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A less consistent, more progressive approach. - 80%

ConorFynes, May 30th, 2012

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.