toned down a lot and has almost no traces of metal in it.
No one can doubt that this record is a classic that would find a place in any metalhead's collection, but the doom influences put me off a little bit. Of course they're a doom metal band so I should have expected nothing less, but I find them much better when they up the tempo slightly and play more like they do in 'Children of the Grave'. Still though, I find it hard to dislike this album and it still deserves a good score.
The first couple of Black Sabbath records made perfectly clear these guys were doing something special, making a difference from the general peace and love rock concept with their obscure music and imagery. They had the same influences as most classic rock bands: blues, jazz, a certain touch of ancient '50s rock & roll, but Iommi and co. made those part of a unique style nobody else ever explored nor got close to. There were other sinister groups around, Black Widow for instance, but none did it that way. Their identity already took form and got rid of the massive bluesy influence of the homonym debut on Paranoid, but Master Of Reality was the total consolidation of Sabbath’s sound.
Riffs are still the leading force of their music; they determined most of song structures and instrumental changes during unforgettable hard rockin’ anthems like “Children Of The Grave” or “Sweet Leaf”, both based on straight and simple guitar lines with plenty of power and weight. The band’s general formula hasn’t changed much since the preceding album and those cuts are similarly configured, avoiding any notable sign of complexity, just including a limited quantity of distinct sequences and breaks. Simplicity isn’t a synonym of mediocrity here, for the development of tunes is completely competent, reaching admirable results on “Lord Of This World” and “After Forever” (“God is the only way to love”!?), more classics treasure filled with rough low riffing, some unpredictable tempo alterations and rich instrumental passages.
Ozzy’s vocals obtain greater presence and importance on those, at times becoming the main attraction. The intensity and strength of that remarkable collection of Iommi riffs is what deserves all attention and recognition, though they contradict the standards of casual, accessible '70s rock to construct a solid wall of sound and dark atmosphere without the support of keyboards or anything else. They even get sentimental and melancholy on “Solitude”, designing an ideal base for Ozzy’s emotional words. So you see, these guys had been playing ballads many years before the most hated “No Stranger To Love”. However, romance is ephemeral, an exception as the final composition “Into The Void” reminds us not only with its absolutely heavy tone and severe riffing, but also those lyrics in the style of “Electric Funeral” that deny the cheesy hippie philosophy of love and flowers in your head, representing the transition between the happiness of the '60s with the less optimist mentality of the '70s.
There’s no doubt about it, this is one of those advanced records for the time when they were conceived. Black Sabbath invented a whole new level for rock, playing back then the most transgressing underground music around that had nothing to do with the clichés and topics of the bunch of bluesy classic rock groups of that decade. Their patterns are also opposite to the exhausting progression of Genesis, Egg or Van der Graaf Generator; these numbers are far from difficult and never intended to be that way, but rather a prelude almost a whole decade before the NWOBHM direct schemes.
The way they performed this material was also unusual, slow and heavy to obtain greater intensity. Iommi’s lines surpass here the previous record’s weight and texture to create a totally stunning instrumental series as well, so this is certainly the next level. The supremacy of guitars is indispensable and makes this stuff kinda uniform and limited if we refer to the possible versatility and musical variety it could have reached. Inevitably, in contrast with the use of keyboards by the other 2 Big of hard rock, although the immense potential of Tony is proved efficient enough to lead the rest of the sections during these clearly guitar-based tracks. Ozzy’s voice is also a peculiar element, breaking with the stereotypes of the rock & roll singer role, lacking precision, sometimes being out of tempo and outrageous, but nobody would’ve done it that good for sure. In fact, Black Sabbath’s concept has never been extremely perfectionist or to make elegant and complicated music, particularly noticeable in the early years. It all came naturally, honestly, and not especially planned or meticulous. That’s exactly what happened on this album, the musically strongest and most consistent of the mighty first 6 on which the essence of hard rock/heavy metal or whatever you want to call it is defined.
In conclusion, here we have one of the vital works for the development of the genre, probably the band’s finest hour of grace and talent. Maybe it doesn’t include as many hits as its predecessor, but it meant a huge step forward for these guys’ own sound achievement. On the other hand, it seems they were aware of the greater possibilities and potential they could make use of and on following releases they’d increase the difficulty and diversity of their songs. They’d even introduce keyboards for the first time.
So Master Of Reality might not be the most ambitious and challenging, but its contribution to rock back in 1971 and during all these more than 4 decades by now has been tremendous and essential. Only classic basic records like this sound as fresh and advanced nowadays as when they were originally recorded.
Ah, Master of Reality. The crown jewel of the sludgy origins of the metal genre. Black Sabbath DOMINATED the metal scene, and for good reason. Tony Iommi's riffs are almost always unforgettable, Bill Ward's drumming is ridiculous, Ozzy's vocals, though gruff and very off-putting at first, have a distinct quality, and Geezer is, in my opinion, the greatest bassist of all time. Master of Reality was probably the first metal album that I could consider high art. There is such a terrifying shadow-and-light dynamic here. But enough gushing. Let's really talk about WHY Master of Reality is, well...masterful.
Starting off, songwriting is stellar. There's stuff here that's haunting (Into the Void) thought-provoking (Children of the Grave) controversial (After Forever) and poignant (Solitude). Master of Reality truly exploits a massive range of emotions in its eight tracks (Only six of which even have vocals!).
Instrumentals have always been one of Black Sabbath's strongest points. Tony Iommi probably has more unforgettable riffs on this album than most guitarists have in all their career. The structure on Children of the Grave was, at the time, unlike anything Sabbath had normally written. Children also has one of the catchiest riffs you'll ever hear, and is guaranteed to get stuck in your head later. Bill Ward's drumming on that same track is ridiculously tight. This is actually one of the few songs I've ever heard where I ALTERNATE between air guitar and drums. Geezer Butler's bass guitar adds a lot of the quality which makes this album so amazingly heavy. He doesn't play around with it much, but the "less is more" approach really works. Into the Void is easily Iommi's highlight on MoR, as it bears the greatest metal riff ever penned. Overall, riffs are as strong as ever.
Ozzy's voice is always a stumbling block. He is very raspy, and sometimes he sounds like he's choking on a rat, but even for its shrillness, Ozzy's voice fits the songs here perfectly. Ozzy's voice is, for better or for worse, very recognizable, very memorable, and very imposing. As always in Sabbath, he uses his vocal disadvantage to the best effect.
Speaking of vocals, there is one track that stands out for its lyrics-After Forever. See, I LOVE this song, I love the riffs and the tune and almost everything, but this song takes a lot of shit because it's a rather ham-fisted Christianity endorsement. But even though I am a staunch Atheist, I have an appreciation for the passion Geezer has for his faith. He could bear to tone it down, but this song still isn't bad by any means.
Production, as always for the classic lineup of Black Sabbath, is muddy and grainy. But much like Ozzy's raspy voice, this actually has an advantage, because the production quality fits the songs being played nigh-perfectly. It never gets in the way, and that is pretty impressive a feat in itself.
Lyrical themes are varied. There is some very meaningful, powerful stuff here (Children of the Grave warns the consequences of nuclear warfare, for example.) Of course, in its sound, this album is very sludgy, very "stoner", and nowhere does this shine through more than on the album's opener, Sweet Leaf, a love note to marijuana. Solitude is a relatable song about loneliness. The tone and themes here are very dark.
So there we have it, Master of Reality. There are qualities this album has that are almost intangible, for example, Master is one of the few albums I've ever heard that is both frenetic and slow at the same time. It's also one of the best albums I've ever heard for simple relaxation. Plus, it's a thinker's album. To paraphrase Sweet Leaf, this album introduced me to my mind. My favorite metal album ever, if you haven't heard it then go listen NOW.
Although perhaps not as consistent as their seminal album "Paranoid", Black Sabbath took new steps forward with "Master of Reality". In the year since their self-titled debut, the band had received their share of fame and notoriety for their unprecedented heaviness and perceived 'Satanic' themes. As such, the band's third record seems to poke fun at these notions, showcasing a more laid back approach, and even praising the merits of Christianity. Although these new innovations don't always shine brightly, there is a still a hefty slice of the classic Sabbath sound here. Once again, Black Sabbath have not failed to impress.
Beginning on the iconic note of a sampled cough, the band erupt into "Sweet Leaf", a drug-addled tune that's become a fan favourite over the years. Picking up where they left off on "Paranoid", "Sweet Leaf" is pumped full of Tony Iommi's distinctive guitar fuzz. Barring that, "Lord of This World" and "Into The Void" harken back to Black Sabbath's traditional sound. There is still a trace of the downtempo bluesy grime in their songwriting, but it becomes apparent later on that 'Master of Reality' has progressed past what the band was doing the year before. In addition to "Sweet Leaf", "Solitude" is the other 'known' song from the album, an atmospheric ballad that sounds as if it would feel less lonesome on a prog rock record than anything. Here, Iommi showcases his flute and keyboard playing abilities, a far cry from the sludgy riffs he's best known for.
"Master of Reality" also features a pair of 'interlude' tracks that work best as experimental sketches. 'Embryo' is an eerie violin observation that may have worked well to space out the album's first side were it not so aimless. "Orchid" on the other hand is a nostalgic bit of acoustic plucking that works well to separate bouts of the band's typical heaviness. Without a doubt, the most controversial track here is "After Forever". Musically speaking, it's not such a departure from Black Sabbath's typical sound, sounding a touch more upbeat than their trademark gloom. Lyrically however, bassist Geezer Butler writes about his devotion to Christianity, even ridiculing those who may not agree with the Church. Whether or not this is a tongue-in-cheek jab at the accusations of Sabbath being Satanists, the preachy approach makes one wonder.
"Children of the Grave" is my favourite song off "Master of Reality". Although it shares the same style of sludgy riffs and over-the-top occult atmosphere with much of Sabbath's work up to this point, it stands out for its relatively intense rhythm, a gallop that would later be mirrored in Maiden's work. Pair that with an added layer of drums that sound like they could have been plucked out of a Voodoo ritual, and you have one of the album's hardest rocking tracks.
"Master of Reality" is an excellent continuation of what Black Sabbath were doing on the previous two records. Although not everything works to expectation, the more progressive edge they have here has opened plenty of doors for the band to explore. Overall, "Master of Reality" does not share the consistent string of 'essential' songs that "Paranoid" or even the self-titled did, but there is more than enough on Sabbath's third to give justice to their legacy as the godfathers of heavy metal.
The third Black Sabbath album saw the band attempt to diversify their sound a little, and so there's a bit less of the pure proto-doom sound of their debut on view here and a few more 70s hard rock cliches (Bill Ward even unleashes a little cowbell on Lord of This World). The album by and large succeeds simply by virtue of still being far heavier than anything else being produced at the time, with songs like Sweet Leaf, Lord of This World, and the thunderous Children of the Grave being particular highlights. For much of the album Iommi showcases a newly developed, sludgier, downtuned guitar sound which seems to have influenced just as many stoner metal guitarists as his work on the band's first two albums set the playbook for doom metal guitar. Nowhere is this more powerfully displayed than on Sweet Leaf, which begins with a distorted, hacking cough that transforms into a crushingly powerful riff that doesn't let up for most of the song.
However, the album isn't perfect. It includes two small instrumental filler pieces - Embryo and Orchid - which I actually think are pretty decent (I can't think of Children of the Grave without having Embryo as a lead in to it), but others may take issue with. The band repeat the attempt to include a quiet song with the inclusion of Solitude, which unfortunately just isn't very good - it's over five minutes long and really needs to trim three of those minutes, it's a poor attempt at a flute-led melodic love ballad which fails to match up to the efforts of other bands working in the same vein (it reminds me a little of a poor attempt to mimic early Jade Warrior), and the lyrics are the sort of love poetry a self-important 13 year old might compose.
Speaking of bad lyrics, the words to After Forever may irritate some listeners. The song itself is perfectly heavy, but the lyrics bash people who unthinkingly bash religion simply because they think it's the cool thing to do (which is fair enough - I'm an atheist myself but I think people should choose their religious beliefs because they've thought things through for themselves rather than to make a fashion statement), but then turns around and uncritically embraces Christianity as the answer to all man's ills.
The contradictory message ("Think for yourself and don't let others dictate your beliefs! By the way, Christ is the only answer.") will aggravate those who pay attention, so I advise just immersing yourself in the riffs and letting them flow over you, because musically speaking the song is still a treat - yet another showcase for Iommi's fuzzy riffs, with the repetitive structure set against Ozzy's chantlike vocals giving the song a hypnotic quality.
And the fact is that the downtuned sound of this album makes it the sludgiest disc of the Ozzy era. Like the debut album, Master of Reality deserves props simply because it introduced the world to a brand new sound which launched a whole subgenre or two of metal. It's just not quite perfect from beginning to end.
Black Sabbath continued to elicit more of that demonic skepticism that the era deserved with this 1971 heavy metal record. Master of Reality is eight songs of depressed euphoria. The sixties are gone and the whole album plays like a savage rebuttal to the hippie optimism of Turn! Turn! Turn!. So no, there is not a time for peace and it is too late. You spin this record and you will learn there is only time to pay the piper, point the blame and leave this mortal coil. The debut record and Paranoid broke in these themes as well but Master of Reality is their greatest album and I find it's more polished than even those classics.
The genius of this record lies in its straight on, more focused bluntness and as it so happens, simplicity in structure. But even more, it doesn't feel like a concerted effort to be as such. It just feels natural. The band did this album not too long after Paranoid and seeking out another album to write and continue the trademark heaviness feels comfortable. The previous two records amped up a blues influence that made them so heavy but Master of Reality is where an inadvertent incorporation of classic music comes into play when it comes to the mechanics. Listen to Sweet Leaf: a simple heavy chord structure with unorthodox drum beats throughout the first half and when it transitions to the solo, that's where the clarity of that classical composition can be heard. I don't know which 1971 song was written down first but Sweet Leaf's rhythm structure has a commonality with Black Dog by Led Zeppelin.
And then After Forever is the beau ideal of more of that symphony riff style that Tony Iommi made use of in the two following albums. Bach himself would have been proud to hear that transition break where the thick time-stop thumps the middle followed by Tony's patented blues soloing that goes back to the eponymous record. None of this type of songwriting made sense to anyone prior to when Sabbath came along. It was dark and devilish..pioneering. No one was ready for it but the time was right and that's why this band has left such an impact. The song takes an accusatory Christian stance against hypocrisy and doubt but this is no sermon. This is doom! Religion and its cursory judgment goes well with this heavy metal music that Black Sabbath creates particularly English 17th-century prosecution of it. That's where the classical music influence comes in handy. The short but witch-y folk interlude of Embryo sounds arbitrary but its the type of bauble that gives Master of Reality its doom metal character. Maybe you have We Sold Our Soul for Rock N' Roll or another compilation album that has Children of the Grave but that song just isn't complete without Embryo to introduce it with.
Anyone who is familiar with doom metal will automatically recognize the rumble of Children of the Grave by rote. Tony's rollicking down tempo aggressive riffs, Ozzy's wailing about nuclear uncertainty backed by his delirious pigeon claps make this one of Black Sabbath's most catchiest tunes. Yet another song that is not fit to be sung by anyone else other than Ozzy. Maybe that's why Children of the Sea was written to complement it nine years later. I won't get into comparisons with that era of the band. I like them both but what makes Master of Reality tops is that it doubles back unto itself. How it does that is after the atomic destruction minded song Children of the Grave ends, another darkly mellow instrumental interlude returns only to be followed by Lord of This World; a track coherent with Children of the Grave and After Forever throwing out a blue print for how the later subgenre of doom metal should and did sound like. Solitude is a gloomy number that reinforces the depression of it all. Ozzy sings it with an ever so dreary demeanor and it follows suit to the feeling that Planet Caravan evoked. Basically, Sabbath is establishing a pattern of how their albums will sound like because like the ever familiar Iron Man, Into the Void is another track that everyone will remember the band by. The speed and chugginess of it right after a song like Solitude strengthens the overall heaviness of Master of Reality. And it’s a way superior song to Iron Man as well. They did rip off a little bit of their own song because after the third verse it sounds a lot like Electric Funeral. I was singing along to it and almost sang the main chorus to that track! One more notable thing at play about Into the Void is Geezer’s stern bass . It drifts from trailing Tony’s parts to following Ozzy’s vocals in an almost dancing manner.
I might feel guilty picking Master of Reality as the band’s best record just because it is so hard to choose of the bunch. They’ve recorded some classic albums from 1970 to 1981 and if it is their best, an album like Sabbath Bloody Sabbath or Mob Rules is not too far behind but Master of Reality defines from each song to song what I think of when their name comes up. A heavy metal album from 1971 with music about war, peace, betrayal and annihilation is apropos. It was also my first album from them and everybody in the band sounds much better on here than before. But more importantly, the dark and heavy sound will smack you harder if you are a fan of rock music from the late 60’s and early 70’s. The message? Flower power is over. Time to get with Reality!
To talk about a Black Sabbath CD without reference to the band’s story and their influence on the genre is a pretty difficult task, because it is when you listen to albums like ‘Master of Reality’ that the ENTIRE groundplan of metal magically begins to unfold before you like a scene out of National Treasure (if National Treasure were a better film). This is, and will probably continue to be, an inspiriting factor in someone picking up a guitar for the first time and forming a band, or the key to unlocking metal for someone who previously had not been able to appreciate it. Its relevance and history just make it that kind of ‘gateway’ album, but it also carries with it honest musicianship and vision, the true ingredient to making it a timeless great.
Firstly though, I want to talk about the album in the context of being a Black Sabbath release. This, to me, is the first cohesive CD they put out. It has all the various elements of the first album, but they have now been separated into their constituent parts; the heavy songs are heavy, the folky songs are folky, and the rocky songs are rocky, whereas on ‘Black Sabbath’ (and, although to a lesser extent, on ‘Paranoid’) the influences were a bit more disorganised, mixed in together on the same song which still sounded great, but it didn’t allow a strong identity to form behind the band. ‘Master of Reality’, on the other hand, is the perfect mix of being diverse and experimental, but all the time feeling ultimately driven by an all-encompassing, distinctive new sound, a sound which is in my opinion the final stone in what they had begun building towards over the past two albums; the dawn of metal music.
On ‘Master of Reality’ we find some truly masterful performances by all band members. There are noticeably less solos that wander off aimlessly into the song, taking the direction of the music with them; instead, Iommi gives a much more focused performance on the guitar this time around, with solos still being worked into the music but being stylistically harnessed at the same time so that they don’t feel out of control or scatty. And the riffs… fucking hell, the riffs on this album are brilliant, from the groovy grunt of ‘Children of the Grave’ to the sludge covered monster that is ‘Sweet Leaf’ to the intricate weaving of ‘Orchid’… its all great and its all different, and that’s another reason why this album is so important in defining the band: the CD exhibits a hugely varied palate of riff styles, from doom, rock, folk, acoustic, psychedelic, to whatever, but they’re all SABBATH riffs, unmistakable in their simplicity and delivery, which is what made them such an important band in bridging the gap between genres at the time.
The drumming has slowed down a bit, and there aren’t so many jazzy interludes and off-beats thrown in here which again adds to the ‘less busy, more efficient’ feel this album has, but the most important consequence of this is that the power coming from behind the kit has increased tenfold, complementing the new, groovier style of writing the band have endorsed. The bass sound hasn’t really changed since ‘Black Sabbath’, which is a good thing; its still nice and heavy, happy to accentuate the rhythm of the guitar before throwing in a few bluesy hooks into the mix for good measure. Finally, Ozzy. The vocal performance on this album is good. It isn’t anything mind blowing or life changing, but then again if it was it would be separating the album down to its constituent parts, which are far less interesting as individual entities than they are as a collective whole. He is clearly a decent singer, but he made the right decision not to make a point of this and instead be content to ride the grooves that the rest of the band are laying out.
But I would like to refer back to ‘Master of Reality’ as being one of THE albums that have influenced metal over the years. The first time I listened to this album I was truly stunned at just how much of the music felt familiar to me. I lost count of how many times I found myself saying things like “that’s Black Label Society… that’s Church of Misery… that’s Cathedral… that’s Pantera… that’s Reverend Bizarre…” but what really surprised me were the less obvious parallels that can be drawn between this CD and some pretty unexpected bands: there were moments of “…fucking hell, what is an Akercocke riff doing on here?” and at one point (and I’m not even too sure I believe myself on this) but I swear I could have made a genuine comparison between ‘Master of Reality’ and Rotten Sound. And yet, this doesn’t just feel like a mere mix of modern day material condensed down into a fading blast from the past. There’s something about this release that feels unique and fresh as it probably did back in the 70’s.
This deserves all the labels of high appraisal that are thrown around all too carelessly sometimes; a landmark release, timeless, revolutionary, hugely influential. This is the one that did it first and arguably, this is the one that did it, and is still doing it, best. ‘Master of Reality’ deserves a place SOMEWHERE in your collection, because apart from the amazing songs on it, the blueprint for metal as we know it lies within its dark and gloomy walls, and it will undoubtedly inform you as to where most of the music you enjoy comes from.
I don't really need to write this do I ? Well...... maybe I do . Every single person that defines themselves as a metal head has heard of Black Sabbath even if they haven't heard their music personally . This IS the heavy metal band that started it all for most people as well as for me . I know there have been endless discussions and debates concerning who the first metal band ever was but let's be realistic here it was and it is Black Sabbath . Everyone has an opinion as to whether it was Led Zeppelin or Rainbow or I've even heard the most ridiculous of bands mentioned such as Jimi Hendrix or Steppenwolf but like I said "let's be realistic here" . Nobody even came close to making such outwardly heavy music at the time that Black Sabbath did . Obviously I am a maniacal Sabbath fan and my opinion on this matter must seem blatantly clear right ? Well in case it needs to be reiterated the undisputed god fathers of heavy metal were ,,, come on,,,,, you guessed it,,,,,, Black Sabbath .
There is even more debate as to which of their albums should be classified as the beginning of metal or even as to what albums were considered to be the first metal masterpieces . For this metal head the answer would be their first six albums: Black Sabbath, Paranoid, Master of Reality, Volume 4, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Sabotage respectively . Now being a previously mentioned die hard Sabbath fan the obvious answer to this question would be their first album Black Sabbath . Don't get me wrong this as well as all of the first six albums were perfect releases in their own right . All contain a wide array of heaviness and beauty that was evident in every release . Sabbath like most 1960's and 1970's bands were influenced heavily by the blues masters of old and up until Master of Reality this influence was peppered throughout their releases . This is in no way a put down to those great albums as they all mean just as much to me as any of those six other releases, it's just that one album in particular has always stood out as the undisputed heavy weight champion of the world in an early discography peppered with undisputed heavy weight champ's, and that album is Master of Reality . This album has just always seemed to me to be such a pure metal record with nothing but the purest form of metal contained with in it's majestic purple and black covered walls . Even the band's presentation of this album just exudes a fuzzed out stoner feel that has not been matched since it's release date in 1971 . Once again let's be realistic here . This ultimate heavy metal album was released in 1971, a million light years away from what we as metal heads would come to know and love as heavy metal .
From the second that Tony Iommi is done coughing after taking a hit off of a joint during a studio session that this band was involved in, the listener is immediately blanketed by one of the heaviest of heavy riffs ever thought possible; the opening riff of Sweet Leaf . The thick dank perfect tone of the guitar is one the stuff legends are made of . Almost indescribably perfect, it has, along with all of Sabbath's efforts around this time, defined the sound and tone that changed the face of heavy music . It contains such a warm inviting all encompassing and completely engrossing feel that it has influenced millions of people to call this band what they deserve to be called, GODS . Master of Reality was without question Iommi's greatest triumph in the driving groove filled riff department . Even the hauntingly beautiful tracks "Embryo" "Orchid" and "Solitude" all fit perfectly amongst the masterful songs that are documented on this great album . They come off as a welcome change of pace and add a bit more substance and feeling that this truly amazing record possesses . Every song on this crushing perfect masterpiece is the early soundtrack to any die hard metal heads very essence . Every single riff this album contains almost teases and taunts any metal fan to try and not bang their head while this perfect yes perfect album is playing . The songs on this one Sabbath album flow so perfectly in succession that it almost tells a story, all the while being what cannot be described as anything other than the heavy metal soundtrack to the bible . The riffs are so heavy and so masterfully created that they will always stand the test of time as a masterpiece just like the Mona Lisa or Beethoven's fifth symphony .
Geezer Butler's bass is the perfect companion to the ultimately dominating riff work that this great album displays . The sheer thick deep rich tone of the bass along with Tony Iommi's guitar sound gives this album it's true dripping with bottom-heaviness appeal . It is prominent in every second of every song and has paved the way for countless other bands to follow suit . This is not just merely an album, it is a guide book for those bands that would seek to play any form of heavy music . The bass driven heaviness that Black Sabbath created is in its truest and most purest form on this album . Geezer's accomplishment's besides his song writing abilities are in his perfect instinctual deliverance of his bass lines that round out the unbelievable groovy heavy riffs of Toni Iommi . Simplicity in its most purest heavy metal form, as well as sheer feel and love for all things heavy as well as the strongest available cannabis obtainable, can be the only explanation of the perfect output that is contained on this album . The guitar and bass sound on this very album is nothing less than perfection defined . It is the ultimate heavy metal sound and no one else anywhere, at any time can ever claim that they invented it besides Black Sabbath .
Bill Ward's drumming is also the perfect companion to the songs on his album . He is the unrelenting driving force and the ultimate backbone that keeps this album moving so perfectly . His punishing pummeling style forces the issue at hand aggressively down the throats of all that would dare try to not pay attention to
what is being displayed here . He is the ultimate metal drummer on this, not by showing off his talent (although talent he does have) or by being overly technical but instead with utter unhindered go for the throat ferociousness . There is a no holds barred feeling that comes across in every skull crushing moment that he plays . He rides the cymbals and obliterates his drum kit like a man on a mission possessed by every inner demon that has dared to try and torment him . This is most notable on the simply perfect "Lord of this World" "Children of the Grave" Sweet Leaf" and "Into the Void" although it is evident in every heavy masterpiece on Master of Reality .
Now onto the ultimate metal singer himself, the man, the myth, the legend: Ozzy . Ozzy's vocals from the Black Sabbath days were, to put it simply, the greatest I have ever heard . He is not only the truest metal singer I have ever heard he is the absolute definition of the phrase "metal singer" both in feeling and in sound . On this very album his vocal display is nothing short of phenomenal . All of the first six Sabbath albums contain this amazing feel for the music that he had but this one album in particular is his defining moment as the greatest heavy metal singer of all time . His vocals on here are full of unrelenting passion . Whether expressing his undying love for the "Sweet Leaf" or sharing his warning to those who would listen of war and the end of times this is his moment and his moment alone to be crowned undisputed king . His very definable voice is undefinable in a single word or phrase . His high shrieking passion is felt throughout the album and makes this perfect album all the more perfect . His vocals are truly loaded with feeling and add that extra greatness that only he could create . "Lord of this World" finds him screaming in the beginning of the song "Your searching for your mind don't know where to start" and has always encompassed that feeling that he must have lost his mind during this recording to sing so insanely amazing . It is without a doubt obvious that no one else could have even come close to nailing the vocals on this album quite like Ozzy did . They are perfection defined on every listen .
Thank whatever you have made the conscious decision to worship in your life that this album was made the way it was . Without it there would be a gaping void in the collections of metal heads everywhere . Make no mistake about it, this is Black Sabbath's greatest achievement in a long list of insurmountable achievements . This one record is the perfect definition of all that can be defined about heavy metal . This output is the first true bastard son of rock and roll and we as metal heads should feel lucky to own it . What ever genre of metal people are fans of, this without a second of doubt obviously influenced them all . I have loved this album since I was seven years old in 1979 . The day I received it has forever changed the history of my life . This album will always be the ultimate output by the true pioneers of metal . Perfect albums like Master of Reality have always, and will always contain a permanent documentation as to the exact reason that I have dedicated my entire existence to living, breathing, eating, sleeping, bleeding, worshiping, and yes one day dying for my true love: heavy metal . ENOUGH SAID........
The more that I think about it I don’t really think Black Sabbath were that much of an overtly metal band in the 1970s. Sure, to outsiders they are the epitome of doom-and-gloom drugged-up heavy metal and those that idolised them like, say, Electric Wizard stressed this by focusing in on these aspects in a fairly cartoonish manner. But when I really start thinking about Black Sabbath, I see why I find them so subtle, which is an achievement in its own right when playing on ten. They really don’t bang you over the head with the fact that they are heavy metal whilst doing the exact same thing at the same time. Think about it; all the band’s early output is riddled with massively non-metal moments, but this is what makes them so special – but of course this gets its detractors, the same fellows who think Hamlet would have been better if Junior had knifed Claudius in Act II rather than soliloquising about the nature of truth and the afterlife… you’re boring us, William! Cut to the fucking metal, Tony!
I can remember exactly where and when I bought Master of Reality – it was a summer’s day in York and I was stuck outside of my Grandma’s house as the old dear couldn't hear me knocking, this gave me ample time to dwell on those big, quirky letters on the textured cover and the ethereal, woodland band photography and then when she did open the door she noted “Black Sabbath, ugh!” certainly remembering the moniker from my father’s spottier days and somewhat of an infliction of her massively Catholic leanings, rather than a somewhat out of place Tom G Warrior impression. Of course, not being familiar with ‘After Forever’ yet I couldn’t exclaim “But wait, Gran! This song expresses Christian sentiments!” But by this time I’d already decided – given that this was my third Sabbath album – that this was going to be the greatest album ever and I don’t really think my Grandmother was going to do much to change that.
Master of Reality is heavy. Sure, it’s heavier than anything until at least Welcome to Hell but that, again, isn't of great consequence as:
-The heaviness of this whole thing is secondary to its overwhelming quality
- I don’t actually think there to be a higher art form that seventies rock.
You won’t find a heavier record for 1971, but the main point is you won’t find a better one, either! Given that 1971 was the year of Fireball, IV, Killer, Love it to Death, Who’s Next Split, Aqualung and God knows how many great records outside of rock music, and thus, my collection! Well, The Pentangle released the merely good Reflection, but never mind that.
Given that Master of Reality was the record in which Iommi burdened with most of the writing – and the quality really suffers! – I should probably focus on him for a while. Well then, Ozzy’s vocals here are wonderful! He’s often the focus of much flak, which in my eyes is most unnecessary – like all great singers he deals with emotions not technique. Think about it, there is a vast array of emotional variation on all the classic Ozzy-era Sabbath records and Ozzy manages to deliver in a manner that happens to work for each and every style. Just on this record you get the contrast between the stay-at-home-get-high anthem, ‘Sweet Leaf’ and the forlorn, ‘Solitude’ (a song that is inexplicably subject to a whole lot of “What? That’s Ozzy singing?” moments, well, it isn’t fucking Bill Ward, now is it!).
It is ‘Solitude’ that I must single out for particular attention and thus praise (see: rating). It’s perhaps the finest Black Sabbath ballad ever and it’s so perfectly understated and sincere. With most rock bands – and indeed metal bands – ballads are just attempts at making a single and cracking into a wider audience (which is perhaps what you can accuse ‘Changes’ of). I mean perhaps old people who don’t like Sabbath may enjoy this, but to call anything it anything other than the very epitome of an album track would be silly. This is something I’ve always valued with Black Sabbath – listen to their classic albums and they all function as cohesive pieces, hence them making my favourite albums rather than greatest hits tapes I can play in the car on my way to super cool Kings of Leon concerts. ‘Solitude’ is certainly similar to ‘Planet Caravan’, as they share the same dreamy, wistful feel but emotionally they’re undoubtedly different. ‘Planet Caravan’ is one of the more abstract Sabbath songs and as such a typically Butler-esque affair and if anything it’s strangely close to ‘Into the Void’ in terms of lyrical themes, whereas ‘Solitude’ is the sound of road-weary band in some distant hotel room just getting high and jamming because there’s nothing else to do. I must note that the cavernous, gently reverberated guitar sound coupled with the swooning flute is just magical and a testament to the band’s astounding versatility. Also of note: those twinkling bells at the end of the song, what are they? A cat on a moonlight stroll inexplicably captured on record? Master of Reality is full of such weird little moments, be it that pig-based-medieval-instrument guitar sound in ‘Embryo’ or those haunting moans at the end of ‘Children of the Grave’. Well, given its positioning I’m assuming the ‘Embryo’ is from whence the ‘Children of the Grave’ came and their moans are a result of some displeasure at being born into the grave. Reading too much into things? Perhaps.
Interestingly, given the very bleak start to the previous two records, Master of Reality starts off surprisingly cheerfully. ‘Sweet Leaf’ is by far the happiest of any of the openers on the six classic Ozzy-era albums. Unusual, though perhaps too stoned to be intentional. But the band ensure that this still isn’t quite the Summer of Love as that riff is still rather colossal and one of Iommi’s most instantly recognisable moments. Still, if you want a heavier version I’d recommend the Live At Last version. I do sort of prefer the more downbeat Sabbath drug songs like ‘Killing Yourself to Live’ and ‘Hand of Doom’ they have cooler titles and the overall mood of despair is pretty enthralling. But this is Black Sabbath, emotional variation is one of their many fortes – it may a stoned, happy anthem it’s still a Sabbath anthem. I’m listening to a Black Sabbath album. Black Sabbath.
So, ‘Into the Void’ really is the heaviest song ever (I probably say that about three times a week about different songs, but this is always one of them). I actually rather imagine this as a continuation of the lyrical themes of ‘Solitude’ it makes for a rather amusing narrative:
1. Man distraught at the loss of his lover – be it through death or more worldly reasons like his incessant flatulence in the bedroom, for the purposes of this narrative I shall assume the second is the case.
2. Man is so distraught he doesn’t think he can deal with being alone anymore.
3. Man’s distress so great that he boards a rocket to the sun. Leaving the world to Satan, his slaves, and his ex. This doesn’t solve his loneliness as such, but he has bigger problems now.
But otherwise the song has supernaut, Iommi in ripping form. It’s easy to forget just how progressive this thing was underneath all the throbbing heaviness, especially with that opening riff that sounds like gangly trolls lifting boulders in some far off and distant land in a time before polygamy was a sin. I suppose that lends itself to the feel I’m getting here – ancient, archaic, but ultimately very heavy. But still, the song is a monumental achievement and I can’t really think of any band that could have done this around the same time – with possible exception of King Crimson, who could have played something almost this heavy for a brief moment but followed with five minute bongo solos which you could stroke your beard to. Sure, Purple and Zeppelin were heavy, so were a whole spate of second division bands. But even then it was only Black Sabbath who’d dare to be this ominous and fierce. Unashamedly so, meaning that people assume because you’re a Sabbath fan you spend all your time drawing skeletons on your school work, not that you don’t, it’s just you’ve other hobbies, too.
This review is dedicated to Rancid Teeth Girl of the QMU. I wish you the best of luck with your dentistry degree and may your kisses be as sweet as your tooth! Adieu, my love, adieu!
The third Black Sabbath record is widely regarded as a classic and is also one of the heaviest albums of the band's long catalogue. Here we have Black Sabbath showing an emphasis on slower songs, an approach that the band repeated with the next record, “Volume 4”.
Well, and the question is: is “Master of Reality” a good album? Yes, it is, no doubts about it. It's incredible how a band could release three top notch albums in two mere years, but, I tell you, Sabbath did it. While not being a long record (“Master of Reality” contains six songs and two interludes, with the total playing time being, roughly, 35 minutes), it is a very cohesive and strong piece, all the songs flowing well together and sounding fresh. Sadly, “Master of Reality” is often despised by the majority of the people, who constantly say that “Paranoid” is the “be-all, end-all” of Sabbath's catalogue. How wrong they are, indeed...
Moving on, every musician sounds pretty inspired here. The guitar is obviously the most important instrument of this album; Tony Iommi dominates everything here with his amazing riffs really shining. Almost every riff is, indeed, very catchy and heavier than the ones featured on the band's past records. So, we can find here Iommi's riffs in their heaviest form, that's for sure, even though “Volume 4” also has a couple of interesting heavy ones. He doesn't solo as frequently as on “Paranoid” but the solos still play an important role on the majority of the songs. Ozzy Osbourne delivers a competent performance, with his unique voice, even though he isn't, technically speaking, the best singer out there.
As for the rhytmic department, Geezer Butler's bass guitar isn't as audible as in the past, unfortunately, but is still there. I miss songs like “Wicked World” or “N.I.B.” though, with their big emphasis on the bass lines, but heh, it's not a big issue at the end of the day. As for Bill Ward he delivers, like on the previous albums, another excellent performance. His fills are, at times, pretty fast here (check out the middle segment of “Sweet Leaf”) and the beats are all very well composed and fit the music very very well. He also shows some restraint, not destroying the tunes with exaggerated fills or something, so that's a clear plus in my books.
The songwriting is obviously top notch, Black Sabbath is one of the best bands out there in that field. Almost every track is pretty catchy (the choruses are very well written), from “Children of the Grave” to “Solitude” there are always some hooks present. The middle sections of the majority of the tunes are also filled with decently long instrumental sections, filled with nice riffs and solos. With the inclusion of the two instrumental interludes (“Embryo” and “Orchid”) and the ballad “Solitude”, the record also becomes pretty varied, which makes up for a richer listening experience.
So, highlights? “Children of the Grave” probably is the best tune of the bunch, being one of the faster songs too. Great crescendo and intro, leading us to great heavier segment, filled with dynamic drumming and nice riffs. “Solitude” is another one, a pretty underrated track if you ask me, great atmosphere and vocals. “Lord of this World” is a bit weaker but still great, with its fantastic chorus, and “Into the Void” is another monster of heaviness, even containig a little thrashy part on it. “Sweet Leaf” is a bit on the average side, though, and so is “After Forever”, the (pretty forgettable) second track.
Concluding, another great album by the metal gods; a very consistent and original piece, and also one of the heaviest Black Sabbath records ever. Absolutely recommended to every metalhead out there.
Best Moments of the CD:
“I love you... Oh you know it!”
the thrashy segment on “Into the Void”.
The intro of “Children of the Grave”.
“Lord of this world! Evil possessor!”...
While “Paranoid” is the defining album of Black Sabbath’s career, little attention is paid to its follow-up “Master of Reality”. “Master of Reality” was, incredibly, produced by Black Sabbath just a few short months after “Paranoid”, this is quite extraordinary seeing as almost no band has made so many albums in such a short time, especially albums of this magnitude.
Again, Sabbath wallows in the bluesy rock that they had on both their debut and “Paranoid”, however this is the most hard-hitting of all of them. Gone are the aimless jams of their debut (unless you want to nitpick about “Embryo” and “Orchid”, acoustic guitar pieces which together come in at less than two minutes), also while just as riff driven as “Paranoid”, “Master of Reality” focus’s on the rhythm to a much larger extent.
Continuing the trend of “Paranoid” each member continues to become more proficient in their individual instruments. Ozzy screams and yells, for maybe the most powerful vocal performance of his career, though hints of his signature mechanical, overdubbed vocals appear on “Master of Reality”. Tony Iommi again shows off his riffing prowess, and possibly the best performance of his career. Bassist Geezer Butler provides the rhythm backbone of the band, and on “Master of Reality” where there is much more of a rhythmic focus his contributions can’t be given credit enough. Bill Ward, as usually, provides a solid, but jam band-esque, performance, however, it must be noted, is the very John Bonham style slowly creeping into his style.
Another key factor of “Master of Reality” is its lyrical theme and overall mood. Well, as usually for Sabbath, this preaches of struggle, drugs, and sci-fi. Also, while “Hand of Doom” may have given the genre of Doom Metal its title, “Master of Reality” contributes much more to the genres sound.
And for material contained within “Master of Reality”, just more classic Black Sabbath, that’s all. “Master of Reality” contains so many classics, it’s not even funny. From “Sweat Leaf” and “Children of the Grave”, to “Into the Void” and “After Forever” and the absolute gem “Lord of This World”, “Master of Reality” packs quite a punch.
Overall, Black Sabbath’s “Master of Reality” is their single most consistent, strongest effort of their career. While “Paranoid” gets much of the fanfare and glory, “Master of Reality” out does it, and then some. Should you get this? YES! No matter you’re favorite genre of metal is, this one is for you, particularly anyone who has any interest in doom metal.
The third installment of the work of our heavy metal forefathers sees a lot of evolution both in sound and subject matter. Not ones to be boxed into one specific sound, the 4 horsemen of Black Sabbath have succeeded once again in both maintaining the hard edged sound that they are pioneered and not repeated themselves. It is noteworthy also to note the radically short amount of time that passed in between the first 3 albums, as it is pretty much unheard of today for any band to put out 3 albums in two years.
Where the first album was built mostly upon a non-conventional approach to structure, and the second one mainly played off of technical intrigue, this album is more straight-forward in structure and focuses on heaviness more than anything else. If you play the guitar parts to “Lord of this World” and “Into the Void” through a modern sounding distortion setting, you will have something equally as heavy as what the likes of Pantera and Metallica were doing in the early 90s, although it is far more musical in my view in the case of Sabbath.
Much of the heaviness found on this album owes to a combination of necessity and purpose. Purpose in the sense that the riffs are constructed very deliberately, focusing less on variation and more on a powerful yet simple pattern of notes. Necessity in the sense that Tony Iommi’s injury to his hand, which occurred before Sabbath recorded their first album, required him to further down tune his guitar in order to reduce the resistance of the strings. While guys like Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton managed to occasionally play something fast and impressive, this guy was shredding up a storm (by the standards of the time), despite often inflicting pain upon himself in the process. This is what being a heavy metal guitar player is all about, ripping it up no matter what tries to stop you.
As stated before, this album has a more simplistic approach to structure than the previous albums, but this does not mean that we don’t have any progressive moments. “Sweet Leaf” has one of the most insane middle sections I’ve heard, and is probably the closest thing to a power metal song. The subject matter of the song would seem a contradiction in the band’s previous message found in “The Hand of Doom”, although one must consider a few things. Marijuana use historically has not been as menacing to human happiness as other drugs such as LSD and Heroine. Like all the things, the sweet leaf that these guys sing of can do some serious damage in excess, and some might argue that Ozzy’s lack of an ability to speak without stuttering like crazy might be connected to his drug use. Suffice to say, like alcoholic beverages it’s harm is minimal, but I would recommend that you have someone else drive if you’re on the stuff.
Other tracks such as “Children of the Grave” and “After Forever” are a bit faster throughout and loaded with socially conscious lyrics. The former is a call to arms directed at the youth of the world to seek other enterprises aside from self-destruction. Unlike various forms of propaganda that dwell upon specifics, this song takes a very generalized approach and can apply to the world that we live in today. It has a great deal of excellent riffs, particularly the main one which is constantly reused in many variants by bands in both the thrash and power metal genres. The latter song, by contrast, is a very light and melodic number that is comparable to later Sabbath songs such as “Neon Knights” and “Turn up the Night”. The lyrical subject matter borderlines on Christian rock evangelism, and was probably a bit influential amongst certain bands, particularly 80s mainstream Christian hair band Stryper. I’m not one to complain about such things as I myself am a practicing Catholic, but I do wonder if maybe these so-called Black Metal purists who live and die by despising religion can explain to me where they get off on glossing over songs like this when stating that Metal and Religion are not compatible.
The remaining 2 tracks on here are both acoustic ditties, that surround the heavy anthem “Children of the Grave”. Many people complain about these tracks as they don’t seem to function well being so close together, let alone including 2 short instrumentals in a song that only has 8 songs and runs less than 40 minutes. To this I can only respond that the songs serve the purpose of showcasing a varied approach to music and a defiance of conventional thinking, and in this particular case it didn’t fully work out as intended. These tracks are pleasing to the ears, but I will admit that they are the lone weak link on this album as they don’t seem to serve much purpose and sort of throw off the album’s structure.
In conclusion, Sabbath’s “Master of Reality” sees the sound of metal continuing to blossom and branch out, now encompassing the heavy sound from which thrash and power metal take their cues. We also see a tendency towards brief instrumentals which also are often found in more recent metal efforts. Ozzy’s voice is continuing to improve, and all of the others are continuing to expand the capabilities of their styles. In a universal sense, this is Sabbath’s most metal moment in their original line-up, thought I personally view “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” as their overall finest moment. I recommend this album to all fans of metal, but particularly to fans of Doom, Thrash and Power Metal as it is a pioneering effort that laid the framework for these genres.
Black Sabbath, the bong-headed dead-beat dads of metal proper, had accomplished virtually everything that they were ever going to according to the mainstream by the end of the Master of Reality record. On every compilation, on every radio playlist in the Sabbath section, every song that non-fans remember are generally from the first three records. According to your mom and dad (excluding those rare parents who rocked and can actually remember doing so) this is Black Sabbath.
"Children of the Grave" (maybe)
Scary how a catalogue can be diminished to so little, more frightening still when it's a catalogue as deep and rewarding as that of Black Sabbath. For many years people feared the ominous tones of Sabbath, but with Ozzy's recent public castration at the hands of MTV and his wife, sadly, people have forgotten their fear. Ozzy, and his back catalogue, have become accessible.
Master of Reality trudges out of the primordial ooze to remind them that they should be afraid. This record is a monster, a real state of mind, this boggy swamp monster emerging from the abyss and shedding islands from it's shaggy back. This is Sabbath's first really good production job, Geezer's bass being so loud and so flat-out heavy that Iommi could take the album off and the band would still be heavier than any other band plying their trade as of '71.
From the initial choking cough of "Sweet Leaf" through the final thump of "Into the Void" the album is crushing, Black Sabbath playing on a more acid rock or even blues metal vibe, those almost jazzy structures on some of the songs buried under the deafening cacophony of the trio of master players. Fully five of the albums six full tracks are unabashed bashers on a whole 'nother level from what has come before, a horror unmatched ‘til the advent of the raw electrics of Vol. 4.
"Sweet Leaf" marks the birth of stoner metal, from the obvious lyrical influence to the big hazy riff, one of those murky classics that shows the close brotherhood of doom and stoner, that riff played a less loose (or more dark) way being as much a blackened abyss as any other Sabbatherian nightmare. A steaming side of Hawkwind later and you get Kyuss and Monster Magnet and the other bleary-eyed kings of the scene as it exists today.
Next, "After Forever" gives us the creation of white metal, and more specifically Trouble. Everybody thinks "Black Sabbath", "N.I.B", yeah yeah darkness reigns etc. This song proves that the Sabs were hardly the droopy gothic Satanists that history portrays them as. There is an intelligent lyric here(perhaps a bit too preachy though) questioning those who question religion for the wrong reasons, a pair of memorable riffs the first of which forecasts the 'happier' Sabbath numbers like "Tomorrow's Dream", "Looking for Today", and "Never Say Die", the second which bashes almighty sledge.
"Children of the Grave" is one of those rumbly, propulsive forced marches like the "Black Sabbath" fast break, the song certainly one part of the Maiden formula (the other part being the Priest/Wishbone Ash harmony leads), that being the trademark Harris gallop. It's also a pretty cool song, the outro slightly long of tooth (about four minutes counting the cool "Orchid" instrumental), but Ozzy in top form over another 'the world is going to shit' warning lyric. Furthermore, the drumming here is positively tribal, Bill Ward proving once more to be one of the keys to the Sabbath equation.
The next track (after "Orchid") is a really, really pounding piece of almost southern doom, appropriately given a massive, must-hear cover by Corrosion of Conformity on the Nativity in Black tribute album. "Lord of the World" starts out lazy, drooping bass leading to a bouncy rollercoaster riff, except that it's a rollercoaster wherein every hill is small and every fall is long, slowly descending into the smoky lungs of hell. This is one of the Sabbath songs where you get the impression that the band is actually comprised of a few guys who can kick some ass, the terrified and helpless hero of "Black Sabbath" replaced by a guy who can grab Satan by the neck and tear his soul out ("the soul I took you from you was not even missed"). Yeah cool, arms crossed, eyebrows sloped, asses kicked.
Hell, here's a track that didn't really influence anyone. What a relief! "Solitude" is like a more fully realized "Planet Caravan", an oasis in the midst of the parched purple desert of Master of Reality. It's oddly cold, vacant Ozzy, depressed flute (?!) from Iommi.
And finally, "Into the Void", a song heavy like all the others but with a special bite, Iommi writing a riff with claws and teeth, a stack of amps with a savagely machine-like tone that I can't recall hearing anywhere else. The lyrically melodies start off a little annoying, but irregardless this is a band operating on a higher level. This song is the apex of the record, the last song and what may as well be the last word in music in general. It's apocalyptic. It's skull-fryingly heavy. It's Master of Reality, and after listening to this whole record, the light just isn't the same for a few minutes.
So yeah... there are a few problems I might add, spoiling that if I may say so, cool climax of this review, but I gotta say ‘em. The album is too short, and sometimes Ozzy sounds a little out of breath (the bash 'em up smash 'em up ending section of "After Forever"), and the songwriting isn't as strong as Sabbath Bloody Sabbath or Sabotage. Other than that... well, pick this thing up.
Stand-Outs: "Lord of this World", "Children of the Grave", "Into the Void"
Yes, yes - As already pointed out, Sabbath was pioneers, and did undoubtedly forge the metal genre as it is today, so I'll restrain from praising them in that sense. Heh.
No, my main point when it comes to MoR is how it really shows the thing that made Black Sabbath so incredibly great in my eyes - Their way of handling musical contrast. From the droning grooves of "Sweet Leaf" and "After Forever" to the short, (and from this album on, traditional) acoustic Iommi-guitar leads, "Embryo" and "Orchid". From the relentless galloping pace of "Children of the Grave" to the static riffing in "Lord of This World" and on to the soothingly and incredibly beautiful "Solitude".
And right there I'd like to state a point. "Solitude" is one of my favourite songs ever. Not my favourite Sabbath song, och my favourite "soft" Sabbath song, but one of the songs that has affected me more than most things in life has. Maybe it's just because it has an personal meaning for me, but then again, it is an incredible song. Ozzy shows off his range as a vocalist, proving everybody wrong who said he could't sing - And everything instrumental is just perfect. The eerie flutes, guitars and pianos creates an athmosphere uncompelled in any song I've ever heard. It gives me images of a very suicidal person, sitting in a misty forest, bleak and misguided by love, ready to take his life. Chilling. beautiful and brilliant.
And if we get back to contrast, could there be a better way to break that bleak and foggy cloud that is "Solitude" by kicking off the beast that is "Into the Void"? A song which feels like it's built up into three phases, each one getting on top of the other when it comes to heavy riffing.
The perfect closer on the album.
So? What then? How do I rank it? Well, It may sound harsh after such and total fanboy praisal as the one above, but I have to place Master of Reality as number three on my list of Sabbath Records... I hate to even think of placing them on a list, but if I have to, It'll be number three.
"Paranoid" is still undisputed nr. 1, and "Sabotage" is a very good second.
MoR is definately among them, one of the best records ever, without a doubt.
*cough cough* Upon listening to Master of Reality, it is immediately apparent that this album is a darker, heavier affair than the first 2 Black Sabbath albums. The guitars are dropped 3 steps on every string, and the mix is much sludgier. This, of course, is a good thing; it is one of the band’s all time best records. The opening riff of “Sweet Leaf” was the band’s loosest, most stoned groove to date, and it was probably the first popular song ever to be a flat-out tribute to smoking the ganj. Ozzy’s voice is in top form as he expresses his undying love for marijuana, and the band sounds equally confident. All 3 instrumentalists are noticeably improved since Paranoid, and Bill Ward in particular has a furious drum segment in the middle of the song. This music is more Sabbathy than ever before, and damn it’s good.
“After Forever” starts with an ominous synthesizer, but soon unfolds into an upbeat, major-key guitar riff. This song is downright happier than anything else they had recorded at the time, and Ozzy especially sounds more confident than ever as he shouts out his lyrics. This song is about Christianity, but it isn’t really praising God as much as it is deriding those who don’t praise God. The words must have been shocking to those people at the time who thought the band was all about devil worship or whatnot. Regardless of whether I personally agree with the message of the song, I have to say that it sounds absolutely great. Some more monster riffs that only Iommi and Butler could have come up with, and good interplay between the two of them in the beginning sequence. This is another song that is simply fun to listen to, and that is what Sabbath is all about.
“Embryo” is kind of weird because it seems very unpracticed. It is a clean guitar solo piece written by Tony Iommi, but he messes up and stuff. But it’s only 28 seconds long, so I’ll give him a break.
And now we come to “Children of the Grave,” what many consider to be not only the highlight of the album, but also one of the very best early Sabbath songs. It is probably the darkest song ever to come out of this era for Sabbath, with the possible exception of “Into the Void.” With a main driving riff that is simply indescribable in its power, and strong, rebellious lyrics, this song is truly a masterpiece of heavy metal. Of note are Bill Ward’s strange drumming (what is that, a trash can?) during the wordless chorus, and the first appearance of synthesizer in a Black Sabbath song toward the middle (if you don’t count the intro to “After Forever”). The feelings of paranoia and the imagery of all these children brimming with fury and rebellion… all I can say is that this song is perfect in every way. Even the outro: “Children of the gra-gra-grave…..”
“Orchid” suffers from the same plight as “Embryo,” except it is a little more developed. The bowed bass is pretty cool. Meh.
By this time in the album, you pretty much know what to expect, which is the only thing that hampers “Lord of This World.” It has a similar sound to the rest of the album, but it is still an amazing display of the talent that this band possessed. The lyrics are a little vague, and the main verse riff is a little same-y, but overall this is another great Sabbath classic. And it’s awesome when he says “The soul I took from you was not even missed!” The instrumental section of the song sounds particularly inspired, and there is some typically sweet guitar playing by Iommi. And the part where it goes “Duh-duh-duh-duh-duh! Lord of this world!...” etc. is really awesome. This song is often overlooked, but it really shouldn’t be. Come on, it has cowbell! No but really, no joke, it’s freakin’ amazing.
And then there’s “Solitude,” which kind of sucks. Bill Ward sings it, and when you have a singer as good as Ozzy Osbourne, you’d better learn to stick to your own instrument. This is basically an attempt to recreate “Planet Caravan” from Paranoid, but it pales in comparison. I’ll give them some credit I guess for the nice atmosphere the song creates – the backwards piano and flute are nice touches. Iommi’s clean soloing is not as exciting as usual though. Overall the song is pretty uninteresting, musically and lyrically. “The world is a lonely place when you are alone.” Come on. That lyric sucks. This song is all that keeps the album from being perfect.
“Into the Void” is my favorite song on the album, maybe even my favorite all-time Black Sabbath song (although “War Pigs” is hard to beat). The opening riff, which they never return to, is just so creepy and… heavy! What I like best about this song is Iommi’s very creative guitar playing. The entire atmosphere and mood of the song just enraptures you when you hear it. Also, it seems way ahead of its time: the fast part in the middle sounds like the precursor to thrash metal. And that part… oh man you probably know what I’m talking about. The stop-start thing in the middle of the guitar solo. That is just incredible.
Master of Reality is proof that Black Sabbath were brave pioneers, constantly pushing the boundaries of heavy metal. After the success of Paranoid, you’d think they would start to sound formulaic, but hell no! With the exception of “Solitude,” every song is a masterpiece, and I have a hell of a lot of fun listening to this record. If nothing else, get this for “Into the Void.”
Black Sabbath were enjoying a high unlike most metal bands. The band were seen at the forefront of the hard rock movement, along with other bands such as Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. This was so much so that they were often compared to their closest rivals Led Zeppelin. This would be where the comparisons would end. Led Zeppelin's third effort consisted mainly of
acoustic-based music. Black Sabbath on the other hand promised to deliver their heaviest effort yet.
And deliver it they did. Black Sabbath's third album was their heaviest most uncompromising effort yet, and arguably of their entire output with Ozzy at the helm. The riffs were more aggressive, Ozzy's voice was developing further, Geezer's bass was more powerful and the drumming of Bill Ward was as great as it had ever been. This album contains some of their most famous
cuts, and was an enduring instant classic on release.
John "Ozzy" Osbourne (vocals) - Ozzy's voice is continually improving, gaining a little strength and some range. The change is evident on Sweet Leaf. Of particular not is the rather un-Ozzylike performance on Solitude, which has even real fans in disbelief that it's really him.
Frank "Tony" Iommi (guitars) - On this album Tony starts experimenting with downtuning, with most of the songs performed tuned 1 1/2 steps down (the exceptions, Solitude and After Forever, are tuned down 1 step). This results in extra weight being lent to the riffs, and a heavier sound because of it. Plenty of excellent riffs show up here, in particular Children Of The Grave, After Forever, Sweet Leaf, Lord Of This World and Into The Void. He also shows some dexterity on the acoustic guitar, as seen in Orchid, Embryo and Solitude. An excellent performance here.
Terence "Geezer" Butler (bass) - With the mentality "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," Geezer continues in his trademark fashion. His detuned bass (relatively matching Iommi's tuning) lends a heaviness to the album not seen in other bands around the time. Highlights include Sweet Leaf, in particular in the under the guitar solo (more like band solo)
Bill Ward (drums) - Bill Ward's performance is similar to his previous works. He is instrumental in propelling Children Of The Grave, with the tom-work moving the song along nicely. He also goes completely insane in the middle of Sweet Leaf (along with everyone else), laying down blistering drum lines. On this album he shows what an accomplished (and to an extent underrated) drummer he really is.
Production was once again handled by Roger Bain, and this one sounds a little different. What is immediately apparent is that Tony's guitar is a little crunchier than previously. The other more obvious difference is that the album is heavier and more bass-driven than before, due to Geezer being slightly more prominent in the mix, along with the lower tunings used on the album. Bill's kit sounds as clear as ever, and Ozzy is mixed to the fore.
Sweet Leaf - Starting off with a looped cough (rumoured to be Tony Iommi after a bong hit), the song kicks off with the signature riff. When Ozzy's voice starts up you can hear the difference in his voice is instantly evident. The mid-song breakdown takes the form of one of Sabbath's trademark 'band solos' before returning to the sludgy riffing of before.
After Forever - This track carries a sort of gospel feel to it. This one features a catchy riff and a slow funky verse section. Geezer's bass is especially heavy in this track, driving the song along nicely. This also features a nice churning
midsection where Geezer's rumbling bass makes it presence really felt.
Children Of The Grave - This cut gave birth to all headbanging cuts. This song features a pulsating chug that will make you beat your head against a wall for hours. This song also features nice tomwork from Ward. About halfway through there's an ominous breakdown, before returning to the pulsating rhythm and capping it off with a nice solo toward the end.
Into The Void - Starting with the slowest and heaviest of riffs (heavily accented by Geezer's bass), it later morphs into a slightly faster section featuring Geezer's bass prominently. This chugs on nicely until about 3 minutes in until a triple-time section drops in to shake things up a little. After this we return to the heavy chug previously established. There's also a nice patented Iommi 'dual guitar' solo in here as well.
This is the album where Sabbath's early sound comes into form, and the possibly the most consistently heavy album of their work with Ozzy. Plenty of fan favourites show up here, and all are played excellently. There's no excuse for you not to own this album.
This is easily Sabbath's heaviest album, and still one of the heaviest albums EVER made. Some of the riffs on here absolutely crush and slay all in sight. If the album were "Children of the Grave" and "Into the Fucking Void" four times, it would be totally fucking perfect. Alas, it has its weak moments, mainly in the fact that Sabbath seem to be on a silly acid trip half the time and can't chain Iommi's amazing riffwork into total SONGS consistently. Witness the fact that there are two little interludes, and one really long ballad which seems quite out of place, especially when placed between Lord of this World and Into the Fucking Void...
Also, the opener... this is one of the weakest of the "essential" Sabbath songs, if not the weakest. It rides a below-average riff into the ground and is just too late-60s-rockish for me... it does not crushingly advance the cause of heavy metal like the totally evil Black Sabbath (from another album you may have heard of) or the previously mentioned Into the Fucking Void, which is just brutal. Nothing knocked you on your ass this hard before, and few things have done so since.
Highlights... so did I mention Into the Fucking Void? (Like Dark Fucking Angel, the expletive denotes heaviness and must be used at all times.) The best Ozzy-Sabbath song. Ever. THIS is pretty much where thrash metal took root. Also the excellent Children of the Grave... those are the two that make this album essential. Lord of this World is very nice, and After Forever, which is not nearly as Christian as it looks at first glance (it skewers both those who blindly bash, and those who blindly obey), is decent quality as well. The ballad and interludes do little for me, though - Sabbath still hadn't found consistency to go with their occasional flashes of sheer fucking bludgeonment.